Friday, January 18, 2013

Won't get fooled again? Yes we will.

We've been paying a lot of attention in the news this week to liars. I know, I know, that's nothing new. The difference is the lying is the story.
First, let's look at Manti Te'o, the star Notre Dame football player who got a lot of mileage out of the "death" of his fake girlfriend this fall before it was revealed to be a hoax this week.
Some believe he was the unwitting victim of the hoax -- something that's hard to believe. I'm in the group that believes he knew exactly what he's doing, that everyone loves a sob story and being a haunted hero would do a lot to enhance his press in his push toward the Heisman and an NFL career, not to mention that golden goose -- endorsement contracts.
Hard to believe a kid that age would be satisfied with a "virtual" relationship. Also hard to believe that the fact this relationship was online and he never saw or felt the flesh-and-blood woman never came up in all his tearful interviews.
The hardest thing to believe, though, is the press itself.
Did not one reporter covering this sob story from September through the Heisman ceremony in December look for her obit? Just to enhance the story, not even to catch him out. Did not one reporter try to find her family? Call Stanford, the university she "attended," to get some quotes? Find her friends?
Apparently not. Or if they did, when they couldn't dig anything up, they just gave up rather than wonder why.
Maybe every reporter out there -- yes even sports journalists -- need to rent a copy of "Shattered Glass." But I digress.
Part of the problem with Te'o's story is the same one we saw when Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs shot his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, before killing himself in the NFL team's parking lot in December.
There were stories that never mentioned Perkins' name, much less sought out information about her or talked to her family until days later, when some people began calling the media out on it.
This is the byproduct of our sports culture -- Kasandra Perkins was just a detail in the Jovan Belcher story.
This myopic view was in full play in the Manti Te'o story, too. The pretend girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, was only a vehicle for his story as far as reporters were concerned. So no one bothered to flesh out their story by finding out who Lennay Kekua was. Mind-boggling in this Internet world, where instead of calling funeral homes and newspapers, like we would have back in the dark pre-internet age, all someone would have had to do was google her name to find her obit. And if they didn't find it, it should have raised some questions.
Hell, we even knew what day she was buried, since Te'o made a point to let people know that he played that day instead of attending her funeral, because that's what she would have wanted. She told him so (so...he wasn't part of the hoax? C'mon). Would have been nice to get some quotes from her family on that, right?
In a world in which the press is struggling to stay relevant, it's hard to make a case for ourselves when we're so easily fooled. One reason we're here is to report, not what people tell us, but what we find out.
Sports writers are journalists, too. The five Ws -- remember them? who, what, where, when and why -- apply as much to sports reporting as any other kind of journalists. If we're not asking questions, we're just PR people.
On that note, the world's biggest liar, Lance Armstrong, also continued his manipulation of the press with his "stunning confession" to Oprah this week about his doping.
Anyone who hasn't been aware for years this man was lying was living in a cage. Yet almost everyone bought into it.
I don't get OWN, so I'm at the mercy of others reporting what Armstrong said.
Here's hoping Oprah asked him how he could live with himself after suing news organizations for libel for reporting the truth. Here's hoping she asks him if he's going to give the money back that he won in those cases now that he's admitting he lied.
Because one of the biggest issues with Armstrong is the vitriol he rained on those who tried to shine the light on his lies. His self-righteous crapping all over on people who tried to bring the facts to light.
Some say all he's done for cancer survivors with LiveStrong cancels out the lies. That's pathetic. Nothing cancels out the lies or the attacks on those who tried to reveal them.
LiveStrong has done a lot of good in the world, but it's not instant penance for the bad Armstrong did and the lives he destroyed, the people he dragged down with him.
A cynic may say a lot of the "good" he's done was a smokescreen to keep people from focusing too much on the bad. If it was, it will continue to work that way for him.
Te'o and Armstrong. Two lying liars who managed to bamboozle a lot of people, including the journalists.
You know the old saying, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me"?
These aren't the only two guys who have pulled the wool over the eyes of the easy-to-manipulate-with-a-moving-story news media. They're only the two guys who did it who are making headlines this week.
Fool me twice? Hell, fool me a zillion times.

1 comment:

  1. You made a lot of good points here as usual and with a tongue in cheek tone that I love and admire so much! Two liars who gained the spotlight and who more than likely don't care that they are looked down upon by most of society because they became famous for a minute or two. The sad thing is that these guys will continue to lie and justify themselves because they feel they've done no wrong.