By: Michael Shields
We weigh in on two scandals, simultaneously in the National spotlight, that further decays our faith in humanity…..
It isn’t often that we, as a Nation, are served two plates simultaneously overflowing with a hefty serving of deceit; that we are forced to digest a momentous amount of filth all at once. But that is exactly the meal that sits upon our table, as the story of Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend and Lance Armstrong’s long overdue confessions share front page space in newspapers across the country.
We hear the word bizarre, often, when discussing the depths of the Te’o hoax. We are told there are many angles and much more to learn about the situation, which all is true. But we know for a fact that Te’o has mentioned, in public, his “girlfriend” multiple times (December 8th at the Heisman Trophy presentation and December 11th) after apparently (according to his handlers and Notre Dame) being aware of the hoax (December 6th)1. We also have to wrap our heads around the fact that this young man went on and on about his “girlfriend” only to later tell us that it was merely an online relationship, and that he was duped.
It’s a strange story, sure, but being totally bamboozled, as Te’o’s faithful supporters will have you believe, leaves almost the same amount of egg of Te’o’s face as if he was entirely complicit in this hoax the entire time. He is either one of the simplest men on the planet or a liar of the highest order. Or a little from column A and some more from column B, as it is most likely he was fooled and then stayed the course with the tragic story.
The latest reports which have surfaced maintain that this elaborate ruse was conceived and acted upon by one Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a man who has been accused of this type of deceitful behavior in the past. Regardless of the hoax – Manti Te’o played up the girlfriend angle and the tragic story of “the most beautiful girl he ever MET” exceptionally well. He used it to garner sympathy, and he used it often. And he is already caught up in a web of lies2 that makes it literally impossible to regard him solely as a “victim” as he and his school want us to believe.
Lance, on the other hand, we must remember, fought vigorously against his whistle-blowers during his seven summers of lies and beyond. It isn’t just that fact that he cheated that he is publicly admonished for – it’s that he went after those who simply told the truth about him. He spread lies to discredit his accusers and made serious efforts to ruin their lives3.
His attempts at explaining his reasons for being a bully, a liar, and a cheat, while squirming around in a chair inches from Oprah, showed us how sad a man he has truly become. And his coming “clean” and his attempt to set the record straight (while continuing to lie) reeks more of self-preservation and public image rebuilding than a sincere apology4.
The man does not deserve credit for finally admitting he cheated, and there is not one person left in the universe that upon hearing the confession of a cheater last evening rejoiced, declaring “I knew it!” We have been onto him for some time now, the pile of evidence against him was herculean. But he does deserve credit for having the capacity, in some degree, to see himself as the world sees him, as a “jerk and a humanitarian” and as a “deeply flawed” person. However, if redemption was his goal, it was not achieved.
It is possible that Manti Te’o, young man that he is, could possibly learn something from Lance Armstrong – now that they are in this together after all. Manti can learn that the longer he takes to come clean, to give us the truth in its entirety, the less receptive we will be towards it. Time will only allow the media, who are digging for dirt day and night about this spectacle, to learn more and uncover facts that may not be in Te’o’s best interest5. It is clear that there is a measure of blame that he will be forced to acknowledge. With the possibility of a lengthy football career ahead of him in the NFL, the sooner he sheds light on the truth the better.
At least Te’o and Lance have one another to share headlines with, and to deflect attention from one another; to make us scratch our heads in befuddlement; to make us ask “Why?” Te’o and Lance, will now most likely be remembered together, the time period they held captive with their deceit forever linking them. Just as it has become impossible to divorce speaking about football and the effect playing the game has on the human body, the narrative of Te’o and Lance are forever joined, two peas in one counterfeit pod.
Two men, once well-respected, further damaging our faith in humanity. A couple of stories that seemed too good to be true were just exactly that.
They can have each other.
- The Associated Press has unearthed two other instances where he spoke of his “girlfriend” after being aware of the con. [↩]
- Sports Illustrated posted a previously unpublished transcript of a one-on-one interview with Te’o from September 23rd. In it, he goes into detail about his relationship with Kekua and her physical ailments. He also mentioned meeting her for the first time after a game in California. “We met just, ummmm, just she knew my cousin. And kind of saw me there so. Just kind of regular,” he told the magazine. [↩]
- Most notably his former teammate Frankie Andreu (and his wife Betsy) who struggled to find work after Lance smeared his name and dropped him from the USPS team, London Sunday Time Reporter David Walsh who Lance sued for a substantial amount of money, and USPS masseuse Emma O’Reilly who Lance admittedly “ran over and bullied.” [↩]
- Following Lance Armstrong’s confession to Oprah last night about using banned substances throughout his cycling career news surfaced that Paramount Pictures and Bad Robot Production are planning a movie based on Juliet Macur’s upcoming book “Cycle of Lies: The Fall of Lance Armstrong.” [↩]
- His teammates are now coming out proclaiming that he knew she wasn’t real the entire time and that Te’o played along because “he liked the attention.” [↩]