A day later, a little more revealed by Armstrong, Te’o and ‘T’eoing’


Lance Armstrong’s conversation with Oprah Winfrey finally aired. We mostly know what we already knew. But we heard it from the seven-time Tour de France loser directly.

The most instructive part of the interview that I saw was when Lance pointed out he probably would have pulled off the whole scam if he hadn’t “come back” in 2009. If that’s not a window on Armstrong. Even in the midst of a catastrophic set of revelations and reports, he’s still figuring the angles on where he had an advantage he should have grabbed.

Armstrong’s done, cooked. Whatever he salvages will be tidbits — if he avoids trial, fines and prison.

The Manti Te’o crisis remains convoluted. But what’s clear as Rocky Mountain air after a snowfall is what this myth-accepting says about us. As Buffalo News senior sports columnist Jerry Sullivan wrote:

Why get in the way of a human interest story that paints an athlete in a sympathetic light? We love those stories. Why intrude on someone’s grief by asking the hard questions? If the grandmother and girlfriend died six hours apart, call it “irony” and look the other way.

You should never underestimate the need for fans to believe. It’s why sports get compared with religion, why the word “fanatic” was shortened to fan. It’s no wonder the country’s most revered Catholic football program could achieve such privileged, exalted status.

Te’o, however, still has a chance at redemption. But the opening is narrow and his agent and parents need to help him walk through it immediately. Today or tomorrow. By Monday, media will have all the facts.

Te’o needs to hold a news conference and tell the truth. Facts fast, we call it.

What did you know? When did you know it? What were the lies you told? Why? What decisions did you make that perpetuated the myth? What did you hope to gain? What’s this all say about you as a person? What will you say to NFL coaches who want to know about your trustworthiness and character?

If Te’o quickly and publicly pleads guilty to stupidity, immaturity, a desire to aggrandize, and fear of coming clean, he’ll be fine. We’ll forgive someone once. He’s only 22 years old; he just seems larger than life because he played football for Notre Dame.

The facts will come out. Don’t underestimate the anger of reporters embarrassed by facts they failed to find. If T’eo delivers those facts now, and apologizes and takes responsibility, he’ll survive. If he does nothing and the facts dribble out without his comment, he’ll get skewered.

Former Buffalo and Indianapolis GM Bill Polian told Tim Graham yesterday that so far Te’o’s draft stock hasn’t fallen. But Polian said that depends on the total truth-telling. My guess is that if Te’o fesses up, he’ll remain a first-round draft choice, guaranteeing himself millions of dollars.

As my astute wife said, why wouldn’t a team draft him, there are all sorts of felons, wife beaters and drug users playing and taking down huge salaries in the NFL.

Nothing Te’o did or may have done is illegal, just stupid. If craving or worshipping fame were a crime, half the population would be in prison. Watch American Idol.

But he must act fast and be forthcoming — perhaps, some are speculating, announcing he’s gay, which would explain a lot very fast. Without that, by next week, he’ll be a second- or third-round draft choice come April and have lost millions of dollars.

One last note: Never underestimate the creativity and humor of young men, nor the speed of the internet to spread the word. Yesterday, pictures abounded of guys with their arm extended as if hugging a “girlfriend” by the shoulders. The call it “T’eoing.”

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.

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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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