NORMAN — Contrary to popular opinion, old adages we swear by and soundbites that sound like they ought to be true, the truth may not set you free.
It may expose you in a way you wish not to be exposed. It may be involuntarily interpreted incorrectly to your peril or knowingly misinterpreted in the name of somebody else’s grinding ax. It may prove your momentary stupidity, your gullible nature or your bad taste in music.
About the only thing the truth has going for it, you know, beyond being the truth, is that it will not come back to haunt you.
If the truth is going to haunt you, it’s going to haunt you right now.
I’m not sure what Lance Armstrong should have done differently because I’m pretty sure he was the best cyclist in the world all seven years he won the Tour de France. But I’m pretty sure about that because I’m pretty sure the whole sport was dirty.
What I know is that the biggest reason so many are turning against him as he attempts to come clean about being dirty is that he spent so many years shaking his finger at his accusers; maybe not as long as Pete Rose denied betting on baseball, but coming clean faster than Charlie Hustle isn’t all that impressive.
I know less about Manti T’eo’s predicament, but let’s begin with Wednesday’s bombshell.
Deadspin.com, a website that excels at covering those who cover sports as well as scandal in sports — and tends to get the story right — reported that the thought-to-be girlfriend of the Notre Dame linebacker, Lennay Kekua, who was reported to have died only hours after Teo’s grandmother had also died, well, she never really existed.
There is no record of her death, of an obituary or funeral announcement for a woman by that name, or of a woman by that name ever attending Stanford, which had also become part of a story that had been spread and repeated by Sports Illustrated, ESPN, the South Bend Tribune and the New York Times.
Yet, while that’s crazy enough, crazier is the fallout. T’eo and Notre Dame’s story has now become one of the player being the victim of an elaborate hoax, rather than being the perpetrator of an elaborate hoax.
Good luck with that one.
T’eo and the Irish would have us believe that T’eo and his “girlfriend” never met face to face and that T’eo’s father, who told reporters Kekua had visited T’eo in his native Hawaii, was simply embellishing a story that was otherwise true rather than perpetuating a hoax that became part of the narrative of the Irish linebacker’s Heisman Trophy campaign.
Riveted by the story, I also don’t care how it all turns out for T’eo.
Will it hurt T’eo’s draft status, because what kind of narcissist would create such a back story, doubling up on death to win the Heisman Trophy?
I don’t care.
Will it hurt T’eo’s draft status, because what kind of ninny could so easily fall in love with an apparition, albeit one with a phone number and Twitter account?
I don’t care.
But do I want to know how much effort went into pulling it all off and by whose hand and brainstorm was the hoax carried out?
Yeah, that’s fascinating.
It is also a reminder.
One, for better and worse, on small and large scales, we have seen play out so many times.
Here, while we lamented John Blake’s colossal coaching failure, we never lost belief in the man. Then we watched him bring scandal to North Carolina’s football program while indebted to an NFL player agent.
We believed in salt-of-the-earth Kelvin Samspon, who carried a chip on his shoulder so big, it excused him, in his mind anyway, of a few nitpicky NCAA rules.
Just here lately, on an infinitesimally smaller scale, we have listened to Bob Stoops try spinning his team’s fortunes in ways that don’t always stand up to almost 90,000 Saturday eye-witness accounts. Perhaps every coach does it, but it does none of them any favors.
Armstrong, for reasons that are mostly about Armstrong and not the fawning public he lied to, is at least getting to confession sooner rather than later.
T’eo will be best served by telling us how he created a monster he couldn’t get out of the way of, or by explaining exactly how a tough guy like him fell hard for somebody he never met.
It better be believable.
Because the most underrated virtue, a close neighbor to the truth, is authenticity. Folks will forgive almost anything, just as long as you are who you say you are.
The truth may not set you free, but it’s hard to run away from yourself.
Best not to try.
Follow me @clayhorning