Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

The Doper, the Dope, and the Disgraced


Three interesting stories in the news this week, all involving fiction of one kind or another.
First up is disgraced cycling hero and cancer surivor, Lance Armstrong. For years, Armstrong crafted the story of a tough-minded, dedicated man who beat cancer and went on to reach the pinnacle of his sport, and achieved something that seemed impossible: seven straight wins in cycling’s biggest race, the Tour de France. He created a foundation that helped cancer patients, and inspired millions the world over. And when rumors surfaced that Lance cheated, he defended himself aggressively, and with such vehemence, that the story he told us had to be true. Who would have the nerve to sue someone for telling the truth?
Turns out the answer is: Lance Armstrong. Though no smoking gun (or bloody syringe) was ever found, enough evidence piled up and Armstrong was stripped of his titles, his Olympic bronze medal, and was banned from competition. He’s lost millions in endorsements, faces lawsuits, potential prison time, stepped down as head of his foundation, and disappointed millions.
Next up is the story of Heisman Trophy candidate, Manti Te’o, a linebacker from Notre Dame University. Early this season, Te’o was hit by a double whammy when he learned his grandmother, then his girlfriend, died six hours apart. Girlfriend Lennay Kekua’s last message to him was to play football. On the day of her funeral, Te’o had a monster game, recording 12 tackles and leading the Irish to victory. Shortly thereafter he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and the story of his tragic loss was repeated all over sports media. Throughout the season, Te’o talked of Kekua and how she inspired him, how much she meant to him, and the legend grew. Te’o led the Irish to the national title game, finished second in the Heisman race, and is a likely first-round pick in the NFL draft.
TMZ
This week, Notre Dame officials announced Lennay Kekua never died. She never died because she never existed. Te’o, they said, was the victim of a cruel hoax, one that had him falling in love via the internet with a girl that never existed. But new reports are suggesting that Te’o may well have beenin on the hoax. Now, Te’o is facing public ridicule, and that may cause him to fall lower than expected in the upcoming NFL draft.
Finally, there’s Stacie Halas. Her fiction involved lying to officials in Oxnard, California, about her past. She made the mistake of not telling them during her job interview that she ‘acted’ in a number of porn films. Given that she was fired when they found out, it seems like a good decision. Students found film clips of her apparently hardcore adventures; school officials studied the evidence for several weeks before firing her. Partly for the films, partly for lying about her past. Halas fought to keep her job, but lost the appeal this week. A three judge panel ruled, “Although her pornography career has concluded, the ongoing availability of her pornographic materials on the Internet will continue to impede her from being an effective teacher and respected colleague.”
Of the three people who’s fiction crashed and burned around them, Stacie Halas has the hardest road ahead. Armstrong has been vilified publicly for years, and it’s not going to stop. Even now, his admission of guilt is being debated and parsed, his motives dissected, and his sincerity debated. Te’o will be seen as either the world’s stupidest football player, or as a lying scum. He’ll be either a joke or a jerk, depending on whether he not he was a perp or a patsy in the Captain Tuttle Lennay Kekua hoax.
But Armstrong and Te’o have something that Halas doesn’t: opportunity. Armstrong is a fallen hero; America loves fallen heroes. At some point, someone will give Armstrong another chance. Even in disgrace, he’s got start power. He may not get reinstated to cycling, but he’ll be seen as sufficiently rehabilitated and will end up as a well-paid spokesman, a public figure. He may never be adored the world over as he once was, but he’ll find a way to earn respect. Nike CEO Phil Knight already said, “Never say never” when asked if he could see Armstrong back in the Nike fold.
Te’o, meanwhile, hasn’t broken any laws. This time next year he’ll be finished with his rookie season in the NFL, where he’ll receive a minimum salary of $405,000. Currently, he’s projected as a mid-first round draft pick, which means he’ll land with a mediocre team. Slipping down further in the draft may cost him money up front, but it could actually land him on a better team. Regardless, with signing and performance bonuses, the guy is looking easily at a million dollar contract. He’ll have the opportunity to prove to NFL coaches that he can do his job and do it well, regardless of whether or not he was in on the scam or not.
And what can Stacie Halas look forward to? You can bet it won’t involve teaching children, that’s for sure. I’m guessing Ms. Halas’s most lucrative job opportunity in the near future is going to involve nudity, real sex, and simulated acting. Maybe the folks at her school district are right. Maybe Halas can’t command a classroom, not when her students can whip up a clip of her doing it doggie-style, or call her by her film name. But unlike Armstrong and Te’o, I doubt she’ll ever get the chance to prove she can do it again. And that, I have to say, bothers me. Seems we like redemption stories better when the people are already famous when they fall.

13 Responses

  1. A really good post.

    I'm afraid the porn star will never make a teacher because she will never have respect. As for Armstrong, I watched the interview and I don't believe he was sincere with his remorse. He's upset he got caught.

  2. Great post – it's hard when people think something is true, and it turns out to be fiction. It feels like a betrayal a lot of the time. And while I think you make a valid point about redemptions stories where the hero is already famous, I think part of it also has to do with the way our culture deals with sex. A 'sex lie' is the most 'unforgivable' lie someone – at least a woman – can make. Lots of factors involved, at least. Great post!

  3. Hahaha! Te'oing! I almost Photoshopped me and Wonder Woman together for my Facebook home page.

  4. What a thought-provoking post. Yes, the single thing that Halas doesn't have going for her is that she's not a celebrity. Literally if you are a celeb you can do anything and be "reformed" in the eyes of Americans. I expect to see Armstrong on next season's Dancing With The Stars. America loves a good confession and a seeming repentant celeb. Michael Vick rehabbed his image right here in Philadelphia and although many of us here don't buy his reformed act for one second, he's playing football again and he's back in the limelight. If Halas were a celebrity she could just get her own reality show about trying to live a normal life after being a porn star and then everyone would love her. She might not ever teach but she'd be able to support herself doing something that's not porn. The average person doesn't really get the benefit of the big redemption like celebs do in this country. Although I think if she was a man, she'd probably get a teaching job somewhere else. Don't ask me why, I just think society is more forgiving of men when it comes to sex lies or even indiscretions (Rob Lowe, anyone?)

  5. I think it's a sad turn of fate for Halas. Lance can stop doing drugs and the Te'o hoax has passed whether he was involved or not. But the videos of Halas will be available online one place or another forever and that along with her being just another person, no one famous, for some unjustified reason makes her completely irredeemable.

  6. It's so hard to know, Donna. I feel the same way as you about Armstrong. The cynical side of me thinks it's a calculated way to go about getting reinstated. As for Stacy Halas and respect, I think she might have been able to get it back, but it would have taken the full backing of a school administration willing to wield the banhammer on any kids who got out of line. Obviously, they were not willing to do that.

  7. I think you're quite right about this, Bethany. I *almost* went there in this post, but decided not to. Maybe we still want virginal school marms, a la Miss Crabtree.

  8. I certainly hope Halas finds something that isn't porn, or some cheesy selfsploitation like Amy Fisher.

    Yeah, Rob Lowe quietly went mainstream, didn't he?

  9. Te'o will be in for a rough ride. The jumbotron at a Dallas Stars hockey game showed an empty seat and labeled it "Manti Te'o's girlfriend.' Te'oing will be all over the internet, and I wouldn't be surprised if they slipped in a quick sketch in this past episode of Saturday Night Live. But it will be a heck of a lot easier for him (provided he was not in on it) to get past it than for Halas.

  10. I definitely think the public is more forgiving to celebs, and even more so for men over women. I think Te'o is just a simple moron football player & America loves it's football heroes. Even if they're rapists. Lance has definitely fallen the farthest. But remember, he doped & won in a field where everyone else doped, too. So while he cheated, he's not remarkable because of that. It's his douchebag personality that's done him in. As for the teacher, I don't care how far she's come or what she's done to change, you can't go from porn performer to teaching children, of any age. She was an idiot to think she could ever leave that kind of past behind her and step into the world if teaching. No one wants a person with such poor decision making in their children's lives. She'll find a different line of work where her past isn't relevant.

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