Armstrong, Oprah, Te’o run three-ring media circus

Being a sports fan comes at a price. In this case, it was called Thursday.

Jan. 17 was a day that will live in sports infamy, not for the great feats of athleticism that were performed but for the embarrassing depths the sports world has sank. It was a slow sports day, but a busy bad news night.

And all I really learned is Lance Armstrong owes Manti Te’o a steak dinner for dropping his sandle scandal right in the middle of his big mea culpa. In fact, Armstrong still owes America an apology, and now so does Oprah.

It all started with the announcement of Armstrong coming clean on national TV. At least I think it’s national TV. What channel is OWN, anyway? I’m already worried Oprah’s going to hug him during the show but it’s must-see TV.

But while suspense was building about exactly what Armstrong was going to cinfess to – doping, intimidation, baseless lawsuits, making crop circles on his 10-speed? – another media crap storm was brewing over on ESPN-OWN.

Te’o, the Notre Dame linebacker who gained fame for his Heisman runner-up season and earned sympathy for the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend on consecutive days, was facing questions about the loss of the latter.

It seems his “girlfriend” was a figment of his Facebook imagination. Despite widespread media reports about her death, there was no record of a leukemia-stricken Stanford grad having car crash, going into a coma and dying.

Although Te’o cited her death as a source of inspiration on several occasions, he apparently was the victim of a bizarre hoax. A man assumed the identity of Lennay Kekua and tricked him into a three-year online relationship.

The story was so unbelievable that Armstrong could have confessed to causing global warming and gotten away with it. Instead, he confessed to very little, thanks to southpaw Oprah Winfrey serving up softballs from the mound.

Armstrong’s turn on the couch saw him run circles around Oprah, who let Lance run the show while she nodded in agreement. She allowed Lance to dodge questions about the people he ran over to win seven Tour de Frances.

It’s all lies and leis, the flowered neckware Notre Dame fans donned to show support for Te’o in his time of need. Just like the yellow Live Strong arm bands people wore on their sleeves to honor cancer survivors and, as it turns out, cheaters.

Thursday was just another moment that crystalized the issue and re-enforced what we SHOULD already know. The heroes we put on a pedestal are as human as you and me, and expectng any more from them will only end in disappointment.

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