Lance Armstrong, Manti Te’o and Chip Kelly or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Not Believe Anything Anyone Says

If you are a sports fan you are most certainly aware of the three stories that I am referencing in the verbose title of this post. But just in case, let’s recap.

Lance Armstrong has a long history of participating in a sport that we as Americans generally do not care about. He has to be one of the most famous, irrelevant athletes out there, or he at least was for a time. He has an equally long history of denying accusations that he used performance enhancing drugs to help him achieve unparalleled heights in the world of cycling. He vehemently denied accusations, ruined other cyclist’s careers and even invoked his battle with cancer as the reason he would never risk his health by using performance enhancing drugs. Well it turns out that not only was he using performance enhancing drugs, he was actually the ringleader of a fairly complicated system of drug abuse in the sport. He used, pushed and lied about steroids, shaming the sport, his foundation, the postal service and Newman in the process.

The Manti Te’o story is the most bizarre thing that I have ever heard, have a look at it here from Deadspin, the site that broke the story. It is still relatively murky at this point but there appear to be a few truths regardless of how the story plays out. One is that at some point this season Manti Te’o lied about the story of a “girlfriend” who he claimed to love, being one, real, and two, dead. To what degree he was duped into believing this is not certain, nor is whether or not he was the architect of the story to begin with. What is certain is that even making up a story about a fake, dead girlfriend is not enough to help you beat the SEC in the Heisman or the National Championship game. As a sidebar, at what point in sports did we start hearing more about the girlfriend’s of the players on the field than the actual game? If only he had interwoven something about her being a war hero or the former Miss America…next time just use Rudy to get the team motivated.

Thirdly, and most likely the least egregious, is the hiring of Chip Kelly as the coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, days after he stated that he would not be leaving Oregon. Do I blame him for leaving? Not at all, I am sure it was a smart move for him on several levels. I almost feel bad in including him here, but it is a relevant example of what has been a common practice of sports coaches lying to a fan-base The total egregiousness of the move may yet to be tallied as some speculate that he left Oregon knowing that NCAA violations would be soon to follow, ala Lane Kiffin. If this is the case I would say that Kelly’s actions still sadly fall third on the list of actions above.

Before I continue to rant, let’s clear up a few things. One, I don’t really care about any of the above actions in and of themselves. The only real affect any of them have had on my daily life is that my favorite local sports blog has taken time away from discussing Kentucky basketball and football to address these issues. Secondly, I do not believe it for a second when a coach says that he intends to stay with on team or another. I know, and do not blame them for it, that when a better job comes along, that coach will most likely move, just as I would do in a regular, everyday job. What I do not understand is why coaches continue to say that they are staying when in fact we later learn that they had no intention of doing so. Finally, I could care less that Lance Armstrong took steroids to make him a better cycler, or that Barry Bonds took steroids to hit the ball further. Bottom line is they are both amazing athletes with or without steroids and the fact that they took those drugs does not make me like them any more or any less. Am I glad that I am not friends with Lance Armstrong? Yes. Would I be pissed if a guy I worked with threw me under the bus while doing the exact same thing himself? Yes. Do I want Lance Armstrong to send me some money because my tax money from the US Postal Service essentially funded his team? Sure, why not. Am I disappointed? Not at all.

If we as guys are putting so much faith in any athlete or public figure, people  we do not even know, to the point that when they fail our worlds are shattered like home run records and Tour de France stage time records, we are putting our faith in the wrong people. I love sports just as much as the next guy but to care so much about a public figure is a bit ridiculous.

Perhaps the best/worst example of this idea is with the Penn State scandal. Joe Paterno, who by all accounts was a fantastic person, coach and humanitarian, was pretty deep in a scandal that involved in covering up sexual assault on children, intimidation and all out anarchy among his program. Even sweet old Joe turned out to be a bit of a dirtbag. Now I am not saying that I have lost my faith in humanity, nothing could be further from the truth. But to constantly be surprised when events like this take place is like continually betting on the Cubs to win the World Series, which is to say ignoring your surroundings.

This is of course not to suggest that I have never done anything wrong in my life. I continue to screw up daily. I lie more often than I would like to. I do not hold true to my word more often than I would like to claim. And who among us hasn’t made up a dead girlfriend and played an undefeated season of college football in her honor? The point is that we all do things that we would like to forget. Unfortunately, the spotlight of the media on famous people, who are in fact humans just like the rest of us, often graphically displays just how messed up humanity on it’s own really is.

If we lack honor and integrity, we essentially lack everything. I like what Josh wrote in his post on honor,

There is no need to throw a gala, a banquet, or an awards ceremony. There need be no red carpet or bustling paparazzi. It’s easy to imagine that spectacle and honor are somehow connected because so often when we see the former we are asked to assume the latter is happening.

I think he makes a good point. Many times we assume that because there is a great fanfare surrounding a person or an event, that the fanfare itself speaks to the worth or the honor of that person, news story, event, etc. etc. I think maybe as guys we need to start thinking more about what we say and do, our honor and integrity rather than how we appear to others, our place on the social ladder or rank on the proverbial food chain.

So at this point you realize that this post has turned into a stream of consciousness and that I am circling anything resembling a thesis like a coach answering questions about his future. So here it is. I believe that people are generally good. We will all fail at some point, we all sin. As mentioned before, the media reminds us quite often of the evils, both small and large, that we are capable of as humans. I also know that we are capable of extreme good. We as humans have done uncountable amounts of good things, rivaling even some of the most heinous acts on the opposite side. These three recent events are just some of many examples of how we as guys fail to live up to our word, and in a few of the cases, lie to cover up  things we have done, but they are by no means the worst. Also, I have come to the conclusion to take everything with a grain of salt. This may sound contradictory to my statement that people are generally good, and it probably is, but when it comes to public figures, and really anyone other than people that I am closest to (not Facebook romance close, but like people I actually physically converse and interact with close) it would be presumptuous to assume that what I am hearing is unadulterated truth.

Anyways, I will promise to work on being a man of integrity and honor (and writing more coherent and concise posts). Maybe we should all think about doing the same.

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Categories: Ground Ball Democracy

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