Spencer Sharpe

11 Burning Questions with a 2012 Olympic attendee

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: 11 Burning Questions with a 2012 Olympic attendee – Los Angeles Loyolan.

Spencer Sharpe

Photo Credit: Liana Bandziulis | The Los Angeles Loyolan

1. How did you get the opportunity to attend the Games?

I learned about a program at the London School of Economics and Political Science through one of my friends who actually was a graduating [LMU student and] Ignatian last year. … I then checked the dates and realized they lined up with the Olympics. So it was kind of an accident.

2. What events did you see?

I saw men’s volleyball. That’s the only thing I could get tickets to, actually, because they stopped selling tickets to Americans. … I was asking at an information booth, “I’m just looking for a ticket. I really don’t care what it is, any event.” And the guy next to me said, “I have some extra tickets, I’m not gonna be able to go to this event. I’ll sell them to you at the same price I paid for them.” And people were paying, like, five to 10 times the value of the ticket, so for 20 pounds, I said yes, and I got to go to the men’s volleyball match between Poland and Australia, and it was really cool. Most people weren’t rooting for a specific team, so every time a point was scored, the audience went crazy.

3. Who was your favorite Olympian this year?

It would have to be Michael Phelps. I still think he’s a god. I think he’s amazing in the fact that he can come back after four more years have gone by and still win gold against brand new athletes and younger athletes.

4. Has it been a goal of yours to go to the Olympics?

More of a dream. I’m originally from Iowa, so I never really thought it would be possible, because the Olympics aren’t coming to Iowa, ever. I never really imagined I’d get the opportunity, so this huge accident was kind of fulfilling one of my dreams.

5. Do you feel you can go back to watching the Olympics on TV after seeing them in person, or will it just not compare?

There’s no comparison anymore. I got the opportunity to watch the Olympics with a whole bunch of people from all around the world, because it was a very international school that I went to, so it was really exciting, watching it there in the city with those people.

6. Do you consider yourself more of a summer Olympics guy or do you prefer the winter Olympics?

I definitely like summer. There are more events I can watch that are more suspenseful. … My sister’s really into soccer, so my family’s a big soccer family, so we always watch those games. I really think the equestrian events are cool, the swimming is awesome, the diving is fun. [Spencer’s sister is LMU soccer team captain and senior Whitney Sharpe.]

7. What else did you do while in London?

I did a lot of cultural stuff, and I did a lot of nerdy stuff. I went to the British Museum, the British Library, and I got to see some of J.K. Rowling’s handwritten [pages] of the first Harry Potter ever, and the first ever drawing of the Shire from “The Hobbit.” The best thing to do … was the pubs you could go to, just because there were people from all around the world at every single pub that you went to, and it was just so international and such a world city at that time.

8. If you could compete in one Olympic event, which would you choose?

I would do the high dive, because I think that’s fascinating. I really think that being up that high and jumping would get my adrenaline rushing.

9. For freshmen reading the Loyolan for the first time, what advice do you have for them?

I’d say, really, if you’re trying to get a solid GPA, don’t take your first classes as a joke. Really focus on your coursework. … Don’t forget that you’re here for school.

10. What are you involved in on campus?

I am an Ignatian, and I’m working on starting a new organization on campus, but it doesn’t exist yet. It’ll be a policy-based organization. Our idea, me and a few other Ignatians, is that it [will focus on] issues that affect Los Angeles. So homelessness, economic issues, environmental issues. We’re going to find professors at LMU who study that issue and then what we’re going to do is with them, create a type of policy proposal or a solution to that problem. Just in a sense of hoping LMU students become more aware of issues that affect Los Angeles so we can offer real solutions. (online only)

11. What are your big hopes for LMU during in its 101st year?

I hope that LMU continues to create a great reputation. I feel like with our 100th year, more people were becoming aware of our University, because it’s mostly a regional school, I’d say. So I hope we continue projecting our image both nationally and internationally, so that eventually our school could be a little more recognized. … I just don’t think people take LMU as seriously as they should.

12. LMU’s LGBTSS is staging a presentation of the play “8,” about Proposition 8 and marriage equality, in early September. The decision has just started to get a little flack. Thoughts?

As someone who’s a bisexual individual, I really do care about this issue. … What I think the University should recognize, as I think they did by [allowing] this, that they have a wide range of students. Not every student is a Catholic or a Jesuit, so I think by LMU allowing it to go forth, in a sense it’s kind of addressing the fact that many different students go here, and they will support and bring awareness to every issue, even if it goes against religious affiliation. I hope that LMU does not cave to this outward pressure. … If they really stood their ground, that would be very respectable in a university, and as a bisexual, I would feel like my university supported me, and didn’t have a sense of a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, just because it’s a Catholic university.

Ryan Lochte: The Flawed, Human Olympian

Originally posted on NextGenJournal.com. For original, please refer to: Ryan Lochte: The Flawed, Human Olympian – NextGen Journal.

Since the Olympics ended just eight days ago, the conversation in most press circles (especially here atNextGen Journal) has been thoroughly transfixed on one particular Ryan. The resulting media circus has left almost no room to discuss another high-profile Ryan; that is, the gold medalist Olympian-turned-90210 guest starRyan Lochte.

While debating Paul Ryan’s Medicare position, his Ayn Rand-inspired launch into politics, or his lack of necktie at the VP announcement for the umpteenth time sounds like a load of laughs first thing on a Monday morning, I’d much rather focus on Lochte, the swimmer known more for his reputation out of the pool than in it. Lochte has drawn considerable criticism on the Internet both in and out of the games, and his desire to make a career in Hollywood has only increased the volume of the ire.

Most of the criticism is based around Lochte’s personality: He’s not exactly Mensa’s next top recruit, to say the least, and is widely ridiculed for his exclamations of “jeah” (which, as Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan so brilliantly put it, is “like ‘yeah,’ but said in a way that indicates you may have difficulty pronouncing the ‘y’ sound and could benefit from working with a professional speech therapist”). He even says it in his aforementioned upcoming appearance on 90210, for which he is shirtless the entire time. You can’t say the man doesn’t know his audience.

His own mother thinks he has one-night stands. He’s been declared America’s Sexiest Douchebag. And he wears an absolutely ridiculous American flag grill. Lochte is, in many ways, the court jester of the Olympics: hilarious, but utterly harmless. So why does he get under our skin so easily?

Particularly in America, we elevate our Olympians into the realm of superheroes. They compete at the greatest level of athleticism and we worship them for it. Even the Olympians who screw up –think Michael Phelps and the bong – we forgive, because they’re the best we have. An Olympian who doesn’t stand up to our high standards and expectations is almost a does-not-compute situation: how can such a thing be?

So Lochte, who doesn’t give good interview sound bites, wouldn’t be the conventional choice to bring home to Mom, and is unapologetic about it all, defies the Olympic standard. The big question is: so what? Why should he have to be the idealized Olympian? His job is to swim well and represent our country, and he did that with aplomb. He was a gold medalist for Team USA, and what he does after that has nothing to do with him as an Olympian and everything to do with him as Ryan Lochte.

Not every athlete who competes at the Olympics is going to be a role model. Some of them are going to do stupid things not because they’re screw-ups, but because they’re human – a fact we often forget when thinking about our Olympic heroes. Lochte is making clear through his words and actions exactly the kind of man he is, and frankly, I applaud him for it. If he was attempting to project himself as something he’s not, that would be far more insulting to us as an American people. He’s comfortable with who he is, and as such, we should be comfortable with who he is, too.

Plus, if his career in Hollywood leads to more hilarious quotes like “Memorizing lines and trying to like say them and still do movement, that was hard,” I simply cannot wait for what he does next.