Thursday, January 17, 2013

Say It Ain't So, Te'o

To think, two days ago I was considering how to write a piece on Michigan basketball...hah! Thank you touchdown Jesus. Well unless you live under a rock, by now you've heard of Manti Te'o's amazing story. When I talked about Te'o and the Heisman last month, I called Manti "the best story in college football." That's still true, depending on your definition of "best." The only problem is now the story is fiction, instead of non-fiction. Oh well. It joins a long list of things that are simply too good to be true. On my personal list, I include the double cheeseburger on the dollar menu (yes, the second slice of cheese matters, forget the McDouble), the NHL on ESPN, and Santa Claus. To end this first paragraph, I go to a movie about Santa Claus (sort of), with my own little twist: the best way to create American tears is lying LOUD for all to hear.

Manti Te'o is at the center of a scandal, regarding the existence of his late girlfriend photo credit:

Whether you believe Te'o or not, and judging by the reaction, you don't, he's at fault. He's at fault for a lot of different reasons. Now my thoughts on the topic are this: he is a liar. He's ignorant, and he loses a lot of credibility as a person in my opinion. Harsh, but true. Now Manti has said that he was the victim of an internet hoax, seemingly brought on by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. When I hear that name, I think of Marques Tuiasosopo, not because of his career, but because he played in the Rose Bowl against Drew Brees and Purdue, the game where I saw the best sign aired on television: on ABC, it said Hey Pasadena, A Brees is Coming. Awesome. Back to the story though. So Tuiasosopo and Te'o are apparently friends, with the former duping the latter, as well as the American public, in an effort

It just doesn't make any sense. Watergate makes more sense than this story. So here is where my only grain of doubt about Te'o lying can be found. The only way I see him telling the truth is because I don't know why on earth Te'o would do this. Perhaps he was looking for sympathy. The problem is that he would have gotten his sympathy with the loss of his grandmother. Perhaps he really is just flat out stupid. Perhaps he actually believed that someone he never met, never even saw, could be real. Forget real, he called her the love of his life. The love of his life. Twenty-two year olds often make mistakes because of ignorance, stupidity, and embarrassment. I know because I am a twenty-two year old. But as the veteran of a few failed relationships, even I can tell you she's not your girlfriend if you've never met her.

A great line in The Dark Knight Rises is when Commissioner Gordon tells John Blake, "You're a detective now son. You're not allowed to believe in coincidence anymore." Taking that rationale, I don't believe Te'o at all when he says he is the victim. I don't see this as a coincidence that Te'o and Tuiasosopo happen to be friends, and Te'o happened to be out of the loop on this whole story. You can say he didn't lie at all, but he thanked his girlfriend's family after beating Michigan State. So if you are naive enough to believe that Te'o was indeed hoaxed, he at least lied about her family, because...well, because she does not freaking exist.

I'm going to hold off on evaluating Te'o until he actually comes out and speaks. Waiting is not doing you any favors, Manti. It's making all of us think you are creating a story. If you are telling the truth, then what the hell are you waiting for??? Let's hear it! I love the people who say they don't care about this story. How can you not care about this story? This is iconic. I'm 99% positive this will never happen again. If you don't have an opinion on this story, reevaluate your opinions (again, assuming you are a sports fan).

Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick addresses the media yesterday concerning Manti Te'o photo credit:

Whether Te'o speaks, and regardless of what he says, a lot of focus will now shift to where Te'o may fall in the NFL Draft. There's been a lot of talk about this topic. To me, it's an organizational decision on whether or not to draft Te'o. Like my friends Jeff Riger and Eric Thomas stated, if you think Tim Tebow gets attention, wait until the pre-prodigal son makes his way to the NFL. If I'm a GM in the NFL and I'm sitting pretty in the fourth round, having addressed my needs (and not simply taken the best player available), I give Te'o a look. The difference between Tebow and Te'o is that Manti is actually good. Ten days ago, we were talking about him as a top ten pick. Any thought of even a first round pick is now likely gone. It's a giant distraction. Not to mention, do you want to bring in someone who you believe to be a liar? I wouldn't. But in the fourth round, maybe. I see Te'o going to a team like New England or Baltimore. He has to go to a team where distractions are a non-issue. He needs a team with a coach who simply does not respond to dumb questions. And he needs leaders on the defense who will take him under his wing and show him how to keep his mouth shut.

It is possible Te'o is telling the truth. It is highly unlikely, but possible. I don't think so, but that doesn't mean he's lying. In any event, Te'o is at fault. Life is a learning experience, and Manti is going to learn a valuable lesson, either way. He's either going to learn that surprisingly, despite what everyone says, if it's on the internet it may not be true (as I assume that this story is true, having read it on the internet). Or, he's going to learn that you can only lie for so long. Either way, Notre Dame's golden boy just got a big red slash on that helmet, and it isn't from an Alabama player. Still a great story know you've been talking about it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


In every social group, roles seem to be clearly defined. Since it's 2013, I guess I can now refer to them as "cliques." Whether it's right or wrong, socially acceptable or not, certain personality types fit certain roles. There is always a quiet kid. There is always a loud kid. There is always that kid who gets in trouble a lot, and (most of the time) there seems to be a kid who does everything right. The major professional sports are no different. The quiet kid is the NHL, the sport that seems to fly under the radar until it gets upset that the other sports are having more fun and decides its time for some drama. You have the loud kid, or the NFL, who is always making headlines, always in the news because its product seems to be in the greatest demand. The NBA definitely takes the title of kid who always gets in trouble. If you need a reason, see Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony fighting outside the locker rooms at the Garden, just the other night. Then there is Major League Baseball. Since the 1994 strike, baseball has been relatively quiet in terms of scandal--minus steroids, but from an organizational standpoint, the suspensions in place for steroids make it very difficult to find a rational reason to do them. Perhaps baseball's New Years resolution was to be more like its professional brothers.

1996 was a pretty normal year, sports wise. It was the last time the Summer Olympics graced American soil. The major sports were dominated by dynastic teams from the last thirty or so years. Jordan's Bulls won the NBA crown, Aikman's Cowboys won the Super Bowl, and Jeter's Yankees won the World Series. Kentucky won the NCAA Basketball Tournament, and Florida won the National Championship in college football. But 1996 was also significant because it was the last time Major League Baseball did not elect someone to its Hall of Fame...until now.

Craig Biggio launches a ball at Comerica Park photo credit:

Steroids are as hotly a contested topic that sports has seen since Tonya Harding. They are talked about in schools, barber shops, even funerals. And today the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) decided that if you took steroids, no matter what your numbers are, you simply are not going to get into the most exclusive club in sports. That's the way it's going to be I guess, and that's fine. Steroids are cheating, I understand. I personally don't think it makes you that much better, but I've never tried them so I'm not really sure. I'm okay with that decision, though. It means Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens will probably never have a place in Cooperstown. Oh well, should have thought of that before you put the needle in your ass. But baseball struck out looking when the writers failed to elect Craig Biggio to its version of the "He-Man Woman Haters Club."

Money drives the world. It can't buy happiness, but it sure can buy things that make you happy. After all, cash is king. Professional sports pays its "clients" more handsomely than almost any other industry. If you're good, you can make bank if you want. Forget loyalty, throw that out the window, because the next guy is putting an extra zero at the end of that check. It's easy to get caught up in money. There are numerous examples. Take A-Rod, Randy Johnson, and Jason Giambi for example, and that's only the Yankees. I don't care that A-Rod was traded, no. But then look at a guy like Craig Biggio. Before we get into the statistical robbery that occured, lets look at the character.

Biggio was drafted by the Houston Astros in the first round of the 1987 MLB Draft. He made his debut in 1988 for the club, and he NEVER played for another team. Biggio came up as a catcher, and changed his position about five times to make his boss happy. He was a fixture in the Houston community. He has won numerous awards for that hard work and charity. He won the Roberto Clemente Award, perhaps the most prestigious community and sportsmanship award in sports. He won the Hutch Award in 2005, given annually to a player who shows tremendous competitive fire and will to win. He won the Branch Rickey Award in 1997, given to the person (not player) in Major League Baseball who exemplifies tremendous community service. So throwing his numbers completely out of the equation, that's a good start for a Hall of Fame resume.

He could have average numbers with that start and still have a good shot to make the Hall of Fame on his first try. 2,000 hits, maybe 300 steals, throw a couple of Gold Gloves in there, you've got a case anyway. Forget the fact that his numbers are good enough to get him in alone. How about the fact that Biggio, a player whose entire career was spent in the steroids era, was never once associated with steroids? He played with Jeff Bagwell, Roger Clemens, and Andy Pettitte, so any argument about temptation not being there is now gone. He was never in trouble. Biggio tore his ACL and MCL in the middle of his career. It was hardly a blip on the radar for him, coming back to have numerous productive seasons.

So now let's look at those stats that apparently were not good enough to get Biggio elected to Cooperstown on the first try. Biggio was a career .281 hitter. Okay, that's about the only above average stat he has, because everything else is exceptional. He has 3,060 hits. He has 3,060 hits. No typo. If you have 3,000 hits, and your name isn't involved in scandal, you go to the Hall. Period. Aside from that, Biggio has 291 career home runs. You might look at it as average, and it is, for a career cleanup hitter. But Biggio was a career leadoff hitter. He had fifty leadoff homeruns...fifty. That's the most in National League history. Oh yeah, he stole 414 bases.

Craig Biggio celebrates his 3,000th hit with his family photo credit:

Okay the hard numbers are there. Now let's look at the accomplishment aspect of Biggio's career. He had 10,000 at bats. Only twenty-three players in MLB history have reached that number. His 3,060 hits have only been passed by nineteen other players. Craig Biggio fell nine home runs shy of 300 for his career. Had he hit nine more homeruns, he would have become only the second player in MLB history with 3,000 hits, 300 homers, and 300 steals. The other one is in Cooperstown, his name is Willie Mays. Biggio is the only player in history with 3,000 hits, 600 doubles, 400 steals, and 250 home runs. When he retired, he was fifth in career doubles, and also had the most doubles for any right handed history. He did all of this while flying under the radar, for the most part.

Biggio was a seven time All-Star. He won four Gold Gloves, without ever really having a true primary position. He won five Silver Slugger awards. He played in a World Series. His number is retired in Houston, and he deserves a spot in Cooperstown. He deserved to be voted in today. This hits home a lot more for me because I grew up playing second base. I was the Houston Astros mascot for Halloween one year. I loved Craig Biggio because he played baseball the right way, the hard way. He kept his mouth shut, he put his head down, and he went to work every day. In the group that could have been elected today, Craig Biggio is definitely the kid who seems to do everything right.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Roll Tide On South Beach

Happy 2013 everyone. It's been a while since I've been on cyber space, and since there was so much excitement about it last night, I figured it was time to rejoin. Over 100,000 followers for one girl whose face was shown on the television about five times? I would like to firmly say I was not one of those bandwagon followers who decided to follow Katherine Webb's (AJ McCaron's girlfriend) every move on twitter. No, I was already following her. Just kidding, on both accounts--I definitely am now following her. And despite twitter followers, she was not the center of attention last night. Believe it or not there was a football game that went on in Miami, sort of.

Nick Saban and Alabam wave to fans after winning last night's National Championship. photo credit:

I, like most of you, believed Notre Dame had a chance to beat Alabama in last night's BCS Championship game. 12-0...great coach...tough schedule...and it was Notre Dame. And then they played. It quickly became: 12-1...good coach...mediocre schedule...still Notre Dame though. Rudy couldn't have saved the Irish. Forrest Gump was not needed for the Tide. Alabama manhandled Notre Dame. That's being nice. They made them look like the Little Giants, before they beat the Cowboys, of course. Notre Dame's version of Becky "The Icebox" O'Shea forgot how to tackle. Notre Dame's secondary looked like they might as well have been wearing honolulu blue and silver. When you've got Manti Te'o missing tackles, and the grand canyon for Eddie Lacy to run through, well that's when you see 42-14. All of that on the table, the Irish deserved to be there.

Now the haters out there will take to twitter and say they would have rather seen Oregon (cough Lebron--can't pass up an opportunity to hate on him). Maybe Oregon would have fared better. Maybe the New York Jets would have fared better, although probably not. But the point is, the Irish went 12-0. Nobody beat them, no matter how many teams should have beat them. They did not play an easy schedule. It was rather the opposite. That Oregon team lost to Stanford...Notre Dame did not. Sure the Cardinal had a different quarterback for the two games, but how is it Notre Dame's fault that Stanford couldn't evaluate their talent well enough when they came to South Bend? You go 12-0 and you are Notre Dame, you're going to the title game. Deal with it. Get over it. Period.

The problem for Notre Dame was not their schedule. It wasn't anything they did or did not do. They ran into a brick wall. Ronald Reagan couldn't have influenced that wall coming down. I thought it was ironic that at halftime Brian Kelly didn't have much to say about what his team could do better. For the first time in a while, instead of dancing around the question and giving the generic "we have to execute our game plan better and not make mental mistakes," Kelly instead said what everybody watching the game was thinking: Alabama is damn good.

Tricky Nick

It starts at the top. You've heard that saying numerous times. Half the time you don't even know what it means. In sports, however, it's clear. The coach runs the show, unless Kobe is on your team. College football is no different. And whether you love him or hate him, Nick Saban may be the best ever.

There's a bold statement to capture your attention. The thing is I hate Nick Saban. I don't know him at all. I've never met him, I've never seen him, I have hardly heard him speak. But I hate him. The guy is cheat codes. He's too good. My hatred for Saban started long before the entire state of Alabama began its love affair with the coach. Nick Saban made a name for himself in East Lansing. Two hot shot young coaches were making names for both themselves and their programs. Saban had made Michigan State football relevant for the first time since Bubba Smith laced up his cleats. And Tom Izzo had recaptured the "magic" that MSU basketball had been so desperately missing. There they were, two coaches in the spotlight, doing the right things, and winning. And just like that, Saban was gone.

Nick Saban coaching Michigan State. photo credit:

Now LSU is a more appealing job than Michigan State is, plain and simple. Saban could have made Michigan State into a power though. But he left. Oh well, he thought it would advance his career, and he was right. I guess it makes me love Tom Izzo more. All the times he could have bolted, whether for other college jobs or the NBA, Izzo stayed put. Saban did it the easy way. He took the job at LSU. He won a national title. He left. Insert the Miami Dolphins and go ahead and describe it as disaster. Back to college for Nick, and it's unlikely he will ever leave again. Why the hell would he? Five mil a year, any high school player you want, and oh yeah you coach in the heart of dixie. He was bound to win the game in Miami, since he hardly won anything in the pros there. Saban is so good he makes the Auburn girls like Alabama. And now Nick is approaching that other coach from dixie, Bear Bryant.

It's going to be difficult for Saban to ever achieve the love that Bear Bryant has in Alabama. The stadium in Tuscaloosa is named after him for Christ's sake. But one thing has been presented: Saban is the greatest college football coach in this era. That is certainly up for debate and many people will debate it. But think about it. Saban has now faced three of the four midwestern powerhouse football programs, in the last three years. Notre Dame...check. Michigan...check. Michigan State...check. The scores of those games? A combined 132-35. Are you kidding me? 132-35???

Those games illustrate to me why Saban is the best since the Bear. In all three of those games, there was plenty of time for both teams to prepare. Are Alabama's players more talented than those three teams? Yeah, probably. But not 100 points better. Saban faced Michigan State and Notre Dame at the end of the season. He had about a month to prepare for both of those games. He faced Michigan at the beginning of the year. He had plenty of time to prepare for that one, too. Mark D'Antonio, Brady Hoke, and Brian Kelly are all very good coaches. Yet Saban made all of them look like they were coaching their first game.

Is that the whole story? Obviously not. Saban has lost games as well. He lost one this year. But even Bear Bryant lost games. Three titles in four seasons. Four titles overall. And kids, the scary part is that he isn't done. Expect Alabama to be back. They had five players drafted in the first thirty-five picks of last year's NFL Draft. And then they won another National Championship. Whether you are in cyber space or real life, that is pretty damn good.