Christians and sports: views on Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o

Americans are a forgiving people.

Will we forgive Lance Armstrong for his lengthy and aggressive campaign of lying? Did Notre Damer Manti Te’o participate in girlfriend-gate? And if so, will we forgive him in time for the NFL Draft in April?

All important questions as the sports world invites spiritual and ethical questions this week.

Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey will air tonight. (The Associated Press)

On Armstrong, Father James Martin of the National Catholic Review is conflicted.

Martin notes the duty of every Christian to forgive sins. Jesus himself forgave his executioners from the Cross.

On the other hand, Armstrong’s sins are complex and quite devious. His scheme relied on pressuring other riders to go along and participate in the doping. Anyone who stepped out of line was crushed by Armstrong and his handlers.

In other words, it went well beyond a simple mistake. In addition, Armstrong’s quick decision to be a turncoat distresses Father Martin.

“It’s as if you’re still in the confessional and start telling the priest about other people’s sins,” he writes.

Agreed. There will be no forgiving Armstrong in this corner.

The Te’o story broke yesterday afternoon and continues to astound and amaze. The question now is Nixonian: what did Te’o know and when did he know it?

First of all, I think Notre Dame came out too quickly in Te’o's defense. Not sure why they held a hasty press conference just hours after the story broke. As one Twitter follower noted: “they went all in on Te’o.”

Personally, I have a hard time believing he didn’t know anything about it. As the Deadspin story notes, the person behind the fake girlfriend is apparently a good friend of Te’o. That doesn’t pass the smell test for me.

I think it was a scheme concocted by two buddies thinking they would get a little local press coverage and maybe boost Te’o's standing in his senior year. Remember, before the year, not many people knew who the linebacker was.

Then the story did what great stories do: it went national. Add to that Notre Dame’s incredible unbeaten season (raise your hand if you saw that coming) and these guys were faced with a fake dead girlfriend that they didn’t know what to do with. I think they just simply got in over their heads.

In the end, it’s just embarrassing. But no laws were broken and nobody got hurt. The best thing Te’o can do when he speaks, whether it be today or next week, or at the NFL draft, it admit to whatever happened.

Enough lies. Haven’t we learned yet that lying is never a good policy?

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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