For those of you who enjoy a high profile crash-and-burn, the sports world was the place for you over the last week. As previously stated in this space I have, for much of the time, turned my back on FM radio music while in my car, instead usually opting for AM talk radio.
Or satellite talk radio, since I am slowly creeping into the 21st century.
Be that as it may, you didn't need to turn on a radio to hear the sad tales surrounding two major news makers, cycling superstar Lance Armstrong and Notre Dame football superstar Manti Te'o. (If nothing else comes of this column I have now sort of learned how to spell Manti Te'o.)
No, radio didn't have the corner on the story as it was splashed all over newspapers, television and the Internet. (Have I mentioned lately the Internet is the devil's tool. True, but that's another column.) Two guys, two lies, two uneasy steps into the spotlight of our pop culture.
First for Armstrong. Look, like you I don't know the first thing about cycling, except that when I was eight years old I was thrilled to have my dad get me a bike with a banana seat. What I learned about cycling I learned while Armstrong was winning all those Tour de France titles; you know, the yellow jacket, the rampant drug use by competitors, the victory lap down the Champs-Elysées. (Seems the last time an American made that victory tour was Patton in WWII, but I could be wrong...)
For years the talk was Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs to help win all those championships. Everybody in cycling did them, he was just another face in the crowd, except that he promised - he swore - he never did. He belittled his accusers, threatened lawsuits against those who dared to say he used PEDs, was a real bully about the whole thing.
Lance Armstrong, like George Washington, could not tell a lie. Except he did.
I still don't know, or care, much about cycling. And I don't happen to care if Armstrong used PEDs; it's his body and if that's what he's willing to do in order to win, then that's his personal choice. Me, I'd just as soon he'd have stayed that heroic figure in the movie Dodgeball, where he shamed Peter LaFluer into returning for the championship match. (Hmm, I forget how many Oscars that movie won...)
He goes on Oprah's show, cries it out a little, and we all move on. Except for the part about the lawsuits, real and threatened, and the mess he made of so many people's lives over the years as a result. Like the motel owner in the movie The Jerk told actor Steve Martin, "your dog no hero." Neither is Lance Armstrong, not to many, certainly not as many, especially when he did all his cheating while hiding behind the good name of his worthy charity, which was and still is aimed at helping go find a cure for cancer, a disease he's beaten.
I mean, really? Like I said, the whole thing is a mess.
As for Te'o, it's hard to come down too hard on a guy for having an imaginary girl friend. I mean, guys, who hasn't? (Then again, the sound track to the rest of the poor kid's life is now Atlanta Rhythm Section's Imaginary Lover...)
I don't know what the real story there is, and don't care, but in a society that is driven by the public's fascination with a celebrity crash-and-burn, this is custom made. I hope the kid was just a dope, more than a little naive and can just get on with his life.
But can't you just imagine what happens next...