There's plenty of blame to go around in the Josh Shaw saga

There's plenty of blame to go around in the Josh Shaw saga

We promised never to be suckered into believing in the implausible again after the herculean feats of Lance Armstrong, Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez turned out to be steroid-fueled. We swore to never again be duped by an inspiring story so easily after Manti Te'o's dying girlfriend turned out to be an elaborate hoax.

Now, not far removed from any of those incidents, here we all are washing egg yolk and shell off our faces yet again.

USC cornerback Josh Shaw's admission that he lied about jumping from a second-floor balcony to rescue his drowning nephew is a revelation that leaves everyone involved looking foolish. We all wanted to believe the senior co-captain's heroic tale could be true — and we all look gullible and naive now that it's clear the real explanation for Shaw's two badly sprained ankles may be far more nefarious.

USC is at fault for racing to post a positive story to its athletics site Monday without properly vetting it first. The school could have avoided a firestorm of controversy leading up to its season opener had its coaches and administrators taken the time to look into Shaw's claims, but the Trojans instead saw a chance for good publicity and pounced.

The media, including Yahoo Sports, is also at fault for taking the bait. Readers expect journalists to separate fact from fiction and this is the sort of too-good-to-be-true tale that should have triggered every reporter's cynical side.

Of course the person who comes across looking worst in all this is Shaw, whose fabrication has wrecked his previously spotless reputation, overshadowed enthusiasm for coach Steve Sarkisian's debut and sabotaged USC's preparation for Saturday's opener against Fresno State.

Shaw should have told his coaches the truth about how he sprained his ankles, but if he was going to lie, his heroic tale was a farcical choice. It was way too over-the-top not to draw attention. It's the equivalent of a lifetime C-plus student hacking into his school's computer system and changing his GPA from 2.3 to 4.7.

Worse yet, the statement Shaw released through his lawyer Wednesday will only perpetuate the news cycle rather than ending it because it contains an apology but no explanation of what really happened.

"I made up a story about this fall that was untrue," Shaw said. "I was wrong not to tell the truth. I apologize to USC for this action on my part. My USC coaches, The USC Athletic Department, and especially coach Sarkisian have all been supportive of me during my college career and for that, I am very grateful."

The fact that Shaw has retained a high-profile defense attorney suggests there's a criminal element to all this, so perhaps he did not feel as though he could offer a full explanation without incriminating himself. Nonetheless, he'd have been wise to reveal at least a little more about how he hurt himself because reporters are going to keep digging and the truth will surely come out sooner than later.

The saddest element of the Shaw saga will surely be the increased cynicism it provokes among sports fans.

Drug cheats like Armstrong and McGwire taught us to question unfathomable accomplishments on the field of play. Tarnished legends like Joe Paterno reminded us to stop deifying coaching icons. And now the Te'o and Shaw scandals should force us to approach too-good-to-be-true human interest stories with a more discerning eye.

We want to believe the best in people. What we're learning is it's not always prudent to do so.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!