Rest in peace. You will be missed.
Lance Armstrong represented not just the American domination over a challenging foreign competition but also a new wave of domination over a challenging disease.
Manti Te'o was an absolute warrior, humbled by tragedies that would make most of us crumble, but tough enough to flourish under so much pain.
These stories died Wednesday, Jaunary 16, following complications with credibility and overexposure to the facts. They leave behind their millions of fans and followers from across the country and around the globe. No memorial service is scheduled at this time.
Most of us knew that Lance had cheated. We're still not certain of what actually happened with the Manti Te'o girlfriend story, but at the very least, he misled us.
So why does this hurt so much? I used to think that I followed sports so intensely because it was an escape from the real world, a parallel universe that served as an instant break from stressful reality. The truth is that sports are not separate- they are a huge part of our lives all the time. So we desire more than just wins and losses, world records and tackles. We want stories as well, stories that transform our heroic athletes into incredible human beings. Stories like Armstrong's and Te'o's strengthen the connection of the race course and the gridiron to the nuances of everyday life.
Once we've connected our own lives to these stories, we'd much rather believe in them than lose them.
I recall being slightly suspicious of all the drug tests and allegations made by European journalists when Lance Armstrong was destroying the rest of the field in the Tour. But it didn't really phase me. This story, after all, wasn't just Lance winning races; it was also my dad and thousands of others winning their battles with cancer.
I also recall a split second when I thought it was strange that I hadn't heard of anyone with connections to Lennay Kekua out here on Oahu. But I didn't think twice about it. This story wasn't just Manti racking up 12 tackles against Michigan State three days after finding out his girlfriend died; it was also all of us moving forward after losing someone and doing great things to honor them.
But these narratives are now gone. Instead of swimming in the inspiration and glory of these stories, we now get to drown in the aftermath of their demise. Out here we'll be talking nonstop about the fallacy of Manti's plight rather than the inspiration that he's provided for our keiki. I'll joke with my cycling friends about Armstrong's cheating ways rather than praise his LiveStrong foundation. In the end we'll all be left with an emptiness.
We'll look for other heroes who valiantly conquer the obstacles in front of them on the field and in their lives. We'll form a connection to their stories and they will help drive our lives forward. We can only hope that the facts check out.
I grabbed lunch with some coworkers just minutes after the Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax story broke. As we drove back to work, I looked over at my friend John's LiveStrong bracelet. "I'm still wearing it," he said with conviction. We passed a local t-shirt shop, its windows still proudly decorated with Notre Dame #5 t-shirts, Hawaiian leis incorporated into the designs.
It might be too soon to cut ties with these stories. These voids are tough to fill.