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.

Only a Matter of Time for Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods fell short yet again.

Another rather atrocious Sunday at a major championship leaves Tiger stuck on 14 majors. He’s still 4 away from Jack but one has to wonder if he will ever win another major. He hasn’t been able to put together 4 solid, consecutive rounds in a major since his return from rock bottom. At this point, Tiger is about as dominant as Adam Scott is. In other words, that’s not very good.

However, the golfer formerly known as Eldrick is far from done.

It’s no secret that Woods is putting his game back together. Aside from his missed cut at the Greenbrier, Tiger has been in contention in most every tournament he has played in recently. He has won 3 tournaments this year. He came back from his disappointing Masters in April with strong major performances at the U.S. and British Open.

More importantly though, he seems to have accepted the fact that he isn’t the Tiger Woods of old. In stark contrast to his noticeable anger following the 2010 Masters, Woods could be seen smiling after his disappointing final round yesterday. He undoubtedly wasn’t content with his play on the course Sunday but Tiger gave the impression that he could take solace in a relatively good overall performance.

Despite being behind numerous strokes on Sunday, Tiger stubbornly and illogically refused to pull the driver out of his bag, only to use it when it was too late. Call it a lack of confidence, call it a refusal to stray from his game plan, call it whatever you want. The way I see it, the new, older, Tiger Woods understands that he can’t simply go out and play so freely the way he used to.

The Tiger Woods of 2 years ago wouldn’t have been able to comprehend that.

Like everyone else, he realizes that at age 36 he can’t dominate the field in the manner that he used to. His ego has been healed enough to the point where he can finally come to terms with his inability to be prime time Tiger. Other than his Spock evil twin-like goatee, Tiger Woods once again looks to be happier. He is enjoying the game of golf.

It won’t be too long before Tiger Woods wins his 15th major. This Tiger’s head is finally getting screwed on straight. He is contending at Majors. The pieces of his shattered ego are slowly being put back together, each and every week. It’s all steps in the right direction.

Forget the Tiger Woods of yesteryear. He is long gone and isn’t coming back.

Expectations of Tiger have to be lowered. Immediate gratification be damned. The major will come. He is getting closer.

18 total majors. Well, that’s another story. It is ridiculous to guarantee Tiger Woods 18 majors as of this moment but it would be just as ridiculous to write him off completely. He hasn’t won a major in 2012 but it has been a solid comeback season.

The magnitude of his epic collapse was a 9.0 on the Richter scale. As we have seen, that isn’t something that gets fixed overnight. It’s a process. Tiger Woods is still in the middle of that process. He is no longer clearing the rubble of his damaged self but is on to building the foundation to a new person, a new Tiger.

A 73 to put him out of contention on Sunday at the British Open shouldn’t tell you that Tiger doesn’t have it in him anymore to win major championships. It should tell you that he played 3 more good rounds at a big tournament. It should tell you that the consistency is coming back. It should tell you that he’s close to regaining the title of major champion. A title that he so desperately covets.

At 42 years old, Ernie Els won his 4th major. There is no rush for Tiger. He has plenty of time left to win a few more majors, let alone 1. He is too good. He is due.

If Tiger doesn’t win at the PGA Championship in August then he will be closing in on 5 years since winning his last major by the time the Masters rolls around next year.

Don’t fret though, because it’s only a matter of time.

Remember to vote for me to become Canada’s Next Sportscaster! It only takes a few seconds. Just follow the link: http://www.drafted.ca/finalists/chris-ross/

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts.

Agree? Disagree? You can also e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

Monday’s Seven Casual Contemplations

I know I have missed the last 3 weeks but considering that It is my goal to start your work week off right with random thoughts, ideas, rants and ramblings from the week that was in the world of sports, I felt I should get back on the horse. Unfortunately for those of us not still in elementary or high school, it’s Monday so let’s get to the contemplations. Exclusive to Painting the Black, here are your Monday Morning Casual Contemplations…

Help Me Become Canada’s Next Sportscaster!

Reminder or in case you did not know: I was selected as a top 24 finalist for theScore’s (a TV sports station in Canada) Gillette Drafted competition, which is the search for Canada’s next great sportscaster and I need your help. That’s right, your help.

Voting has become an integral part of the process and I need as much support as I can possibly get. Shameless self promotion is key and what I ask of my blog readers is to go to my voting page http://www.drafted.ca/finalists/chris-ross/ and vote every day. Tell your friends, family, coworkers, strangers, pets and just about anything that could possibly work a computer to vote as well.

Thank you for all your support in advance. It is unbelievable to know that I have the backing of so many people in the hope of achieving my dream job.

Jeremy Lin a Rocket?

Isn’t this Lin-teresting. Jeremy Lin might actually be going to Houston. That’s quite a shocker.

The contract is ridiculous but I think the Knicks will never hear the end of it if Jeremy Lin turns out to be a quality point guard in the NBA. Raymond Felton thrived in Mike D’Antoni’s offense without Carmelo Anthony. He has struggled ever since getting traded from the Knicks and who knows how he will perform in a brand new offense. Jason Kidd is 39.

You add in the business side of this equation and it seems like an odd decision (Stephen A. Smith would disagree) on the Knicks part to let Linsanity go in favour of Raymond Felton. Lin’s contract, while ridiculous, still offers immense upside. They struck oil in a Beverley Hillbillies manner with Jeremy Lin. However, would undoubtedly be problematic for them to bring back Lin now after the comments from ‘Melo and J.R. Smith. Even so, you would have thought they would have liked to see where Lin could take them because a Raymond Felton/J-Kidd combo isn’t taking them anywhere.

I for one am hoping they end up regretting it one day. I mean, come on, all Lin does is…Lin, am I right?

Beer Me

I will assume that you saw this video over the weekend of Steve Nash being handed a beer by a group of rather ecstatic fans while on the highway. No biggie, right. Of course, Steve Nash was smart enough to take a video of it and post it on twitter.

And this is why the world loves Steve Nash. He’s on that same kind of stardom level as Derek Jeter in the sense that he can do no wrong and I’m not just saying that because I happen to be Canadian. Nash has that star quality and likeability that enables him not only to be dearly loved by fans but also to get a pass on most anything he does that isn’t very role model-ish (i.e. cheating on his wife).

I see nothing wrong with him getting a pass on those types of things. He’s a character that everyone can like and you can never have enough of those. I mean, how many athletes would allow fans to deliver a beer from car-to-car on the highway?

Steve Nash would.

Olympics and Basketball

Blake Griffin went down with a torn meniscus in his left knee. Apparently, that means Mark Cuban was right. Owners don’t like their prized assets risking their futures for free. Playing simply for pride and being patriotic doesn’t fly with them. They want to restrict the Olympics to players who are 23 years and younger.

What else do they want to do? Put a leash around their player’s necks and tie them to a tree for the entire off-season?

If they’re not playing in the Olympics, they’re probably playing ball somewhere else (see: Kevin Durant at Rucker Park). Obviously, the intensity can’t match the level that they go through preparing for and playing in the Olympics, but they’ll be playing some form of basketball nonetheless. Injury is a risk anytime physically activity occurs.

The owners concerns are valid but they can’t stop player from doing everything athletically related in the off-season. Players are going to work out. They’re going to play. Kyrie Irving broke his hand at the Cavaliers summer-league practice facility over the weekend after he slapped a padded wall in frustration.

I guess I don’t like the idea of taking away these players ability to represent their country. Olympic gold is a big deal to these guys and I’m not just talking about the Americans.

I can’t imagine there’s a much better feeling than having an entire nation root for you. Doesn’t seem right to take that opportunity away from them.

Feel For Ya

Ever since I read “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton, I can’t help but feel sorry for the fringe MLB pitcher.

Mop-up situations are often reserved for pitchers that are too good for the minors but not good enough to be used in any sort of high leverage situation in the majors. It takes the most die-hard fan to care for the mop-up situation.

However, Jim Bouton’s book made me realize how much each and every outing matters for a MLB pitcher struggling to earn his keeps in the Bigs. 2 runs allowed in a 14-3 game may not concern 99% of the viewers but to that one pitcher who allowed the 2 runs, it could be the difference between grinding out a 5 hour bus ride to Tacoma or flying on a chartered jet to New York City.

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Chavez had one of those make or break outings on Saturday. He had been struggling lately and came into the ball game with an 11-4 lead. He left the game with the score 11-8. His line: 0.0 IP, 3 hits, 4 runs, 4 earned runs. His face had devastation written all over it.

I really do feel for the guy. What can you do though? Like so many others who get a cup of coffee in the Majors, Chavez was sent back to the minors. It’s the unfortunate reality of professional sports. Not everyone can have a happy ending.

Oh yeah, if you’re a sports fan and you haven’t read “Ball Four,” you better get on it. An absolute must read.

Easy Breesy

So Drew Brees got a lot of money. Don’t really know how the whole logistics of how his $40 million first year pay-day affects the Saints’ salary cap but I hear it’s not nearly as brutal as it sounds. An average of $20 million a year isn’t so bad either and it looks as though the two sides finally met somewhere in the middle in agreeing to this contract.

I still do have trouble comprehending why Drew Brees wouldn’t want to take a little less money for the greater good of his team but, hey, it’s easier to say that when I’m the person sitting in front of my laptop screen typing for free. So, who am I judge?

Of course, I will continue to judge anyways.

Oh Tiger, My Tiger

He missed the cut at the Greenbrier Classic a couple of weekends ago but he’s still got to be the favourite going into the British Open. His game is on the up and he is playing more and more like the best golfer in the world is supposed to.

A fair bet won’t be Tiger or the field at least until he wins another major. However, I like Eldrick’s chances this coming week at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.

Tiger and Golf Are One

Golf is nothing without Tiger Woods and Tiger Woods is nothing without golf.

To fill the void that was left by Tiger Woods during his hiatus from relevancy on the PGA tour was impossible. When you know that something better is out there, complete satisfaction is out of the question. There was always the possibility that Tiger could return to a form close to his former self.

Rory McIlroy tried his best to put golf on the map without Tiger. He won the U.S. Open in a Tiger dominating fashion last year but has been crashing and burning lately. However, it probably doesn’t matter all that much for golf that McIlroy has been experiencing these bumps in the road on his way to superstardom.

Tiger is where it’s at.

As long as Tiger is able to show flashes of competing at a high level on the PGA tour, no one else will truly be relevant in golf. Rory McIlroy can win majors. The Duff Man, Jason Dufner, can use his namesake to win over crowds. Rickie Fowler can make fashion statements. Kevin Na can drive fans crazy. It won’t make any difference though.

To call Tiger’s chip on 16 magical would be an understatement. This kind of thing could only come off the blade of Tiger’s wedge. Magic is something that has come to be expected from Tiger Woods. It’s almost as if a shot of that magnitude was inevitable at some point.

Tiger Woods will never be the same dominating force that he was on the golfing scene but that doesn’t matter either. When Tiger is in the mix, there is always the anticipation of amazing. You never know when amazing is going to come but when it does, it is incredibly special. Not one person can complete a narrative the way Tiger Woods can.

Golf is not the same without Tiger because we know what we are missing when he is gone. Having something in your sights but just out of your reach is the worst feeling. That’s what it has been like with Tiger Woods flirting with relevancy. For the golf world to try to focus its attention elsewhere for the past 2 years was wasted effort.

Seeing that Tiger was physically but not mentally capable of putting his game together made things even harder for fans. Whether or not Tiger would be able to return to greatness was, and still is, up in the air but the hope that he will one day do so will not waver.

Tiger has ruined the game of golf for the time being. He isn’t only the face of golf. He is golf. If Tiger is physically capable of swinging a golf club in a PGA tournament, then the rest of golf doesn’t stand a chance of surviving without Tiger. Tiger and golf cannot be separate entities, at least not for now.

However, Tiger’s immense celebrity hasn’t ruined the game forever. There will be a grieving period when Tiger retires from golf. But once it soaks in for fans that Tiger Woods is not coming back, then golf can start fresh. The thing is, it might be a little while before golf can get its fresh start.

Nevertheless, one day, someone will come along and take the golf world by storm. However, until Tiger leaves the game for good, that someone is just going to have to wait.

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts.

Agree? Disagree? You can also E-mail Chris at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

What Else Should We Expect?

Joe Paterno is 84. His brain doesn’t work the same way it used to. Too bad that’s not a worthy excuse for his, once again, selfish decision today. The previously beloved coach announced that at the end of the season he would step down as the head coach of Penn State.

What a joke.

If it wasn’t certain that Joe Paterno doesn’t have anyone else’s interest in mind but his own already, then this announcement surely did it. JoePa does what is best for JoePa. It’s always been this way, except before the world never really knew it.

At his press conference, Paterno said that he wanted to finish his final season with “dignity and determination.” In case he didn’t know, that ship has sailed. It left the moment we found out all JoePa did when he was informed of the accusations toward Sandusky was to report it to the proper authority.

It’s hard to believe that Paterno could even think about finishing a football season at this point in time. Clearly, he still doesn’t have any remorse or regret for what he has done, or rather what he didn’t do. Penn State is 8-1 this season. JoePa wants to go out on a high note. In the grand scheme of things, football has become insignificant in the context of this devastating story for most of us.

Not JoePa though.

JoePa can’t even pretend like he cares. His best teary eyed bluff could have been detected by my 6-year-old cousin. Paterno said that “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.” Yet, with the benefit of hindsight and those thick, horn-rimmed glasses, Paterno doesn’t see what he has done wrong. If he understood the magnitude of his inaction in this issue then he wouldn’t wait until the end of the season to step down.

It really doesn’t matter if Paterno steps down now but it’s the principle of the matter. To retire after a few more inconsequential football games instead of immediately stepping down, tells the rest of the world that JoePa probably hasn’t lost much sleep over the scandal.

JoePa only lost sleep because he was thinking about his tarnished legacy. JoePa only wishes he could have done more to make sure that this whole story never came out to ruin his beloved reputation. The only thing that’s a tragedy in this matter to JoePa is the fact that he can never go out on top of the College Football world.

409 meaningless freaking wins.

It’s like the old adage for criminals. They’re sorry, but sorry simply because they were caught.

Joe Paterno was caught for who he really is. He’s another iconic sports figure who is not made in the beautiful image that the fans and media have created. Brett Favre sexted and whined, Tiger Woods cheated several times, Lebron James is not the Chosen1 and Walter Payton wasn’t quite so sweet.

Joe Paterno had and still has no interest in the children he could have saved. This is the person that he is and, at 84, I guess there’s no reason we should expect him to give in to what everyone else not only thinks but knows he should do.

Joe Paterno isn’t retiring immediately and that’s just JoePa being JoePa.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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