All-American Noise

Manti Te'o

Last summer, “it was say it ain’t so, Joe!” Now, it’s “say it ain’t so, Te’o!”

Who are you supposed to trust anymore?

Some girls have daddy issues. Some kids have abandonment issues. Sports fans are now developing trust issues that are worse than they ever have been before.

Forget about performance enhancing drugs for a moment because no one ever really liked those guys, juice or no juice. Barry Bonds was a bigger diva than Mariah Carey. Alex Rodriguez had a certain smugness and arrogance that became even more apparent when he began fielding on the left side of the infield with Derek Jeter. Lance Armstrong was a ruthless sociopath.

Prior to the confirmation of those noted steroid users, aside from the naive Lance Armstrong backers, we already knew that we weren’t supposed to like them. They weren’t respected and revered for their persona. They were respected and revered for their freakish physical abilities. Abilities that turned out to be a little too freakish to be true.

As I wrote in August, the prominent use of steroids is leading fans to jump to the most skeptical of conclusions when great moments in sports are witnessed. Despite the awe factor not being as awe-inspiring as it was 15 years ago, sports fans would always have the good guys to root for. There are people who could be role models for kids and show us that decency and integrity is still left out in the world.

That constant is going away too.

It has been well documented that Manti Te’o was the embodiment of the perfect student-athlete. He was the team leader and the driving force behind the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Te’o visited sick children in the hospital, stayed up all night to talk with his cancer-ridden “girlfriend” on the phone and he played his heart out despite the death of his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day.

Manti Te’o was the ideal Heisman Trophy candidate. He provided inspiration to what I’m sure amounted to, at the very least, thousands of people across North America. In a college football off-season saturated with the horrifying story of Jerry Sandusky and Penn State, Manti Te’o was the anti-Jerry Sandusky. If Jerry Sandusky was everything that is wrong with this world, Manti Te’o was everything that is right with this world.

Everyone bought into the Manti Te’o narrative. Hook, line and sinker. How could we not?

It has been said that the media should have been more diligent. There had to be someone who should have seen the red flags. But that wasn’t the case and it shouldn’t have been the case.

This wasn’t your 37-year-old cousin who still lives in the basement of his mom’s home. When he tells you that he has a girlfriend, maybe you don’t start planning bachelor party. However, when the Mormon all-American linebacker Manti Te’o tells you he has a girlfriend, there is no reason to question it. In the world of sports, who could have been more trustworthy than Manti Te’o was just a few short days ago?

Thanks to the good people at Deadspin, it will be hard for us to fully trust ever again.

We don’t know what Manti Te’o has done. It’s difficult to believe his story when it takes him 2 days and a private interview with an ESPN yes man to tell the “truth.” For all we know, Manti Te’o could go all George Costanza on us and speak out saying “it’s not a lie, if you believe it.” What we do know though is that Manti Te’o hasn’t done anything illegal or malicious to harm another human being.

Nevertheless, we also know that Manti Te’o is no longer the man you want your daughter to bring home. He isn’t the Ray Lewis of college football. Those leadership qualities that were supposed to separate him from other NFL prospects, is complete bogus. Manti Te’o isn’t the guy we thought he was.

What is most unfortunate though is that the next, pre-fake girlfriend saga, Manti Te’o type character to dominate the sports headlines will be met with more cynic’s than he ever would have been before the events over the last calendar year occurred. This is the case because the last people we would contemplate doing any wrong, the people that we put on a pedestal, have ruined our faith.

Joe Paterno and Manti Te’o are two of the most recent prominent sports figures to go from idol to rock bottom in the span of 24 hours. Except, whether it was dramatically or quietly, they haven’t been the only ones to disappoint us. Tiger Woods was chased out of his house by his wife with a 9-iron. Derek Jeter gave swag bags to his one-night stands. Steve Nash cheated on his pregnant wife with a woman who was almost half his age.

I still love Derek Jeter, Steve Nash and Tiger Woods. They’re just too damn likeable. But they aren’t the ultimate good guys that they were portrayed to be.

It’s the cold reality of celebrity and over the past couple of years sports fans have tasted this very bitter reality. The vast expansion of media over the last decade has placed these figures in the brightest of spotlights. We don’t like to think of them as human beings but that is what they are, flawed and everything.

The all-American model is a standard that so few can reach and to expect that out of athletes who have been thrust into the center of attention is ridiculous, yet we carry on with this practice. What has happened is that social media and the paparazzi has created a world where we can no longer be ignorantly blissful towards the celebrities that we have placed this god-like status upon.

Alexander Pope once said that “to err is human, to forgive is divine.” Over the years, the public has, for the most part, proven itself to be very forgiving of sports figures that have chosen the wrong path. However, to continue trusting them in the first place?

That’s a whole other matter.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

Hall of Infamous

Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds.

It’s not about morality with Barry in the slightest bit. It’s not that guys like Barry duped fans into believing they were heroes. It’s not that these guys brought shame to America’s past time.

I understand that Hall of Fame voting is partly determined by “character” but that isn’t why past steroid users should be kept out of the Hall.

This is about the question marks of their numbers. This is about the unknown, the unexplainable and the mystery. We have no idea what these all-time fakes would have done if not for their use of performance enhancers. The question mark surrounding what they have done is enough in itself to deem them unworthy of the Hall of Fame

I’m not exonerating the guys who cut balls with their belts, the spitballers and all kinds of other cheaters, but those guys are already in and that’s not going to change.

Steroid users gained a significant advantage. How significant is obviously up for debate but the uncertainty surrounding the level of significance is partly why these individuals should not be in Cooperstown.

People say that the “they cheated” narrative is simplistic and contrived.

Hardly.

I’m tired of the ol’ “everybody was doing steroids” narrative. Not everyone was on steroids. This article by Tom Verducci is a microcosm for the steroid era. A considerable amount of individuals were on the juice but there were also many who struggled immensely with the dilemma of whether or not to cheat. Whether or not to gain a significant edge over their competition.

Let’s assume for argument’s sake that the vast majority of players were on steroids. At least where I come from, majority doesn’t mean unanimous. The era was much more complicated than “everyone was doing steroids.”

Steroids skew the numbers. To illogically assume that everyone was juicing would be to ignore the historical aspect of the game, where numbers from eras past are still comparable unlike so many other professional sports.

Ken Griffey Jr. has never been associated with performance enhancing drugs. How does he stack up against the Barry Bonds’, Alex Rodriguez’s and Mark McGwire’s of the world? He stacks up incredibly favourably even when ignoring the possibility of PED’s. However, without steroids, where does he stand? It’s incomparable. I have no idea and neither do you. We could argue into the night but we wouldn’t get anywhere.

This is exactly the problem. Ken Griffey Jr. wasn’t doing it, at least we don’t think so. It isn’t fair to him that he is seen on a similar level to those who were clearly able to help their own cause through unnatural means.

What about Hammerin’ Hank? The Babe?

The dark cloud that hangs over those who have only been speculated to have taken performance enhancers should be enough in itself to keep a player like Jeff Bagwell out of the Hall of Fame. The absence of an outright admission or positive test doesn’t remove the unanswerable questions that will always follow that individual. For a player as good as Ken Griffey Jr. to have avoided any resemblance of a cloud over his head during that dreaded era shows that it wasn’t impossible to avoid that kind of speculation and the unanswerable questions.

How immense was the advantage of steroids? Do I really need to go over the same clearly inflated offensive statistics you have probably heard a thousand times again?

Don’t tell me that Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens would have been in the Hall of Fame anyway. You don’t know that. The fact that the numbers cannot be compared with former and future Hall of Famers because of the lack of knowledge surrounding the true effect of performance enhancing drugs is why no one can be certain of anything.

It’s not as if these individuals will be forgotten if they are not put in the Hall of Fame. Being such a big part of baseball history does not justify a spot for them in the Hall of Fame either.

It sometimes sounds like a segment of the people in favour of putting steroid users in the Hall of Fame want to do so only because they are tired of the debate. Personally, I don’t even think this should be a debate. Stellar careers were extended and made even greater into old age because of the technology. Fringe Major League players lost careers because other fringe players decided to go the steroid route.

I get that it must have been extremely difficult to choose the clean path. The best want to be the best and without steroids it was very hard to be the best during that era. Still, they knew what they were doing was wrong. Excusing them isn’t fair to those of the era who stayed clean and those in the past who weren’t exposed to the science of performance enhancing drugs.

Moreover, allowing the steroid era superstars into the Hall of Fame sets a terrible precedent. It opens doors that have no business being opened. No one seems to have considered the grave implications that admitting past steroid users could have on the inevitable future steroid users of Major League Baseball.

Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon have made it pretty clear that steroids are not out of the game for good. Technology is always improving and those who want to or feel as though they need to use will find ways to beat the system. What if a future Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez talent is found to have been using performance enhancers 30 years down the line? Welp, there goes your “everyone was doing it” argument.

The thing is, if you put the original Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or Alex Rodriguez in the Hall of Fame, that means you have to put in the future all-time cheats of the world, doesn’t it?

It doesn’t have to be this way though. Don’t open Pandora’s Box.

It will only lead to no good.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

Straight Up Bull

Bill O'Brien

To believe anything that a prominent public figure says these days would be naive. Charlie Brown believing that Lucy won’t pull the football away when he tries to kick it naive.

For some reason though, I think we all wanted to believe Bill O’Brien when he stated that he was “committed for the long term to Penn State.” After what was possibly the most tragic scandal in sports history, Bill O’Brien was promising something more than winning football games to not only the men at Penn State but every loyal supporter of the program in Happy Valley.

He was promising hope.

Hope is exactly what Bill O’Brien gave Penn State this year. He walked into a situation worse than what anyone could have had nightmares about and made the Nittany Lions respectable again. Respectable wasn’t expected right away but Bill O’Brien somehow managed to do it. He promised hope and he delivered.

At least for one year he did.

However, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Bill O’Brien is now rumoured to be considering interviews for the many vacant NFL head coaching positions following the dreaded Black Monday.

Even though this shouldn’t be a surprise, I think we all expected more out of Bill O’Brien. Given the circumstances, it wouldn’t be fair to the young men that he promised hope to and it wouldn’t be fair to everyone who thought Bill O’Brien was being genuine when he said he was completely on board to reviving Penn State football.

Bill O’Brien has shown us that he is no different than most any other high level professional head coach in North America.

All of these head coaches preach commitment, brotherhood and loyalty. They expect the players to buy into these things that they preach but in the end it is all just garbage they spew out for their selfish gains. Their ultimate goal is not to help mold teenagers into young men or fight the good fight with their players as if they were brothers. It is simply a means of furthering themselves in the cutthroat world of professional coaching.

It is more of a do as I say, not as I do kind of thing. Get the players to buy in. That’s all that really matters.

Bill O’Brien said what he said because he knew he had to. There was no other way he was going to convince the current players at Penn State not to jump ship. But to look those young men in the eye and tell them that he was going to be in it for the long haul with them is plain old disgusting. This was a disaster for the ages and Bill O’Brien is choosing to ignore the unique situation in favour of me, myself and I.

Whether he decides to interview for an NFL job or not is irrelevant. The fact that it has gone public that he is even considering it is enough to prove that he is no different than any other selfish professional head coach.

You know, the ones who portray themselves to be family men but in actuality spend 18 hours a day working, never seeing their wife or kids. What about the college coaches that tell their superstar player they would be better served staying the extra year in school (I’m looking at you Pete Carroll).

I should have learned by now that the circumstances of their program or team is not important. Coaches will say whatever it takes to get ahead in the game. They can’t practice what they preach because so much of what comes out of their mouths is a bunch of blinkin’ fertilizer. A coaches supposed steadfast commitment to their current team and players is about as trustworthy as the National Enquirer.

They are committed to themselves.

If someone in Bill O’Brien’s shoes is willing to say he is in it for the “long term” and that he would do everything in his power to “help guide the University forward to become a national leader in ethics, compliance and operational excellence” then pretty much everything is fair game.

Bill O’Brien has every right to explore his options as an NFL coach but it’s not as if those opportunities won’t be there down the line for him.

Is Lane Kiffin really that much worse than any of these other guys? Lane Kiffin doesn’t give a damn about anyone except for himself but he is just not as subtle about his overt selfishness. Really, none these coaches give a damn about anyone else.

So the next time you hear a coach speaking about dedication, loyalty and commitment, call it out for what it is.

Bullshit.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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