If you were the kind of person who likes to turn to a sports figure and tell your kids “Look, kids. There’s a real hero. Someone who goes their hardest every day to do what they were supposed to do,” then this has been a bad week for you.
I’ve written before about Lance Armstrong, and though I readily admit I was wrong, I do want to point out that the dude is probably now the hero to kids who cheat in school, because good lord, it took a lot to do what he did.
Then, we have Manti Te’o, a young man heralded by the sports media world as the example of getting your act together when your team needs you most. On September 11, 2012, his grandmother and his long-distance girlfriend died within six hours of each other. The girlfriend had been in a car wreck and during surgery, it was discovered she had leukemia.
Lannay Kekua was in and out of comas, and Te’o spent several nights on the phone with her, even going so far as to leave his phone on and go to sleep, just so she’d know he was there.
It was sweet. It was romantic, and he kicked Michigan’s tail after her death. It was covered by all the big names in sports and hailed as the biggest reason he was considered for the Heisman. And, one by one, the sports media immediately started reporting what a low-key news site called Deadspin.com posted in an incredibly well-researched article.
The girlfriend was fake.
Then, Notre Dame releases a statement saying the family went to them and said it was a hoax, and they want it investigated. We find out the family knew in early December, but Te’o mentioned the girlfriend twice after that in interviews.
Evidence suggests he knew, but still milked it.
It’ll be a while before we get to the bottom of that rabbit hole, but this is overall a stunningly sad problem. Players we look at as heroes end up being less than heroic. Players who should be considered heroes are, at best, ignored or, at worst, derided.
You don’t hear many people out their lauding Tim Tebow’s personality, right? Instead, you hear jokes about the Wildcat formation and, while some of them arefunny, we aren’t allowed to take a moment and think that his life in the spotlight hasn’t affected his faith.
I’m sorry to those of you who looked to Armstrong and Te’o as figures to be praised. I did, too. Guess we all got burned on that one.