By DYLAN MALONE
There’s no underselling just how important sports are to our culture. Yes, they are just games played by professionals who get paid to participate in them for a living, but who pays their salaries? We do. The fans.
We love sports. I love sports. That’s why I’m here, of course. I enjoy sports so I write about them for a living and it’s not a bad gig.
Knowing how big sports can be in our culture is precisely why it is such a bombshell when there is controversy involved. The players, many of whom are heroes to fans, are near immortal in status when we watch them on our big screens and in bars. A lot of people bet on games and nearly everyone has a favorite team.
But what happens when the players we immortalize are guilty of being very human?
It’s been a heck of a year in review as far as controversy. In the center of it all rests this era’s staple: steroid use.
First it was Lance Armstrong and his cycling team sponsored by the Postal Service. All of them were guilty of steroid use and admitted it but Armstrong, the team’s captain, retained that he was clean of the use.
The funny and ironic thing about that is that what he was accused of testing positive for was actually a substance used by many cancer patients with his particular testicular cancer and so it would not have been quite as severe, at least in the public eye, had he come clean from the beginning. What’s ironic about it, however, is that what Lance is admitting to on the Oprah Network tonight is that he in fact used the substance BEFORE throwing the cancer cover out the window.
After that was Manny Pacquiao. A storied career in boxing at a certain weight but suddenly within a year’s time he bulks up like he was in a hulk rage and moves up 20 pounds. His crew has stated that he does not use steroids but let’s face it, boxing historically has not been the cleanest of sports be it juicing or even throwing fights.
Baseball is in a league of its own as far as being tainted. How long will we continue to watch on TV if the game continues to be tarnished with steroids? Baseball truly is becoming America’s past time with the emphasis on the past.
The voters did a nice job last week when they put the kibosh on suspected steroid users by keeping Bonds, Sosa, and Clemens out of Cooperstown. I have wondered, however, what in the world we fans will do if someday a player steps forward and admits to use AFTER he is put into the hall? It will forever change the way the game is looked at if it hasn’t already been altered for the worst at this point.
Baseball needs a true feel good story to get back from the brink. Between the controversy and declining profits forcing more tv commercials that make games last upwards of three hours and some change there is a lot to be desired from the game of late.
And last, but certainly not the least interesting of controversies in the news lately, how about Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o?
Apparently, in a story just breaking yesterday, it was discovered that the Irish defensivemen’s girlfriend who “died of leukemia” when the season began, never actually existed. I’m not sure that Te’o is involved in any of this, at least from a guilt standpoint. I will say, however that it is one of the most unusual stories I have seen in a long time.
I’m not sure which one of the hundred questions is worth tackling first on this story. Who would be sick enough to invent a girl in his life and then pretend she died?! I guess the other side of that could be why did Te’o date someone for months without actually meeting her? Can one develop a relationship online that lasts without meeting? Where did the person who invented the persona think that this was going to go?
I'm not even sure what realm this controversy falls under to be honest. It's still early in the "investigation" phase with this but the first report was that Te'o was a part of the conspiracy. Something to draw more publicity. I'm not sure I believe that but I suppose I wouldn't put it past someone who was driven enough for success, or at least the illusion of success.
I think what makes this so awe-striking is how naive Te'o must be to gush over this pretend women at his grandmother's funeral. Apparently he didn't attend his pretend girlfriend's funeral that never happened? At what point was the red flag thrown? Was ESPN really dropping the ball on tracking down this girl who was such an inspiration to the Notre Dame star? Something doesn't smell right in these waters.
I’ve run out of space for more questions so I’ll leave you, the reader, to think about how messed up this world truly is, even to our sports heroes sometimes. Stay tuned, Irish fans, I feel like this story will break open in a day or two.