Never Forget Steve Stipanovich

Steve Stipanovich guarding that co-pilot from Airplane.

“Sicilians are great liars. The best in the world. I’m Sicilian. My father was the world heavy-weight champion of Sicilian liars.” –Vincenzo Coccotti

Lying, of course, is that most human of traits. We all lie. It’s what separates us from the rest of these animals. My dog, for instance, would love to tell me that a gigantic rat broke into my apartment and pooped on my floor. But he can’t. Which is why he’s scurried under this ottoman and is currently avoiding eye contact with me.

This week, the world was entertained by a subset of that most human of traits. The lie told this week, however, was of a rarer breed, one borne of a toxic mix of hubris and imagination. This kind of lie, of the great big Costanzian variety, consists not only in covering a misdeed up, but in covering the liar in glory at the same time.

Josh Shaw committed that kind of lie this week. And in doing so, reminded the world that athletes are liars like all of us.

He also reminded the world of an athlete who shot himself almost 35 years ago…

For those out of the loop, Josh Shaw is a captain on the USC football team. This week, he claimed to have sprained both of his ankles when he jumped from a second floor balcony in order to save his nephew from drowning. Here is the lie:

“I would do it again for whatever kid it was, it did not have to be my nephew,” Shaw said. “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.”

It didn’t have to be his nephew, of course, because it wasn’t his nephew. Someone matching Shaw’s description is alleged to have jumped out of Shaw’s girlfriend’s third story apartment. That someone might be Josh Shaw?

While Shaw’s impulse to make up a fantastically unnecessary lie that brought attention to himself is dumb, his decision to lawyer up is probably not. Rather than coming up with another dumb story, the attorney chose the wiser route: Don’t say shit, dummy.

When reached for comment, Etra said that Shaw fell from a balcony on Saturday night Aug. 23 in Los Angeles and injured both of his ankles.

He emphasized that there was no need for them to be in contact with police. “There is no criminal aspect to this whatsoever.”

When asked if alcohol was a factor, Etra said that there was none involved and that his client does not drink.

Etra does not know who was with Shaw at the time of the fall at this time. The only sanction that Shaw is facing is suspension from team activities.

And if history is a guide, Shaw won’t face any other sanction. Nearly 35 years ago, Missouri basketball player Steve Stipanovich shot himself in the arm. This is how Stipanovich chose to embroider his tale:

Steve Stipanovich, Missouri’s 6’11” junior center, explained to police he was alone in the house on Sunrise Drive in Columbia, Mo. on the evening of Dec. 27, 1980 when a man wearing a ski mask, a red-checked flannel shirt and cowboy boots broke a pane of glass in the front door, entered the house, proceeded to the bedroom at the rear of the residence in which Stipanovich lay reading, began shouting obscenities against basketball players and opened fire with a rifle. Three bullets struck Stipanovich’s mattress, after which the intruder picked up a revolver from a table, shot Stipanovich in the left shoulder and fled. Overnight reports of the assault understandably alarmed university officials and Missouri players and their parents, and sent shock waves through the entire state, in which Stipanovich was regarded the archetypal all-American boy.

While Shaw went the superhero route, all big dumb stupid Stipanovich could do was claim that a man broke in and… yelled about basketball. The big moronic basketball player had no powers of imagination whatsoever, so he defaulted to the only goddamned thing he knew anything about. Basketball. Just your run-of-the-mill basketball-obsessed home invader screaming his head off and shooting his gun and babbling about secondary breaks and zone defense. Good god.

So this is all to say that Josh Shaw should be proud of himself. He did not save any drowning baby children. This is true. But he one-upped the previous champion for collegiate athletic lying. And he did it with ease. But maybe it’s unfair to compare athletes across generations. I mean, Shaw has had access to much more advanced nutrition, weight training, and bulls**t than Stipanovich ever did. Much more.

Josh Shaw: ‘Would do it again’ [ESPN]
Josh Shaw tells USC he lied about nephew rescue story [USA Today]

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