What would Ryan Lochte do?
The answer is far less important than the individuals posing the question, who happen to be executives at the E! entertainment channel.
Just in case you're among the 1 percent of the population who abstain from television, consider that this is the same network that broadcasts the antics of the Kardashians, the epitome of vapid, pop culture.
Lochte, a Port Orange Spruce Creek High and UF alum, is venturing into the treacherous world of reality television with the premier of his show "What Would Ryan Lochte Do?" on April 21. Judging from the promos that started airing last week, it promises to take viewers into the great mysteries of shot drinking, women-chasing and grammar-bending vocabulary from the world's reigning 28-year-old male swimming superstar. Jeah!
All of that is set to the back story of Lochte preparing for his next Olympic run in 2016.
Raise your hand if you're nervous. I certainly am.
Anyone who has ever come into contact with Lochte can tell you he is genuinely one of the most giving individuals in his sport. In December when he gave away the gold medal he won for breaking his own 200-meter individual medley world record to an 8-year-old boy in Istanbul, an act his father, Steve, says is common.
He gives his time and money to various charities like The MAC Foundation and Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy. He's always willing to take a photograph with fans or hang around late after his events to sign the last autograph. And while his artsy fashion sense is slightly strategic (hint, future fashion line), even that has a way of serving others. Whether he's donning a blinged out grill on his teeth or sporting neon-green teddy bear tennis shoes, Lochte aims to put a smile on your face.
He ultimately wants to give back to his sport by using his visibility to increase the popularity of swimming in America to the levels of football, basketball and baseball.
"I think a lot of that has to do with this reality show in getting people to understand the ups and downs and intensity of training and everything else and getting the general public more educated on what competitive swimming entails," Steve Lochte said.
Instead, I fear this reality show has the potential to increase the popularity of more sophomoric television and undercut the story of a fun-loving, gifted athlete in Lochte for the sake of selling a show.
Ignorance, after all, is what sells these days.
I'm also wondering if the person Lochte needs to be giving back to right now is himself.
A few weeks ago, he told reporters the rigors of reality show taping affected his training after what he called an "experimental" performance in the Orlando Grand Prix, where he won his signature event, the 200-meter IM, finished second in the 100-meter butterfly, third in the 100-meter backstroke, fifth in the 200-meter freestyle and fifth in the 200-meter backstroke. He said he's on a nine practice per week program, but he barely has enough time to make it past five practices a week.
"This is consuming my life," Lochte said of the long TV shoots. "I swear just in the last two weeks, I've gotten a lot of gray hairs just in the last two weeks from this meet and shooting the show. But the producers and the network have been really great and they're here to make a good show."
Granted, the Grand Prix series isn't the World Championship or even World Championship Trials for that matter (those are actually coming up this summer). But for a world-class athlete seeking to make an Olympic run at 32, Lochte even knows he's pushing his limit.
It's a heavy burden to promote an entire sport and if anyone has the charisma and credibility to do this for swimming, it's Lochte. I have respect for his underlying message, let's just hope his messenger is on the same page.