By now, you’ve probably heard: It was a lie. USC football star Josh Shaw’s tale of severely injuring his ankles after jumping from a second-story balcony to save his seven-year-old nephew from drowning was, in the school’s words, “a complete fabrication.”
We don’t know yet what exactly Shaw did to incur those injuries, although reports of a “Joshua Shaw” being named in a Los Angeles burglary report could be pointing to a reason why the player felt compelled to come up with an alternative version of the events.
What we do know is that Shaw, who was suspended today by the Trojans after admitting that he had lied, is tumbling down the wrong end of a dramatic, three-day rise and fall.
Shaw’s entry into the national spotlight began Monday with a blog post by the USC athletics department touting his feat:
The remarkable story quickly gained steam, and Twitter was filled with praise for the Trojan.
Josh Shaw of USC is the man. Can’t cheer against a dude like that.
— UtahUtesSteve (@UtahUtesSteve) August 25, 2014
USC senior CB Josh Shaw isn’t a Trojan. He’s a bonafide hero. http://t.co/7xp3JPtoOh
— Matt Prehm (@Prehmmr247) August 25, 2014
Gotta salute Josh Shaw for that. Not even gonna front. That’s real. — shaunnymanziel (@kingshaundiz) August 25, 2014
By mid-day Tuesday, however, word was starting to filter out that all may not have been what it seemed. USC Coach Steve Sarkisian announced that the school was planning to “vet” Shaw’s story. This caused the social media reaction to take on a more apprehensive tone.
This Josh Shaw story… if it’s true he goes from hero to worst person in the world in a single day.
— Jane McManus (@janesports) August 26, 2014
Really hope what’s going on rn with Josh Shaw isn’t true
— Cameron Carti (@ccarti15) August 26, 2014
Of course, once word started to spread that Shaw might have made the whole thing up, the Manti Te’o/Lennay Kekua jokes spread like very hacky wildfire.
“@nfldraftscout: So, Josh Shaw jumped off the balcony to save Manti Te’o’s girlfriend from drowning?”
— matthewmurphy (@matthewmurphy) August 26, 2014
So Josh Shaw was having an affair with Lennay Kekua and hurt his ankles going out the window when Manti Teo came home? — Eric T (@Taylor_UT) August 26, 2014
By today, the general feeling on social media was of dull resignation to the fact that, once again, we’d been had. A story that sounded too good to be true turned out to be just that, and we all grew, if not more cynical, at least more disappointed that there was one more reason to give in to cynicism. A Twitter search for “Josh Shaw” and “smh” (as in, “Shaking my head”) turned up hundreds of posts.
Smh Josh Shaw. Can’t believe anyone anymore
— Matthew J. Callari (@MatthewJCallari) August 27, 2014
Josh Shaw played everyone smh — RA (@RussyThat) August 27, 2014
Well I guess I was wrong about Josh Shaw. Who lies like that? People thought he was a hero smh
— Zach Adams (@ZachAdams_13) August 27, 2014
And it’s not quite over, as the true story has yet to emerge. That could happen either through a police investigation, if the burglary reports prove accurate, or, perhaps more likely, by Shaw himself. He will be getting quite a lot of advice to ‘fess up and try to put this sordid episode behind not only himself, but the USC football program, which kicks off its season on Saturday.
At some point, it will be mentioned to Shaw that he has hit rock bottom, which is a terrible place to be, but at least there’s nowhere to go but up (as long as Shaw makes an effort to repair his image). In the meantime, however, and for years to come, his name will be synonymous with “liar.”