Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why we care about Manti Te'o's fake girlfriend

Quick recap. Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman-trophy hopeful Manti Te'o tragically had his grandmother and girlfriend both pass away on September 11 of last year, making his story one of biggest of the college football season. Until yesterday, of course, when Deadspin made it the biggest college football story of the millennium by reporting his girlfriend never actually died because she was never actually real to begin with.
When the story broke yesterday it was immediately everywhere and most people still couldn't get enough. It was the last thing I checked before I went to bed last night and the first thing I checked this morning. I'm sure I wasn't alone, which led SB Nation to ask this morning why we care so much. It's a question I didn't really think about until after I read it, but there are certainly a lot of reasons. So here's my response.

For starters, we all love a good scandal. All we need to do is look at what dominated the news cycle before the Te'o news broke. We had days (was it weeks?) of different people reporting that Lance Armstrong was going to confess he doped to Oprah. First it came out that he would admit it in the interview. Or not. Then he did, according to sources. Then Oprah weighed in. There were dozens of stories with the same basic premise that he confessed. I read nearly all of them and still want to see the interview (which I'm sure is exactly how Oprah planned it).

Second, it was shocking. I mean how often do you hear about famous athletes persevering through the loss of a loved one? Torrey Smith did it in the NFL this year and everyone remembers Brett Favre on Monday Night Football after losing his father, so it's a pretty common occurance. Players are human and we all suffer losses, so it happens. How often has the loved one turned out to be fictional? Once, that I know of.

There's also the mystery of how much Te'o was involved. He and Notre Dame are denying his involvement, but Deadspin implies that he knew. So now we all want to know how much he knew. I've been somewhat anti-Manti since his father blacklisted the Honolulu Star Advertiser for publishing a picture of Te'o missing a tackle.
Does that have something to do with the fact that I'm not buying Te'o's innocence in the hoax? Probably. But seeing as Te'o and Notre Dame were already less than forthcoming with what they knew, as well as Brian Te'o's attempt to control what the Star Advertiser publishes also make me think the son and father were more involved than they're letting on.

Finally, the hoax touches on another hot-button issue: sexual orientation. Reading the story I wondered if this could be an elaborate scheme to protect Te'o. Again, not alone on this one. Now clearly I have no idea if this idea is true, but it's definitely a possibility which definitely adds to the intrigue.

Those are just a few reasons why we're so invested in the story, and I'm sure there are dozens more.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Baseball writers wrong with Hall of Fame votes

"Hi, can I come in?" "NO!"
The Baseball Writers Association of America created quite a stir Wednesday when we found out they weren't electing anybody to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013. The reason, of course, being that previously assumed-to-be first ballot HOFers used performance-enhancing drugs during their careers.

For guys like Roger Clemons, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa the writing has been on the wall for a while now. Nobody really expected them to make it in this year, and none of them were close. Unfortunately, the guys who weren't publicly suspected of using and possibly put up great numbers while clean against players wielding superhuman strength weren't let in either (see: Biggio, Craig).

"None shall pass"
When the news initially broke I wanted to use this space to voice my opinion. However, I waited a day because my opinion at the time was basically a stream of vulgar insults of the BBWAA that wasn't fit to be read by children (this is a family space) or adults for that matter. I've reflected for a day and I still think that the BBWAA is completely and utterly wrong on several fronts, but I can more address them more coherently now.

My first, and biggest, question is what gives these writers the right to stand at the gates of Cooperstown like the Black Knight from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail?" It's been said ad nauseum that these are the same people who turned a blind eye to the rampant drug use in the sport. It's a legit issue.

I remember being in sixth/seventh grade when Mark McGwire and Sosa were racing to topple Roger Maris' single season home run record. I remember a friend writing a paper on the chase, and how both of them were using some kind of performance-enhancing substance. I argued it was just creatine and androstenedione (whatever those were) and nothing illegal, but he told me I was wrong. If a seventh grader at Stockbridge Valley can do more to expose drug use in professional sports than the BBWAA.... Well, maybe the Hall of Fame vote should be put in someone else's hands.

The 'stache deserves its own plaque.
Just as long as it isn't the enshrined Hall of Famers. Several applauded the BBWAA for keeping those despicable cheats out of Cooperstown's hallowed grounds. For some reason, Dennis Eckersley is the one that really ticks me off. Maybe it's mustache envy, but more than likely it's the fact that he's more hypocritical than the writers. Eckersley's plaque features (in addition to the 'stache, of course) an Oakland A's cap. You'll remember Eck was a part of those Bash-Brother A's teams from the late 80s. You know, the kind of Patient 0, if you will, of the PED outbreak. It's easy for Eckersley to get on his high horse now, but he wasn't saying much when McGwire and Jose Conseco helped power him to a World Series ring. Actually, if guys like Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell are lumped in with the known users shouldn't Eckersley be as well? To protect the "integrity" of the game maybe we need to start booting guys out. Think that would change his tune?

If you think that Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and Clemens don't belong in the Hall because they cheated that's fine. I'm not disagreeing with you. But to have the writers and players who watched it happen be the people keeping them out is a bit like letting the nuts take over the nut house.