Get Real

So here’s where we stand with the Manti Te’o situation: You’re either naive for believing that con artists can’t be shockingly craven, or you’re naive for believing athletes can’t be outrageously manipulative and attention hungry.

By now you probably know the back story. A Heisman candidate linebacker from Notre Dame inspired the sports world by bravely playing through his grief after the passing of his girlfriend. An investigation by Deadspin discovered the girlfriend was not real. The grief may or may not have been.

You’ve probably also picked a side. You’re inclined to think Te’o was the victim of a cruel hoax, or you think Te’o was a conniving schemer in search of publicity.

There’s a reason sports reporters have been slightly more likely than the general public to believe the former. And it goes beyond the knee-jerk defense of an industry that fell on its collective face by failing to do some basic fact-checking in regards to Te’o.

No, the reason is this: I guarantee that every reporter who’s been in the business for a good stretch has been fed a false lead. I’m not talking about the guy who e-mails what they heard from a friend of a friend who might have been involved in something. I’m talking about correspondence with someone who relays with an almost religious fervor that there’s a story you must look into if you’re worth your journalistic salt. These people have a strange, perverse desire to mislead, and that seems to be their only motivation.

On the other hand, if you believe athletes aren’t just as capable of being misleading, well, what rock have you crawled out from under? Only this week, Lance Armstrong, despite wagging his finger at us for ages, came clean (pun intended) about his use of performance enhancing drugs.

And the hype machines athletes create these days can go to incredible lengths. We live in an era where athletes will hire their own beat reporters, sell their own merchandise. Their name is their brand name, their athletic prowess is their product.

In the end, it’s even possible that nobody is right and everybody is. It could be the case that Te’o exaggerated stories about a girlfriend he thought existed.

We still have a lot to learn about the situation. Until then, it’s PT Barnum’s world, and we’re just living in it.


4 thoughts on “Get Real”

  1. Lori, I stopped reading Deadspin quite a while ago because it seemed to be nothing but a foul-mouthed snarkfest – something created and maintained by a bunch of immature young men. When did they start committing *journalism?* And what does that say about legitimate sports journalists, who I had a lot of respect for? If this was Braxton Miller we were talking about instead of Mainti Te’o, a lot of people I hold in high regard (including you) would have omelets on their faces.

  2. Mark, Deadspin must have gotten something right here. This story has blown up and become bigger than the Lance Armstrong interview tonight (did you remember that that is tonight? I’m guessing no). This story is a legit piece by Deadspin that has a ton of questions that needs answers but at least Deadspin put it out there for the world to see.

    1. Not disputing that Troy. But Deadspin, to be kind, doesn’t have the reputation of a journalism website. I was asking when they got serious. The piece is pretty well reported IMO.

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