Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lying is so prevalent in our culture, that you've come to totally accept it

Here's the thing. You are so totally used to people telling bold-faced lies right to cameras, microphones, grand juries, spouses, the cops, reporters, occasional Heisman Trophy Trusts and whatever else, that you've become, alas, totally inured to it. You just don't care anymore. You totally accept lying. And that's a sad thing.

We'll attempt to look at this through the prism of sports only, as it is the "toy department" of life in many ways. Hell, look at the bold-face lying in legislative and governmental walks of life—where the stakes and impact on your life are undoubtedly higher, tho' you might not realize that as you're watching the Raiders game—and you might be tempted to jump off a building. Or push someone off one if you're a Raiders fan.

Anyhoo, journey with us back to Tuesday, August 3, 2010, in scenic Hattiesburg, Miss. Intrepid ESPN reporter Ed Werder has drawn the short straw, and he's on Favre watch, as on-again/off-again is-he-retired-or-not quarterback Brett Favre is going through his yearly toss-and-turn as to if he'll play another season or not. The story is hot. It's been reported by multiple sources that Favre, 40 years old and rebounding from off-season ankle surgery, has sent multiple text messages to Minnesota Vikings players and front-office personnel stating that he's retired for good.

There's one reason these multiple reports of multiple texts exist: Because the multiple texts happened. They happened. When you get that much back-channel static, it's there for one reason—it happened. There is no such thing as an absolute secret, and no one can keep the lid on this, will to do so be damned. Please make no mistake: Favre sent these text messages to Vikings players and personnel.

And one guy flubbed up and showed us that smoking gun: Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. Though Shiancoe received no direct messages himself, several teammates told him they did. Shiancoe was the ONE Viking on the record as saying these texts existed. He innocently and erroneously broke the code of "sources say" and "all indications are," and in that, provided us the much-needed smoking gun.

Enter Ed Werder, microphone in hand, mustache on lip. As Favre left practice at a Hattiesburg high school where he'd been working out with the local team, Werder cornered Favre in the cab of his Ford F-250 with a reeeeeaaaaalllly loud diesel engine. Werder asked Favre if he was retiring or not. Favre was still noncommittal. Werder asked Favre about sending text messages "indicating that you would be retiring" to the Vikings. Favre said no such texts were sent.

"Visanthe says you did," Werder countered.

"Aw, Shank. That's why I love ’im," replied the good-ol' boy quarterback.

Quick recap: Favre denies sending the text (lies). Werder confronts him with a corroborating source (one of Favre's teammates). Favre deflects, and drives away.

Now I really feel bad for Ed Werder at this point. Really. He's in the unwinnable situation; a Kobayashi Maru of footballian proportions. He's done his job. He's asked-and-answered. And he's been lied to, point-blank and to his face. And he let it go.

Again, I feel for Ed Werder. But what else could he do? Ask again? Say, "C'mon, Brett. That's a bold-faced lie and we all know it. Won't you please just be a man, admit that you sent these messages, and maybe also admit that you're still up in the air, that the messages were a tad premature? Won't you please just do me the common courtesy of not lying to my face while I'm three feet away from you?"

Alas, it didn't happen. And there's a precedent for that, also unfortunate. Back in 1999, NBC's Jim Gray was on-field with Pete Rose as Rose was allowed—only temporarily and somewhat grudgingly—back into Major League Baseball's fold to attend a ceremony honoring MLB's All-Century Team. Rose had been voted a part of that team, but he had also accepted a settlement from MLB including a lifetime ban amid allegations that Rose had broken the most taboo of baseball taboos—he had bet on MLB games. Gray offered Rose the chance to finally come clean, 100%, asking Rose, "Are you willing to admit that you bet on baseball, and make some sort of apology to that effect?"

Rose steadfastly refused, offering, "Not at all, Jim. I'm not going to admit to something that didn't happen."

An uncomfortable and terse exchange followed, and Gray was roundly criticized for his line of questioning. The punchline, of course, is that Rose HAD bet on baseball, and finally admitted it…five years later as part of a book he was selling.

Think on that: Jim Gray did the right thing. He was a reporter, doing his job, asking questions that were in the hearts and minds of baseball fans everywhere. He knew he was right. Pete Rose knew he was wrong. And Gray walked away the villain. We were somehow more comfortable with the lie.

Ed Werder is you. Jim Gray is you. When Favre or Rose tells a point-blank lie to Werder or Gray, they know precisely what the hell they are doing. That microphone has a big "ESPN" or "NBC" on it. The red light on the camera is on. They know they are lying to media, and an audience of millions. They know they are lying to you.

And yet…you don't care. You're used to it. You shrug it off. And you teach your six-year-old kid that lying is wrong.

Please start demanding better.

Please get Ed Werder's back. Please stand up for Jim Gray (okay, we know "The Decision" was a crazy-concocted mistake, but still). Please tell the Favres and Roses of the world that, seriously, that's a giant goddamn insult to stand there and just goddamn lie through your teeth, and y'know what? Won't be tolerated, son.

While you're it at, ask Dodgers possible-owner Jamie McCourt, now in divorce proceedings, if we're really supposed to believe she signed a marital property agreement WITHOUT reading it, because she finds legal documents boring (By the way, she's a lawyer).

While you're it at, ask Reggie Bush something. Bush just gave back his 2005 Heisman Trophy after being declared ineligible by the NCAA, yet still asserts he and his family did not accept improper benefits. Bush now proclaims that he wants to "establish an educational program which will assist student-athletes and their families avoid some of the mistakes I made." Hey, Reggie! What were those mistakes? You haven't told anyone yet. Just what are they?

I hope you will do it. Granted, it's tough to do yourself. Bottom line, if you're interested in a little truth, you probably need an Ed Werder or a Jim Gray to do it for you. So help them. Get their back. Let the liars know their lies will not be tolerated. Or lying will remain so prevalent in our culture, that you've come to totally accept it.

Jim McLauchlin
Photo: Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Next: Fake care is so easy, cool, and replaces the real thing (with none of the benefit!)


  1. What gets me -- and I mean REALLY gets me -- are those people, usually politicians, who lie straight to the reporter or to the camera about something we already have on videotape. "I didn't say that." "Well, let's look at the tape. That's you saying that, isn't it?" "I didn't say that, it's... out of context."

    These people don't understand how videotape works? We've only had videotape recorders since 1956, for crying out loud. And now with the InterWebs, NOTHING goes away. Ever.

  2. He said "Kobiyashi Maru"...life is beconing one, methinks.

  3. Good piece Jim - it always amazes that the sin of omission is often left unpunished on camera and that the old maxim "deny, deny, deny" is allowed to flourish unchallenged.

    However, whilst many of those who believe that if they deny something for long enough and with enough conviction it'll become true in the public eye, there is another side to this...those who haven't lied but are still tarred with the same brush. Whether due to cynicism ("no smoke without fire") or past history, there is an increasing tendency to presume guilt before any evidence is put before us - and the implications of this, for me, are far more severe.

    Before, legally, "innocent until proven guilty" has always been the way. Increasingly the burden of proof is on the defendant to prove his innocence. Instead of having to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, many are being wrongly convicted on unreliable witness accounts. A great example is William Mills who endured 12 months of a 9 year sentence after being convicted of armed robbery before being freed in early 2009 - all on the eye witness reports.


    So while lying is undoubtedly becoming commonplace the ramifications of our acceptance - no, expectation of it, has far reaching consequences which have a massive impact on way of life.

    And She's got is right - nice geek nod with Kobayashi Maru...