Sports

Ten Foot Mailbag: The Te’o Story Brings Out The Worst In People

Linebacker Manti Te'o. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Linebacker Manti Te’o. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

By Tim Baffoe-

(CBS) In case you hadn’t heard, Tom Brady—the face of the NFL, bastion of all that is good and pure about a viscous game—was recently fined $10,000 for trying to vasectomise Ed Reed in the AFC Championship game. Frank Gore, workman 49ers running back, was fined $10,500 for actually taking a knife to a player’s scrotum. Sorry, I mean that he hit an opponent in the face with a sock full of nickels. Excuse me, I’m being told Gore… wore his socks too low? Ten-and-a-half grand for socks, folks.

I ask that you keep that little slice of NFL intelligenceness in mind the next time you hear the league say that it is all about player safety. The league cares not about safety, never has, and for the time being it appears never will because safety hurts the soldierly image the league tries to display. Safety shows weakness, thereby conveying, subliminally or not, that players would then be weak, or unlike the soldier/warrior type. Any deviation from the player uniform is grounds for an R. Lee Ermey tirade, or at least an egregious fine, because deviation shows individuality, not drone kamikaze faceless football player fully committed to the cause of making gobs of money for people in shirts and ties.

Doesn’t the Manti Te’o story bring out the worst in EVERYTHING: youth culture, voyeuristic fans, vindictive media… humanity? #tfmb—@JalenFrRosemont

Sadly, it does. I’d be lying if I said I was never interested in it. I do my very best not to indulge in that pathetic voyeur aspect of our culture that continues to force well-written television to shrink in the shade cast by the grotesque giant ball of stupid that is reality television. But the Te’o story was so unique and strange. This wasn’t the Athlete X commits Crime Y tale that we’re fairly desensitized to now. This situation has never played out publicly in sports before—hell, in entertainment whatsoever that I can think of.

But the public product the coverage creates is an ugly one. Automatic assumptions about the guy—he’s gay. He has to be gay because no straight Division I linebacker would ever be on the wrong end of this.

He’s an idiot. No intelligent person ever has anything like this happen to them. Ever.

There is something incredibly wrong with the guy because he fell in love with someone online. Who the hell even dabbles in that stuff? Online relationships are different, and different is bad. Different must be criticized.

Just like what draws people to watch reality TV, this story makes people feel, “Wow, glad I’m not him” and “I’m superior to this famous person, hooray!” That drug will never not sell well.

I very much believe Te’o has lied about much of this, and I feel it’s probable that within this whole odd trip we’re all on that the former Notre Dame linebacker is out for some personal gain from all this and that his sob story is not something to buy into fully. Here deserves much of the negative reactions, but not the ignorant ones. If I had to bet, I’d say Te’o is likely a guy who got duped, figured it out and reacted how many guys would—in anger and panic while also considering how to save face if not benefit from it. Then it blew up on him. But, see, I’m making an assumption not based on all the possible facts. Am I a bad person for that? Well, it’s part of my job here. With people who don’t get paid to write or talk about sports, it’s very much a culture of piranhas that flock to any piece of meat that plops in the water and does what it wishes until the useless carcass is all that’s left.

The Te’o story is not one that should not be avoided because it is a story, like it or not. At the same time, such a story sure does bring the high horses out of the stables, doesn’t it?

As I started to read your post about Notre Dame, I began to think about the email I thought I would need to send you. And then you wrote not only about Lizzy Seeberg but also about Declan Sullivan. You are the only sports guy I have seen so far write about them.—Dorron Katzin

Thanks for reading, but I’ve seen stuff leading up to the National Championship game and after the Te’o news broke, e.g. Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com, Christine Brennan of USA Today, a New York Times piece, The Nation, just to name a few, and not to mention “nonsports guys” with a piece in Salon, one in Slate, HuffPo, and several others. I guess the talk radio maxim applies to columns, too—if you think nobody is writing about a seemingly obvious topic, people are probably writing about that seemingly obvious topic.

I will say that there has been a dearth of mentions of Sullivan compared to Seeberg, though. Not that I’d weigh one tragic death against another, but I certainly hope that what happened to him isn’t lost in the shuffle when discussing the odd crisis management of Notre Dame.

At the Inauguration, was that really a poem?#TFMB—@David_Spellman

It was boring and terrible, I can tell you that. And I’m a guy who very much appreciates poetry. It was a poem, though, despite the reaction I saw from several people on social media begging your question and thinking that Richard Blanco was reciting prose. Poetry is stereotyped as needing to be punchy, quick, choppy. Just having short lines isn’t the defining characteristic of poetry.

When most people don’t have the text of a long poem such as Blanco’s in front of them and only hear it read aloud—especially read properly, meaning only pausing at punctuation and not at the end of each line as so many people wrongly believe—they don’t picture a poem. But it is one.

For future inaugurations I’d prefer better poetry, though. I really don’t care about Blanco or even Maya Angelou. She’s great, but she doesn’t bring the sizzle. The inauguration has become theater. It’s a whore. So go full bore and entertain me, damn it. Give me slam poetry. Give me real. Give me owning the room. Want to keep some classic tie? Give me a Brando reading T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” moment that leaves my mouth ever so slightly agape, and I have to remember to breathe again. It doesn’t all have to pretend everything is shiny happy bubblegum crap. The best poetry is the most honest.

But Robert Blanco looks like Matt Abbatacola, so what should we really have expected? (Note: that pic looks like it should be hanging in Guy Fieri’s chillaxofficeroom. Not a good thing when Chris Rongey is the least bro-ey dude in a photo.)

Thanks for emailing, tweeting, and reading. If your question did not get answered this time, that does not necessarily mean I am ignoring it. It may be saved for the next mailbag. Hopefully you’re a slightly better person now than you were ten minutes ago. If not, your loss.

Want your questions answered in a future Mailbag? Email them to tenfootmailbag@gmail.com or tweet them with the hashtag #TFMB. No question, sports or otherwise, is off limits (with certain logistical exceptions, e.g. lots of naughty words or you type in Portuguese or you solicit my death). If you email, please include a signature.

tim baffoe small Ten Foot Mailbag: The Te’o Story Brings Out The Worst In People

Tim Baffoe

Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget, but please don’t follow him in real life. E-mail him at tenfootmailbag@gmail.com. To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.