Its been a dizzying week to be a sports fan.
Another champion disgraced on national television. Branded, in his own words, a liar and a cheater and, perhaps worst of all, a bully. Lance Armstrong used his power and fame and million-dollar name to punish those who dared speak the truth about the seven-time Tour de France winner, who told the stories that Armstrong did not want made public, who pulled back the curtain on his success.
He picked on those who had nothing but the truth to fight back with and tried to ruin their lives so he could continue to lie and cheat and win and make millions.
That was his biggest crime.
At least there were warnings with Armstrong, a handful of truth-tellers giving us an indication that Armstrongs too-perfect story cancer survivor who beats the disease and then conquers the toughest race in the world against dirty riders without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs was too perfect.
There were no such warnings for Notre Dame and college football fans, who discovered that the Irishs star linebacker and emotional leader had misled everyone about his girlfriend. The one who supposedly died in the middle of the season. Except all of it the girlfriend, her car crash, her bout with leukemia, her death was a fraud, a hoax, a con.
We likely will never know exactly what Manti Teo knew and when he knew it. We will likely never know whether he invented the girlfriend or was merely too embarrassed to tell the truth when he learned the real story.
What we know and have known for some time, though we often forget it is that we dont know them. We dont know the athletes we cheer for or write about.
Its easy to think we do.
After all, we see them on our televisions, we hear them on our radios, we read about them in our papers, we track their stats on the Internet, we hang their likeness on our bedroom walls, we wear their jerseys, we know the name of their wives, we learn how much money they make, we place a value on them in our fantasy leagues, we draft them, we trade them, we cut them, we Tweet with them, we buy the products they endorse, we evaluate their mental status, we diagnosis on their physical condition, we get their autographs, we cheer their successes, we lament their failures, we spend our lives with them.
All of it makes us think we know them.
We dont. We know what they want us to know.
We know that Lance Armstrong visited hospitals and treatment centers to encourage cancer patients and their families because Armstrong wanted us to know that. He allowed us to see the videos and the pictures and, of course, the yellow bracelets. He let those stories be told. He didnt threaten lawsuits when those truths were told.
What we must remember whether its Joe Paterno or Tiger Woods or the dozens of other sports figures who have been through the scandal cycle in recent years is that we dont know the full story. We never will.
No matter how many media outlets tell the story. No matter how genuine, like Teo. No matter how defiant, like Armstrong.
We live with complexities in our everyday lives the knowledge that our successful friend is cheating on their spouse, that our normally amazing relative has a drinking problem, that people can be terrific in one aspect of life and terrible in another.
We accept that gray. We embrace it.
I wish wed do it more often in sports.
I wish we could hold on to the fact that being a great athlete doesnt mean anything more than that person is a great athlete. That throwing touchdown or hitting home runs or dunking a basketball doesnt make them more (or less) human than the rest of us.
That Lance Armstrong can be an inspiration to millions and a phenomenal endurance athlete (drugs and all) and he can be a liar, a cheater and a bully. That Manti Teo can be a Heisman finalist and an inspirational leader for his teammates and a gullible and dishonest college student.
Itd certainly make our weeks less dizzying.