Of Lance, Scientologists and Other Liars, Or Why the Truth Hurts
The weekend draws mercifully close, and I feel a need to revisit a couple themes touched on here earlier in the week. We started with Lance Armstrong on Monday. I predicted he would fake-confess and then offer a jail-house rationalization to the effect of, "I didn't do nuthin'." I admit this prediction did not exactly make me Jeremiah or even The Amazing Kreskin.
So. He did. He told Oprah he cheated but he was not a cheater because of the dictionary. He said he looked it up. "The definition of cheat is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe that they don't have," he said. "I didn't view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field."
Well, Lance, you had to look it up in the dictionary because you are fundamentally lame, a liar and a cheater, and lame liars and cheaters always come up with lame bullshit like this, mainly to convince themselves they are not liars and cheaters, because they lack the balls (in your case, the ball) to admit even to themselves what they really are. And, sorry about the ball joke, but I suspect you rotted the other one off taking dope, which means the real message your career conveys is, "Go ahead and give yourself cancer. It's worth it."
So, enough with Lance. On to my other thing earlier this week about The Atlantic magazine and how it published a fake news story saying what a great religion Scientology is. They did it because Scientology paid them. I heard from several of my colleagues in the liberal media saying how awful they thought it was and how could a liberal intellectual magazine do something like that?
Here is my theory on that. They did it because they are lame liars and cheats. I know. I know. They're liberals. I can't figure it out, either. It's just this big cosmic mystery. Apparently liberals are members of the same general species as conservatives, biology-wise. A shock to me as well, my friend, a big shock.
Lastly, a new topic that I think carries out some of these same general themes -- the Samoan football player who had an imaginary dead girlfriend. And here I think we need to take a little departure from some of the harsh condemnation you see above.
First, let's agree on a few ground rules. It is not basically hugely interesting, nor is it the central issue here, whether the dead girlfriend was made up and invented by the Samoan football player or made up and invented by a so-called "catfish" on the interwebs. The big story is that the dead girlfriend did not, does not and shall not exist.
But secondly: It's really OK that she's made up, because it's sports. Really. Look. Here inside the newspaper business, sports has always been what we call "The Toy Department." And that's not necessarily derogatory. If anything, the rest of us in the grunt city-desk cigar-butt realm of journalism tend to have real admiration for the creative talents of sports writers. Those guys can really wing it.
Here is the difference, operations-wise. Probably not a single weekend goes by when somebody does not call the city desk and say, "My beautiful Polynesian girlfriend died of leukemia, and my grandma got runned over by a danged old truck."
People lie to reporters all weekend long, especially during prime drinking hours. I do not know why. I am not a doctor. But they do. So here's what you do, if you work on the city desk. You say, "Te-o, my editor is this really mean mean lady, I mean mean, and she always thinks people make shit up, so I need a phone number for your girlfriend's family just so I can call them so I can tell my editor you didn't make this up. I promise to respect their privacy, respect their grief, I'll respect their damn dog if I have to, but I gotta make the call."
Then you watch for what we call the "anomalous response."
He says, "I can't let you do that."
You say, "Te'o, that makes no sense, so here is what I think. I think you did make it up. In fact, I think that's my even better story for tomorrow: 'Samoan guy makes up big fat pants-on-fire lie about dead girlfriend.'"
Then you watch for what we call total panic. It's so easy, and the whole thing takes like 20 seconds.
Sports is the opposite. In sports, a writer who went digging for the truth like that would end up getting fired, because she would wreck all her own best stories. Sports writers are supposed to make shit up, because, Dear Reader, that's why you go to the sports pages.
Oh, c'mon, don't get all so pissed off your-hat's-on-fire on me. You know it's true. Look, do you really slap your forehead in amazement every time another professional athlete emerges as not-a-Greek-god-after-all but a grisly rapist doper drunk-driving moron? You know what this is all about. It's cartoons. The sports pages are a cartoon world where every single Olympic runner pounding though the dusty hills of Kenya with a full orchestra playing theme music behind him has got some incredible back-story, like a dead daddy, a mom in prison for free speech and a brother born without important body parts.
What are the chances, man? Did you ever wonder why all the world's top athletes come from the shallow end of the gene pool? Because they don't. Because it's all bullshit. Between the publicists, the sponsors, the networks and the inventive men and women of the world's toy departments, all that crap you read about sports figures has got about a 6 percent truth value, which is probably about 5 percent more than what you're looking for.
Years ago a major daily newspaper in my hometown was shipping all its best reporters off to the suburbs because they thought it was a good way to kiss the ass of the paper's target demographic -- suburbanites. One of the best of those banished to the boondocks said to me, "They're idiots. They don't get that people move to the suburbs to get away from news. The city is their entertainment."
We in the liberal media are actually supposed to get that, just like we're supposed to get that sports stories are not supposed to be true. Much. People go to the sports pages to get away from the truth.
What the Manti Te'o story really tells us is that things work out just fine until the city desk types come barging in. They're the idiots, in my book. If things were left to them, the big headline on Page One every day would be, "SANTA CLAUS EXPOSED AS FRAUD."
See you Monday.