by Kent Sterling
The truth is never as far away from being discovered as liars believe it to be, and if the truth is something other than Southern Cal cornerback Josh Shaw’s tale of heroism in rescuing his nephew, his life is about to take a drastic and unsavory turn.
Shaw’s original explanation for his dual high ankle sprains was a selfless leap from a balcony to the concrete below to get to his drowning nephew in a nearby pool. The boy was saved, and Shaw was hailed as a magnanimous hero.
What a story! Hard to make up a story that good! Maybe not.
Phone calls to USC disputing Shaw’s story reportedly began shortly after they repeated Shaw’s story to the media. It seems that Shaw’s injuries may have been suffered elsewhere – perhaps while leaping from a balcony during the commission of a burglary in an apartment. While that is only a rumor, it is a sharply contrasting explanation for his injuries than an act of heroism.
On Monday, Shaw was quoted in a Southern Cal press release, “I would do it again for whatever kid it was, it did not have to be my nephew. My ankles really hurt, but I am lucky to be surrounded by the best trainers and doctors in the world. I am taking my rehab one day at a time, and I hope to be back on the field as soon as possible.”
His coach, Steve Sarkisian, was quoted in the same release, “That was a heroic act by Josh, putting his personal safety aside. But that’s the kind of person he is. It is unfortunate that he’ll be sidelined for a while and we will miss his leadership and play, but I know he’ll be working hard to get back on the field as soon as possible.”
If Shaw’s version of what happened Saturday doesn’t reflect a close approximation to the original act of bravery, Sarkisian will look like a doofus, and Shaw will be forever branded a self-promoting liar.
But if Shaw lied, a tip of the hat is due for the audacity of the tale he told.
There are people who play their cards close to the vest and live life not to lose. Crafting a story from whole cloth of leaping at one’s own peril to save the life of another is a bold act – pushing a tall stack of chips into the middle of the table. Men who live that fearlessly tend to either succeed or wash out memorably. If the burglary story is true, Shaw will need to have a strong stomach to survive the next week.
The difficulty for Shaw in selling his story are two-fold. The first is the nephew. There is no reasonable explanation for not allowing him to talk to the media, and seven-year olds are generally crappy liars. The second is that Shaw is a recognizable guy as a Trojan captain, and if he was anywhere else at the time of the supposed rescue, it’s likely someone recognized him.
A third unpleasant truth for Shaw is that while the media is mostly a dormant relic of a truth finder, it can still be aroused to usefulness. Generally, people in the media will ape back as fact whatever they are told. They are lazy, listless, and eager to exert minimal energy in covering a story. That is until the scent of duplicity awakens their sense of justice – that Woodward & Bernstein urge to expose amoral mopes. They’re like sharks who swim mindlessly in circles until the faintest scent of blood arouses them into frenzy.
As unpleasant as it is for Shaw, journalists and hooligans are canvassing neighbors, friends, acquaintances, coaches, and teammates as they try to deconstruct Shaw’s story and reassemble the closest facsimile of the truth they can.
If Shaw lied, he feels trapped. He dreads the exposure of the truth.
If he lied, there are two ways out for Shaw – telling the truth and apologizing, or an Oscar worthy performance by the nephew who can describe with emotional exactitude the heroism of his uncle. Failing either, the slow unraveling of facts that will doom Shaw will be commenced by a slow-witted but tenacious reporter.
Taunting sharks is fun until it isn’t – and then lives are forever changed.