Talk about bad timing.
Last week, I wrote about the media building up people, specifically athletes, as great in all aspects of life rather than just their sport, and then two bombshells drop.
The first was Lance Armstrong finally coming clean about doping as a cyclist, and I don’t mean doping in an “attending Woodstock” sort of way. To take a cycling champion and elevate the athletic achievement above that by calling Lance a miraculous cancer survivor, a great man and a great ambassador for the sport rings hollow now.
This was a guy who used chemical enhancements after overcoming testicular cancer. This was a guy who ruined the careers of many friends and teammates who came forward with allegations of the doping and the allegations that Lance encouraged them to dope, too. This was a guy who called for cheaters to be stripped of titles and be barred from future competitions, all while he was as dirty as they were. The whole sport of cycling is. He didn’t just cheat: He was an arrogant jerk while doing it.
Now the pedestal has been shattered, mainly because the base of it was created by an overzealous media looking to make Lance a story beyond sport.
The second case is one of the most bizarre stories I’ve ever heard. A player at Notre Dame, Mantei Te’o, has been getting attention all year for his perseverance and leadership after he tragically lost his grandmother and girlfriend within a 24-hour period in September. The grandmother did die; the girlfriend wasn’t even born. As in, she didn’t exist.
The story is so convoluted that it will take months to figure out if Te’o was duped by a hoax, created the hoax or if it was a combination of him getting duped and playing along. But this much is clear – the media dropped the ball yet again by trying to make the athlete much more than that. They wanted to make him into an inspirational leader and a great person.
Time and again this happens. We do it to actors and politicians and then shake our heads in angry disapproval as the stories roll in of them committing adultery, getting arrested for a variety of crimes, for blatant lying and other transgressions. We do it because we are looking for inspiration instead of motivating ourselves.
On one hand, I could say I wrote last week’s column a week too late. On the other hand, I guess I could write that same column each week and just change the name of the latest person to disappoint us.