A week of lies and deception
Posted January 20, 2013
For much of the past week, two stories have dominated sports news - and they both deal with lies.
Between Lance Armstrong's admission of cheating and the revelation of Manti Te'o's non-existent girlfriend, fans have spent much of the week trying to decipher what's true and what's not.
I'm reminded of Bill Clinton's famous statement: "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."
In Armstrong's case, I don't think many people were left pleading "Say it ain't so, Lance." Countless whistle blowers have come forward over the years to shed light on Armstrong's use of performance-enhancing drugs, and by this point Armstrong's admission only reaffirms what most have assumed for some time.
But during Armstrong's run of Tour de France dominance, few wanted to believe this heroic figure - a man whose triumph over cancer inspired so many - was a fraud. We readily accepted him as some sort of Superman whose success came purely through hard work and force of will.
We believed it because it was the better story.
Nobody watches sports to see mediocrity. Fans and media alike are there to find the exceptional. Armstrong's story was too good to be true, and we didn't care.
This brings me to Te'o's story, one which has probably not come to a conclusion. I recall when I first heard the story of Te'o playing through his girlfriend's death, and several questions came to mind: 1) If that was the love of his life, why didn't he make every effort to go to California - even if he wasn't able to attend the funeral? 2) If they were that close, why didn't her family hold the funeral at a time he could attend? And, 3) Why had his parents never met her?
But despite all of these things which struck me as strange, I bought it. Like most everyone else, I bought it because it was the story being sold - and it was a sensational one at that.
We now know better. We now know both of these stories were bogus.
Part of me wonders why a publication like Sports Illustrated didn't do the fact checking required to show Lennay Kekua doesn't exist. Part of me wonders why so few reporters - outside of what seemed at the time to be a jaded French tabloid horde - took the story of Armstrong's doping seriously while he was doing it.
But I know better about this as well. We - fans and media alike - wanted to believe the great story. We wanted to buy in to something out of the ordinary and exceptional.
And we were duped.