T’eo, Armstrong confessions perplexing, and may not help either


Did Congress slip in a National Day of Confessions holiday when no one looked? Today seems to be the day.

Lance Armstrong, seven time Tour de France loser, and Manti T’eo, Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman Trophy runner-up, came clean and today we get to distill it all.

Armstrong’s taped confession to Oprah Winfrey airs tonight; T’eo fessed up last night through a statement and news conference with ND AD Jack Swarbrick. How did each do managing his personal crisis?

Armstrong’s story is best known and need not be recounted here. Suffice it to say, Armstrong seems to be implying that if the U.S. Justice Department doesn’t prosecute him for defrauding the U.S. Government over his PED use while on the U.S. Postal Service Team, he might roll over and give away the sponsors, coaches and federation officials in Europe and America who knew he was doping or helped him dope. Cynical, but who’s going to believe just apologies and remorse from him? He needs to give them something more.

T’eo’s tale seems to raise more questions than it answers. He’s got more apostrophes in his name than good answers. As a father of two 22-year-old males, I can attest to the age group’s sometime immaturity and gullibility, even though the cohort thinks it’s all grown up. So we want to give T’eo the benefit of the doubt. Once.

But given that Notre Dame was undefeated in the regular season, hadn’t had a Heisman candidate since Tim Brown 25 years ago and desperately needed the attention of success, one has to wonder if we’ve heard everything there is to this story.

Gene Wojciechowski, now with ESPN but previously a fine reporter for the Dallas Morning News and the Los Angeles Times, put it best last night. He’d interviewed T’eo mid-season about his girlfriend, who now either does not exist, or is an avatar of a girlfriend. Wojciechowski said that he can only hope this is the full story. Because for T’eo and Notre Dame, there could be nothing worse than an embarrassed and humiliated set of sports reporters who swallowed the touching story of T’eo’s beloved’s death. They will dig now with a vengeance.

What all this cheating and confusion means to the greater society is for someone else’s teeth-gnashing blog. But in terms of crisis management, Armstrong is playing his last card. He can give back some of his prize money, and he wants to maintain some professional outlets, as well as Livestrong, his cancer-fighting charity. He really has little to gain by going on with Oprah, except that her mostly female audience still loves his cancer fighting persona.

Together, the efforts seem to have eased each man’s crisis — somewhat. But too much still needs to play out before final grades are in.

Notre Dame of course wants to believe that T’eo was the hoax victim, not the hoax perpetrator. The risk is that if some in the ND football program knew the truth and allowed the myth to play out in an effort to build ardor for T’eo’s Heisman changes, then the guillotine will fall on ND football.

And, if Armstrong’s admissions are just teases, anger that’s already at record levels will spill over and he’ll be relegated to the Cheaters Hall of Fame.

Sports mythology goes back to the first Olympic marathon. But that doesn’t make it any less disgusting today, or any easier to extricate from.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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