Manti T'eo, Lance Armstrong lessons: Choose sports heroes carefully
Daniel Talevich is a 27-year-old journalism teacher at Wheeler Middle School in Wahiawi, Hawaii. A native of North Bend, he attended Gonzaga and still follows the Zags basketball team and Seattle sports from Oahu. Read his blog (www.talevich.blogspot.com) about education, sports and life.
Rest in peace. You will be missed.
Lance Armstrong represented not just America's surprising domination of a sport but also an attempt to dominate a challenging disease.
Manti Te'o was an absolute warrior, humbled by tragedies that would make most of us crumble, but tough enough to flourish under so much pain.
These stories died this week, following complications with credibility and overexposure to the truth. They leave behind millions of fans and followers from across the country and around the globe. No memorial service is scheduled.
Most of us knew that Lance cheated. We're still not certain of what actually happened with Manti Te'o and his fictitious girlfriend, but at the very least, he misled us.
So why does this hurt so much? I used to think that I followed sports so intensely because it was an escape from the real world, a parallel universe that served as an instant break from stressful reality. The truth is sports are not separate. They are a huge part of our lives all the time. So we desire more than just wins and losses, world records and tackles. We want stories as well, stories that transform our heroic athletes into incredible human beings. Stories like Armstrong's and Te'o's that strengthen the connection of the race course and the gridiron to the nuances of everyday life.
Once we've connected our own lives to these stories, we'd much rather believe in them than lose them.
I recall being slightly suspicious of all the allegations made by European journalists when Lance Armstrong was destroying the rest of the field in the Tour de France. But it didn't really faze me. This story, after all, wasn't just about winning races; it was also my dad and thousands of others winning their battles with cancer.
I also recall a split second when I thought it was strange that I hadn't heard of anyone with connections to Lennay Kekua out here on Oahu. But I didn't think twice about it. This story wasn't just Manti racking up 12 tackles against Michigan State three days after finding out his girlfriend died; it was also about all of us moving forward after losing someone and doing great things to honor them.
Now these narratives are gone. Out here, we'll talk nonstop about the fallacy of Manti's plight rather than the inspiration that he provided to our children. I'll joke with my cycling friends about Armstrong's cheating ways rather than praise his Livestrong foundation. In the end, we'll all be left with an emptiness.
We'll look for other heroes who inspire. We'll form a connection to their stories. We can only hope the facts check out.
I grabbed lunch with some coworkers just minutes after the Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax story broke. As we drove back to work, I looked over at my friend John's Livestrong bracelet.
"I'm still wearing it," he said firmly.
We passed a local T-shirt shop, its windows still proudly decorated with Notre Dame No. 5 T-shirts, Hawaiian leis incorporated into the designs.
It might be too soon to cut ties with these stories. These voids are tough to fill.