No doubt, you heard or read about the news in sports last week. Between Lance Armstrong publicly admitting to doping, and Manti Te’o coming forward about his fake girlfriend, sports certainly showed its ugly side.
Armstrong initiated a sophisticated doping scandal that was somewhat ahead of its time. Additionally, the cover-up was just a complex as he pushed teammates and support staff to get with the program or get it out. News came out that he bullied most that wouldn’t get with the program, or pushed out anyone who wouldn’t subscribe to his strategy for cycling domination.
What disturbs me about Armstrong is his insistence all along that he wasn’t doping. He even made a pretty powerful Nike commercial thwarting any rumors he wasn’t doping.
Looking back it reminded me of when Rafael Palmeiro sat before Congress denouncing he didn’t use steriods (an even wagged his finger for emphasis – pretty bold, right?). Palmeiro’s fate unfolded sometime after and he was never heard from again (or at least to my knowledge).
So what happened with T’eo is just weird but bizarre is a better adjective. The whole girlfriend hoax smells of a well-timed stunt. Think about when the girlfriend became newsworthy? When she had leukemia and then subsequently died in a car crash just as the College Football season started. Instantly, the story catapulted T’eo to the forefront of College Football. His “narrative” was almost Hollywood-esque. Hard not to pay attention to a talented football player in love with a girl fighting a disease then dies. But it was all made up.
What did T’eo know or not know? Was he in on the girlfriend hoax to raise his stock for the Heisman and then ultimately the NFL draft? He’s a great player so it’s strange that we would go to great lengths, but there’s a lot of future money at stake. Building a character that pulls at the heartstrings of sports fans is tempting. What NFL team wouldn’t want a sensitive, hard-hitting, compassionate, and high character football player? My conspiracy theorist imagination is running wild with this story. There’s still a lot of information that needs to play out before final judgement is made.
But I’m already making my judgement on T’eo. Whether he was in on the hoax or not, why wait until the College Football season to be over? My conspiracy theorist’s sense tells me: because of ratings, money, and the future.
Sport fans love the underdog and they love the moving, sweeping narrative. Who doesn’t love a story of a sports figure rising above the challenges to achieve greatness. Armstrong beating cancer to win 7 Tour de France titles. T’eo to be second runner up in the Heisman and win a number of awards as an amazing linebacker after the emotional loss of a girlfriend.
I cheered for Armstrong and got behind the Livestrong initiative as it seemed like a noble cause. Actually, I used a lot of the Livestong online resources to lose weight. For months now, I moved away from Livestrong because I found better tools to help meet my goals, not because of Armstrong. However, I’ll never reconsider going back to Livestrong because of Armstrong. I find it hard to rally around a cause that built on deception from the out set. Armstrong’s only contribution is that he made the sport of cycling somewhat relevant (and I’m being generous when I write that).
As for Te’o, I could care less. I almost wish he’s in on the girlfriend hoax. Why would a nationally recognized All-American linebacker need a fake girlfriend in the first place? I have nothing against online dating (that’s how I met my wife). To put that much trust in someone you’ve never met and fall completely in love with but yet never physically meet – sounds peculiar. T’eo might a great actor or the most naive person I’ve ever seen. I think there’s a Nigerian Prince that is in need of some financial help. Also…if I’m an NFL scout or executive, I’m looking elsewhere to fulfill my linebacker needs.
That’s the ugly side of sports as I see it. I have no doubt some other controversey will present itself, and leave me longing for the days of doping in a sport no one cares about or fake dead girlfriends. As much as stuff like this drives me nuts and makes me what to stop watching, the Super Bowl is in two weeks and I couldn’t be more excited. Ugh.