Our View: Manti and Lance
Posted: January 19, 2013
For all the storm and strife surrounding political issues — gun control and the nation’s Sword-of-Damocles debt-deficit crisis — two sports-related stories galvanized attention and dominated the news cycle this past week.
Celebrated cyclist (and cancer survivor) Lance Armstrong came clean on his use of performance-enhancing drugs — on the “Oprah” show, no less — and Notre Dame gridder Manti Te’o, we learned, did not have a girl friend after all, much less a dead one.
Here’s our abbreviated take on both stories, starting with the more fascinating . . .
Whether young Mr. Te’o was the victim of a spectacular hoax or played an active role in perpetuating one still awaits resolution. What we can highlight, with some certainty, is the gullibility of the nation’s press in covering what was a feel-good tale of triumph trumping tragedy.
As media observer Howard Kurtz has stated, all it would have taken to verify the basic facts of Mr. Teo’s heartrending tale of lost love was a few more phone calls. Either they were not made, or when they were, rationalization erased any doubt, whether fleeting or nagging.
Why? Human nature kicked in. The Te’o tale was so achingly beautiful and his response to adversity — his beloved grandma and supposed girlfriend dying within hours of each other — so apparently genuine that even the most hardened and cynical sportswriter wanted to believe it.
As ESPN correspondent Gene Wojciechowski stated, “In retrospect, you can see where some of those things weren’t adding up to make sense. It’s easy to say now, but at the time it never enters your mind that somebody was involved in that kind of hoax. We wanted to believe it so much.”
That same desire to believe also applies in Mr. Armstrong’s case, but only up to a point and only because his inspirational — and successful — fight against cancer elevated him to the ranks of the heroic.
So the revelation that he did, in fact, use performance-enhancing drugs — bad. But then doping is almost axiomatic of his sport. He was merely best among the bad.
But repeatedly lying about his use of PEDs — worse. And continually bullying and threatening those around him to keep mum about such rampant indiscretions? Worse yet.
Unlike Mr. Te’o, here’s a man whose “LiveStrong” back story was actually true, and so authentic that it inspired millions and drew many others into its aura. As such, Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace will be ever more dramatic — and perhaps irreversible.
On Monday: Lance Armstrong, prodigious liar.