Archive for the ‘Notre Dame’ Category

The writer who likens a ballplayer to Hercules or Grendel’s mother is displaying the ultimate contempt — the ballplayer no longer exists as a person or a performer, but as an object, a piece of matter to be used, in this case, for the furtherance of the sportswriter’s career by pandering to the emotional titillation of the reader/fan.

— Robert Lipsyte

Last week, when sports journalism seemed to be entering its most sobering hour with the revelation that the much-celebrated Manti Te’o story – which involved the glorious overcoming of great obstacles – was at least in part falsely manufactured, it was expected that the rehabilitation period for sports writers drunk with myth-making capabilities might last a full 28 days.

While imagining that lasting principles are to be quickly gleaned from a single event is likely naive, there seemed to be an upswelling of understanding that feature stories milking aspects of an athlete’s personal life and packaging it to nurse the most childish of intellects might not be in the best interest of sports journalists seeking a reputation for professionalism.

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Part of the appeal of the investigative report on Manti Te’o and the non-existence of Lennay Kekua that Deadspin published on January 16th was its lack of a conclusion. Yes, the wonderful research by Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey left little doubt that a hoax had been perpetrated, most certainly on us, and possibly on Manti Te’o.  However, there was a sense of open sourcing to the story. Like a software developer more concerned with creating something useful than actually making money from the creation, Deadspin left possibilities open for readers to discover on their own. The website quoted someone who was “80 percent sure,” and left hints as to how those using social media might find more information through online searches.

In contrast, it’s been widely judged that ESPN, who was made aware of something fishy to do with Te’o's dead girlfriend a day before Deadspin, fumbled the story by attempting to land an interview with Te’o prior to publishing anything, and generally taking too long to track a story that took place largely through social media and online technology. However, even if they had been timelier with a report on Te’o and Kekua, I doubt that the story would have had the same appeal. I doubt that the story would’ve left room for ownership by anyone else other than ESPN.

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It’s incredibly difficult for me to believe that a grown man would spend almost three years of his life referring to a woman whose face he’d never seen, other than in pictures, as his girlfriend. However, the people with whom I associate and know best are well-educated. They come from middle-class backgrounds. If they have religious affiliations, they’re nominal at best. Most of my friends are computer savvy, and all of them are cynical. At the very least, they exercise enough critical-thinking to avoid internet scams and, for the most part, the scrupulous schemes of others.

They’re not 22-year-old Mormons. They didn’t grow up in Hawaii. They didn’t attend a private academy where they did well scholastically and excelled at football. They weren’t recruited by more than 30 collegiate programs, and they didn’t attend Notre Dame university on an athletic scholarship. They didn’t win a slew of awards in their senior year, and they certainly didn’t finish second in Heisman Trophy voting. It’s highly unlikely that a tear-stained athletic director ever had to stop a press conference so that he could find enough composure to say, “The thing I am most sad of, sad about is that the single most trusting human being I’ve ever met will never be able to trust in the same way again in his life.”

None of them are Manti Te’o. I’m not Manti Te’o. You’re not Manti Te’o. No one is Manti Te’o, but Manti Te’o.

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