1. “I look at that (tape) and I go, ‘Look at this arrogant prick’ “…
You, too, Lance?
“I went and looked up the definition of ‘cheat’,” Lance tells Oprah who, in our scorecards, pitched a terrific first inning and from then on was mostly unable to find the plate. “The definition of cheat is ‘to gain an advantage on a rival or foe..”
First of all, Mr. Armstrong, we looked up the defnition on Dictionary.com as well as Merriam-Webster Online and the closest one that covers sport reads simply “to violate rules dishonestly”, which you did. Chronically. Also, that definition would serve as the prefix to the one you provided: “to violate rules dishonestly to gain an advantage on a rival or foe…”
There. Now it works. And too bad for Oprah that she wasn’t sharp enough to challenge him on that. On a lot of things he said.
There are so many people in the business (Bob Costas, Jeremy Schaap, Bob Ley, Anderson Cooper, Bizarro World Joe Posnanski) who would have done a better job with this.
Watching, we got the feeling that Lance views this epic fall from grace as nothing more than a flat tire in the midst of a tour, and that appearing with Oprah would be the patch that will allow him to return to the peloton. He still doesn’t get it.
“To be honest, Oprah, we sued so many people…” Now that was funny.
So was, “I never called you fat.” Oh, brother.
Actually, everything Lance may have thought he did to come clean over these 2 1/2 hours is undone simply by the fact that he refused to answer the question as to whether Betsy Andreu was telling the truth about what she overheard in the hospital. “I’m not going to take that on. I’m laying down on that one.”
Why? Because he’d be perjuring himself and that would cost $$$. Again, why did Oprah let him off the hook at that moment? “Why, Lance, why won’t you answer that question? If this is your moment to confess to America, what are your motives for not answering that?”
In fact, strike my previous statement about the best people to interview Lance. I have an old friend, a high school chum and a Stanford alumnus (an actual Stanford alumnus, not a Lennay Kekua-style Stanford alum) who is an attorney in Phoenix. Name: Michael DePaoli. One of the sharpest minds I know (but he’s not as cute as me, and this absolutely KILLS him). He’s the best interrogator I have ever met. If I had a chance to interview Lance, if anyone did, I’d put him up there against my old friend Michael. Now THAT would be utterly compelling television.
There were so many disturbing moments over the 90 minutes. That one. Or the fact that apparently there’s a show called “Staten Island Law.” As for us, we just think the entire interview was a launch pad for Lance to become a permanent guest on “Iyanla: Fix My Life.”
While we wait for that, read Bonnie D. Ford’s column from ESPN.com
2. It was a bad night for people who wear yellow jerseys (okay, we stole that from someone on Twitter…we can’t remember whom…we’ve stolen from so many people, Oprah)
Just as Lance and Oprah were finishing up The Confessional, Part I, the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers were tipping off at Staples Center. The Heat were playing their third game in four nights, all on the road out west, and yet it was clear that the Lakers are not in their class. Earlier in the day ESPN’s Shelley Smith had said that these were the two teams “that everyone wants to see (in the NBA Finals) in June”, but that’s only half-correct. The Lakers may have more NBA MVPs on its roster (two; the Heat DO have two SI Sportsman of the Year), but they are not at all a cohesive team. There’s a good reason they’re in 11th place in the Western Conference: They belong there.
3. This report tells us what? That Yahoo!Sports’ Pat Forde spoke to either (we’re assuming here, but we feel reasonably comfortable about it) Notre Dame associate athletic director John Heisler or Sports Information Director Brian Hardin (all three men here are upstanding individuals who would never call someone fat, much less take EPO), who wanted it known that Notre Dame was eager to get the No Such Dame story out before the media did.
The lesson in this for the Irish: Trust your instinct and do what you know is right. The moment you realized that Manti Te’o had learned of the deception (and again, we are giving Te’o the benefit of the doubt for the moment) but that he still sold the story — for example, when he spoke to ESPN’s Chris Fowler at the Heisman ceremony — is the moment you realize that you no longer own Manti any courtesies on the topic.
As an aside, may I just say that it is exhausting telling people how they should be doing their jobs in the media. Especially when I don’t have one. Moving on…
4. We like Pete Thamel and the few times we’ve spent with him in person (which, as we now know, is better than saying you’ve “met” someone) have always enjoyed his company. Admire his reporting skills, particularly from his New York Times days.
Yesterday he appeared on the Dan Patrick Show (no great risk, since both are employed by Sports Illustrated) and released the transcript of his interview, the most salient parts of which are reproduced here.
Our analysis: The interview shows a reporter who is conscientiously digging for the truth, for something of substance. He sees too much opaqueness in Teo’s replies. But it is Sunday night. Manti Te’o is the most charismatic figure in sports and Thamel’s magazine wants to put him on the cover (at least, regionally) and there is a story to write. And fact-check.
I have PLENTY of experience walking into the doors of Sports Illustrated on a Monday morning, knowing that the magazine closes that night, and being the person who must fact-check the story that just arrived minutes ago. There are a series of editors (original edit, red pencil, blue pencil, copydesk, late read) that will look at the piece, some adding their own (often valid) questions that only add to one’s fact-checking work load. Imagine, for example, that you spend 45 minutes on the phone with a source and then an editor conjures a new question that only that source can answer, but you may not be able to get in touch with him or her again. That’s just one headache.
Anyway, the point is this: the editors pay tremendous lip service to having the story checked as accurately as possible, and they even may mean it, but the time constraints involved and the pressure to have that story in the magazine far outweigh it. Do you think a 24 year-old fact-checker is in real life going to tell Ben Fong-Torres (sorry, had to go with the Almost Famous ref) that Thamel’s story doesn’t add up (when at best they just cannot confirm whether or not it’s true) and force the higher-ups — the very people who may determine that fact-checker’s future at the magazine — to come up with another cover story? Or toss out the entire Lennay Kekua angle?
Those who want to blame Thamel for not verifying all the facts himself don’t understand the process. It’s Thamel’s job to find the stories, to do the reporting. While it’s fantastic if he can provide the fact-checker with what we call “red checks”, it’s not incumbent upon him to do so (the best writers at SI for doing this are always the ones who, like Thamel, come from newspapers; they’re used to fact-checking their own stuff; for the record, and this will not surprise you, Tim Layden and Tom Verducci were the most reliable when I was there, and Rick Reilly, God bless him, the least). To summarize: it’s not Thamel’s responsibility to fact-check everything he discovers.
But it’s just unfair, sometimes, to give a reporter one day to fact-check a story while during that entire day the story is “moving through the (editorial) system” with the implicit expectation that it must close that night. The reporter/fact-checker has the least leverage at the magazine and yet he/she is the one who bears the responsibility of having to tell someone, “You know what? We just don’t have this solid. We should wait.”
Sure, that’s going to happen. And the galley chef is going to tell the captain of the Titanic that maybe they should slow down a bit on this moonless, waveless night. The attitude of the Managing Editor and the Assistant Managing Editors, and perhaps even the Senior Editor, is simply: I don’t care how you fact-check the story, I just want it done. ‘Can’t’ is not an option.”
To repeat: may I just say that it is exhausting telling people how they should be doing their jobs in the media. Especially when I don’t have one.
5. You still want a No. 5 after all of that? Why, you ungrateful bastards! As the eponymous sheriff of Hope Springs told the villains, “You…..get…outta….here!”
Okay, okay. You want something? Well, to counteract all of the news about Lance, who is a native Texan and still holes up in Austin, here’s 50 Reasons Why Texas is the Best State in America (don’t laugh). Now, you get outta here!