Unless you’ve been hibernating in a proverbial cave this past week, you’ve been exposed off-the-field to the stories involving Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o and cycling champion Lance Armstrong.
Exposed? How could you not be? The pair has been featured on every news channel, sports station and talk show in the country this past week, one of them portrayed as a clueless but innocent victim, the other as manipulating cheater and liar.
Okay, we already know they’re both guilty of lying; that’s obvious from even a cursory examination of the facts. But the case of disgraced cyclist Armstrong and conned (or con man?) Te’o presents some salient lessons, I believe, that apply to anyone running a business or managing an organization with a public-facing presence.
Which, by the way, is anyone involved in animal agriculture, because you’re only a food-borne or animal disease outbreak away from sitting under the glare of those talk show lights yourself.
First, the cautionary tale of Manti Te’o.
What to make of a guy who claims to be possibly the most naïve human on the planet, who could (allegedly) fall in love with a non-existent woman he (allegedly) knew only from online chats, whose deathbed conversations never stirred him to actually go to her in person before she died, and whose funeral he didn’t attend because her dying wish (allegedly) was that he stay put and play in the Notre Dame-Michigan State football game?
I know, I know. There are thousands of people searching for love online, many of whom get scammed, “Catfished,” in the current parlance, by lowlifes who create fake profiles and pose as somebody they’re not.
Now, somebody like me, who came of age long before the Internet did, I can understand being susceptible to such a scam. There was no such thing as online anything when I was out there looking for love; the idea of having an “affair” that consisted strictly of online chatting isn’t remotely in my DNA, nor any other Baby Boomer.
But Te’o? A 20-something smart enough to be admitted to Notre Dame, who’s grown up with texting, sexting and online dating as normal, everyday activities? We’re supposed to believe he never once suspected that a girl he supposedly knew only from phone calls and emails, who never could get it together to spend time with him, who died from a disease that used to be fatal back when “Love Story” was filmed more than 40 years but now is quite curable might be a phony?