That adage applies even today, and particularly to Notre Dame All-American linebacker Manti Te'o.
Being truthful from the start will go a long way in preventing you from issuing a statement that includes the words “embarrassing,” “lies,” “painful,” and “humiliating.”
Fighting Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick and Te'o both preached the same sermon Wednesday in wake of Te'o's love gaffe, a hoax in which Te'o's girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, reportedly passed away last September, but in fact, was a concoction that “had a certain cruelty at its core.” Perhaps Te'o is the victim that Swarbrick claims, but we (and that includes Swarbrick) will probably never know for certain.
“I asked (Manti) to review every detail of the relationship as he knew it with this woman,” Swarbrick said. “Manti did so, was forthright, answered every question, and was eager to share the information with me.”
Too bad that he wasn't as eager with that honesty in the early stages of this story.
If you thought that there were holes in the Notre Dame defense against Alabama, then there were canyons in the details told by Swarbrick, Te'o and Te'o's family to some of the most credible media sources in the world.
Let's start with Brian Te'o, Manti's father, telling the South Bend Tribune that Kekua and his son had spent time together in Hawaii several times beginning in 2009.
“Brian Te'o had mentioned an in person meeting to me and several in person meetings. This had been all the way back to 2009,” Tribune reporter Eric Hansen inquired of Swarbrick Wednesday.
“I think the timetable does line up, Eric,” Swarbrick responded. “I don't have my notes in front of me, but I think that's right.”
Wait a second, Jack.
Earlier in the same news conference Swarbrick stated that “This was exclusively an online relationship.”
Asked later to clarify that statement, Swarbrick made it clear that Te'o told him in a lengthy meeting last month, that he had actually never met Kekua.
That conflicts, yet again, with a Tribune report last fall that had the couple meeting in November 2011 following an Irish game at Stanford, where Kekua was supposedly a student.
If indeed this was erroneous, depending on who you believe, Te'o's father (they met in Hawaii) or Te'o himself (they never met), why didn't the player step in and correct the published report?
If indeed Te'o never met Kekua, why let every major media outlet in the country refer to Kekua throughout the 2012 season as your “girlfriend?” That seems a bit disingenuous.
There are so many questions surrounding this story. China doesn't have this many red flags.
I'm curious how Te'o explained this relationship to his friends. I know my fraternity brothers and I made fun of each other for dating ugly girls, let alone imaginary ones.
What did Te'o's teammates think of a team captain that claimed a girl whom he had never even met was his “girlfriend?”
But my biggest issue with all that unfolded Wednesday was the fact (according to Swarbrick) that Kekua called Te'o on Dec. 6, two-and-a-half months following her reported death, and what did Te'o do? He waited nearly 20 days to tell anyone.
“He wanted to talk to his parents, and he wanted to talk to them in person,” Swarbrick said. “He went home for Christmas break. That's Manti. That's the son he is.”
Nobody takes a call from the dead and says nothing for weeks. Not even a good son. A good son is an honest son. From the beginning.