Two of the most astonishing hoaxes in sports history are about to unfurl within hours of each other.
On one hand, you have Lance Armstrong, one of the most heralded and decorated athletes of all time, revealing that his decade-plus reign at the top of the cycling world was a drug-abetted fraud.
On the other, you have Manti Te'o, the Notre Dame linebacker whose story of endurance and triumph in the face of personal tragedy is classic sports Americana. But that, too, is a fraud; the girlfriend in whose honor Te'o posted one of college football's all-time great seasons turns out not to even exist.
Both men are getting the opportunity to air their sides of the story. On Monday, Armstrong taped a confessional interview with Oprah Winfrey. But in an unfortunate editorial decision, the interview would not air for three days, just as the Te'o story is presenting an avalanche of questions that deserve answers.
Two fascinating stories. Whose are you more interested to hear? You can vote over on the right.
Both men have compelling stories to tell. For Armstrong, the public's interest is primarily about getting confirmation: We know what he did, what we're wondering is why he persisted in the ruse even as evidence mounted against him. More importantly, why did he continue to attack colleagues, teammates and journalists who were, in fact, telling the truth? We aren't the ones who need an apology from Lance, but it would be a welcome (if severely late) show of dignity if he did step up and admit his responsibility for falsely attacking others, and for turning an entire decade of his sport into a worldwide mockery. Armstrong's case is, at this point, open and shut: We have witnesses, evidence and a data trail. A confession would be a neat but ultimately unnecessary bow on the whole package.
Te'o, on the other hand – where do we even begin? This is surely one of the most bizarre stories in college football history, simply because the whole fake dead girlfriend was an essential part of Te'o's growing legend. At this point, we'd like to know the answers to some key questions: If he wasn't involved in the hoax, how does he explain a report that he met her after a game at Stanford? What about those trips his father said she took to Hawaii? At what point did Te'o suspect Lennay Kekua might not actually exist? When did he know for certain? Why didn't he ever try to visit with her, or even see her face via Skype? Why did he keep the hoax alive when he knew it to be false? Why did he allow Notre Dame and his family to keep the story alive?
Difficult questions, yes, because they'll require the kind of introspection and admission of deceit that athletes rarely exhibit. But if Te'o is the upstanding man he claimed to be while standing in honor of a "woman" he loved, he'll stand up now and tell his fans exactly how this could have happened.
Just a few days ago, Armstrong's admission was must-see TV. Now, he's been relegated to a warmup act to Manti Te'o, who's moved into the headlining role.
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