Lance, Manti, and More Life Lessons From The Sports Lab

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”
~Jesus Christ, Mark 8:36 (ESV)

Two stories broke in the past few weeks in the world of sports.  Both of them involved lying.

Star Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman finalist Manti Te’o appears to be caught up in an internet catfishing scam in which he and an electronic pen-pal established some form of romantic relationship. In the process of back and forth emails and chat room visits, she told him she was in a car crash, then told him she was dying from Leukemia  and then died from Leukemia   All this occurred prior to a nationally televised game between Notre Dame and Michigan State in which Te’o put forth a Heisman-worthy performance.  After the game, Te’o told a reporter that his girlfriend had died and that he was playing for her.

Except, that he did not have a girlfriend, as anyone else would define the term.  And that she was not dead.  In fact, she had never existed in the first place.  Deadspin.com broke a bombshell report detailing the whole episode.  Te’o was the victim of an elaborate and odd internet hoax authored by a friend named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.  Even in light of the multiple levels of Tuiasosopo’s deceit (You can view a condensed timeline here), Te’o still participated in the lie along the way by stretching the truth about the nature of the relationship and by knowingly promoting a fabricated story to maintain appearances after the fact.

The goal, it seems, was to gain momentum in the Heisman race.

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Lance Armstrong denied using PEDs during his 7-victory Tour de France victories.  He not only denied cheating, he ruthlessly destroyed the lives of anyone who peeped a single word otherwise.  He sued people.  He personally oversaw bankruptcies.  He was the Keyser Söze of cycling.  And, to top it all off, he boldly maintained his innocence through public relations stunts like this video (below):

In the aftermath of the Oprah Interview, we all discovered a pattern of people slowly distancing themselves from the Lance Armstrong debacle:

  1. Kristen Richard divorced Lance.
  2. A broken engagement with Sheryl Crow.
  3. Livestrong, the Cancer Non-Profit he helped create, removed him from their organization.
  4. Budweiser, Trek bikes, and Nike nixed endorsement deals too.
  5. The Postal Service is coming after him to recoup some of the $30 mil they paid him for sponsorship in the Tour de France.
  6. Readers are proposing a class action lawsuit against Armstrong and the publisher of this autobiography for being misleading.
  7. He damaged the trust of his children…

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

One of the many reasons that I love the world of sports is that it offers a parallel universe that allows us to test out the real truths of real life in a mock laboratory of the human condition.  Sometimes the lab produces uplifting and encouraging confirmation of truth –  like with Derek Redmond’s open 400m race in Barcelona in 1992.  The truth? Our Father loves us and wants to have a close and fulfilling relationship with us.

Sometimes the lab produces a cautionary tale of truth.  With Manti and Lance we have learned that character is invaluable.  Anytime character is pegged below fame and fortune on the priority list – that is precisely then when Jesus’ words begin to haunt us.

I pray that Manti and Lance learn their lesson and make the necessary adjustments.  The good news about that whole “God is a good father” business, is that…God is a good Father.  As long as Lance and Manti have breath in their lungs, there is hope for life change through Jesus Christ.

About Doug Hankins

Although not a Christian in his youth, Doug came to believe in Jesus during his teenage years. When not playing sports or pastoring Doug is probably spending time with his wife, reading a good book, or drinking some hot tea. Doug's first book Dawson Trotman: In His Own Words is available wherever books are sold. You can follow Doug on twitter.
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