The dominant story of this post-season has been Ray Lewis.  He announced before the playoffs that he would retire after the season, so each of the last 3 games could have been his last.  Lewis is an outstanding player who has defined his franchise and his position for the pretty much every one of his 17 years in the league.  He is also very out-spoken, media friendly, and by all accounts a very good guy.  As a result the media has spent the last 3 weeks fawning over Lewis, who has responded by turning his particular brand of charisma and over the top excitement up to 11.

Normally I would love everything about this situation.  The atmosphere in Baltimore for that last game was insane, plus I totally respect bumping Nelly before NFL games.  A huge part of me wants to root for the Ravens to win the Super Bowl and send Ray Lewis out on top.  There is only one problem.  HE FUCKING KILLED A GUY. (probably)

On January 31st, 2000 Ray Lewis and his entourage got into a fight at an Atlanta nightclub that left two men dead.  Lewis and two of his associates were charged with murder and Lewis eventually plead guilty to obstruction of justice in exchange for dropping the murder charge.

None of this is breaking news.  I get that.  But if you are anything like me you were either too young to grasp the significance, or have just forgotten the gritty details.  And they are pretty damn gritty.  Thanks to this excellent Grantland piece I have been able to read up on what exactly went down and it really forces you to question the hero worship Ray Lewis is currently receiving.

As far as I can tell Lewis and a few friends got into a fight at a nightclub.  At some point during the fight, two men got stabbed and later died.  Lewis was seen throwing punches but not with a knife.  Once the men were stabbed Lewis and his group got into a limo and drove off.  Lewis was heard telling people not to talk to the cops, and at some point disposed of a white suit that was allegedly covered in blood.

There is no evidence  that Lewis actually stabbed anyone, but that doesn’t really matter.  He and his associates killed a man in a fight and then covered up the evidence.  By the letter of the law, that is murder just the same as if Lewis himself had knifed the man.

(It is important to note that while both of Lewis’ two friends who were accused of stabbing the men were tried for murder, neither were convicted.  Of course neither was O.J.)

My point here is not to demonize Ray Lewis.  He served time for his mistake (not much, but still) and has been an exemplary citizen for the past 13 years, using his money and influence to do a lot of good in the world.  This doesn’t make up for murder of course, but we will never really be sure of what happened that night and I can understand many people wanting to give Lewis the benefit of the doubt.  What I cannot understand is why so many people, especially in the sports media, are willing to not only forgive Lewis but also to forget.

We live in a world where our sports heroes are constantly picked apart.  Cam Newton puts a towel on his head after a bad interception, and all of a sudden he has an attitude problem and is an un-redeemable loser.  Jay Cutler snaps at an offensive lineman after a missed block and is forever labeled as a whiner and a douche.  Ray Lewis has to plead guilty to obstruction of justice to avoid a murder trial and somehow moves past that to become a great humanitarian and leader.  And the murder is hardly ever mentioned.  Bringing it up on TV or in print seems to have become a faux pas.  Like it is in bad taste to remind the world that this sports hero may have also stabbed a man.

The double standard that Ray Lewis receives astounds me.  Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens used steroids to increase their performance on the baseball field and they have been widely vilified and blackballed from the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Mike Vick beat his dogs (which is terrible) and went to jail for over a year, and has never been thought of the same.  All the while Lewis manages to have his legacy uninfluenced by a much worse incident.  My explanation for this is that Lewis is extremely media/fan friendly and always gives a good interview.  Being friendly and approachable is obviously a good attribute but people seem to assume that Clemens, Bonds and Vick committed worse crimes just because they are dicks.  This is dumb logic.

I am not saying that Ray Lewis is a bad person, or that he definitely killed those men.  We will never know what really happened that night so it would be unfair to judge Lewis exclusively on that one incident.  It is equally unfair however to completely ignore it when forming our opinions of him.  The media need to stop glossing over this extremely unsavory aspect of Lewis’ past and paint the full picture of the man.  Failure to do so would be to ignore the facts in favor of the narrative.  This is irresponsible journalism, and one would think a less common practice after the Te’o debacle.

We shouldn’t ignore the great career of Ray Lewis, but we need to remember that bloody white suit along with all of his tackles and interceptions.

Advertisements

Manti Te’o’s Girlfriend

January 17, 2013

Yesterday afternoon Deadspin broke the craziest story I have ever seen or heard of.  The girlfriend that Manti Te’o supposedly lost to cancer on September 12th, and whom he subsequently dedicated his entire season to, never existed.  Lennay Kakua has no social security number, no record of ever attending Stanford, and no death cetificate or record of a funeral.  The details of the story are available all over the internet but I encourage you to read the original story on Deadspin.  It is by far the most detailed and interesting account out there so far.

This story has raised a ton of questions, and most of them are yet to be answered in a satisfactory manner.  The biggest of these questions is whether Te’o was involved in the hoax or just a victim.  Te’o himself, and the Notre Dame athletic department, have both released statements staunchly claiming that Te’o was misled and victimized by an unnamed internet source.  This is so far fetched that I actually cannot believe Te’o had the balls to even try and lie about it.

My immediate reaction to the official statements from Te’o and Notre Dame was a strong “C’mon Man” and nothing I have heard since then has changed my opinion.  There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Te’o was complicit in the scam from the beginning.  A lot of the details have been omitted by the mainstream sports media so far (ESPN, SI, Yahoo) presumably until they can be verified, but if you read the Deadspin article the evidence really piles up.  Te’o repeatedly claimed to have met Kakua in person, and his father stated that she traveled to Hawaii and spent time with the family.  These accounts are directly at odds with the statements from Te’o and Notre Dame that claim the entire relationship took place online.  It is possible that Te’o’s lies were of the harmless variety and were intended only to make him seem cooler for having an online girlfriend, but the sheer amount of lying and deception involved points to a much deeper secret.

Many people seem to think that being in a multi-year online relationship with a fake person is a reasonable mistake to make.  That something like this could “happen to anyone.”  I am not buying that for a second.  I am sure something like this has actually happened before but not in this day and age.  People, especially young people, are so familiar with the internet and social media now that I refuse to believe anyone could actually have been duped in this manner.  It is very common to get the occasional facebook request or twitter follow from an unknown and very attractive person.  It takes about three minutes of investigation to realize that they aren’t real.  The typical indicators are very few friends or followers, weird or unbelievable information or a lack of long-term activity.  Every high school and college kid in the country could identify these people as fake in minutes.  So how could Te’o have been fooled for years.

While there is not yet any conclusive proof that Te’o was complicit in this scam, the official Raw Thoughts consensus is that he was involved from the beginning.  This would indicate mental unbalance and a general lack of understanding of the way the internet works that may be hard to believe, but its the only explanation that makes any sense.

 

Now lets go rapid fire on some of the other big questions this story has raised.

 

What was the motive behind this deception?The common assumption is that Te’o invented and then faked the death of his girlfriend as a publicity stunt to increase his chances of winning the Heisman.  As of now this is where most of the evidence points and is the most likely answer.

There is another possibility however, one that immediately springs to mind when reading the full details of this situation.  I am going to beat around the bush here because I don”t know if this blog is big enough to get sued for libel, and I don’t want to find out.  In general terms however, I think we can agree that life would be very difficult for a Hawaiian, Mormon, All-American linebacker at Notre Dame who happened to be gay.  We can also agree that one way to avoid allegations of homosexuality is to get a girlfriend.  If you connect the dots it is easy to see an alternate explanation for why Te’o may have been engaged in a fraudulent relationship.

(I want to make it clear that I do not think an athlete, or any person, needs to hide the fact that they are gay.  I am just simply noting that given Teo’s background, were he to be gay, he would probably want to hide it.)

How did this farce last so long?

This question might be more puzzling to me than anything else.  Major props to Deadspin for breaking the story, but they didn’t figure out that Lennay Kakua never existed until 4 months after her “death.”  The tardiness of Deadspin is nothing compared to the complete abdication of journalistic responsibility on the part of the rest of the media.  Sports Illustrated put Te’o on the cover of an issue yet failed to notice that his girlfriend wasn’t enrolled in Stanford, didn’t have a social security number and wasn’t registered at a single hospital.  That is just unacceptable and embarrassing.  ESPN is equally guilty.  The World Wide Leader seems to have given up on actual reporting in favor of holding their dicks and watching Skip Bayless yell at Stephen A. Smith.

Has Delonte West been dethroned as the stupidest athlete on Twitter?

Yes.  100% yes.  Depending on which version of the story you believe Te’o either was tricked into a multi-year relationship with a fake person, or believed he could get away with creating, and then killing off, a fake girlfriend.  Either way, that is the stupidest thing anyone has ever done on Twitter.

What happens next?

The truth is going to come out.  There is too much information out there for this to go away until we get a satisfactory answer.  My guess is that the eventual answers come from an NFL team.  Anybody thinking about drafting Te’o has to be in complete panic mode trying to wrap their heads around this situation.  They have the money and the motivation to get to the bottom of this and I believe they will figure it out.

 

I want to wrap this up with a joke I stole from twitter.

Check out Manti Te’o’s girlfriend in a bikini:

deserted-beach-island-slkdl

 

Raw Predictions

January 2, 2013

Now that I have recapped the past year its time to abuse another sportswriter cliche and make some predictions for the upcoming year in sports.  Here are ten things that I am pretty sure will happen in 2013.  Starting with the most likely and going down from there.

 

1.  The Chiefs will blow the number 1 pick- This is an absolute mortal lock to happen.  If vegas took bets on things like this I would put my net worth on it. (Not very much unless you count the car my parents bought me.  Which I do.)  The Chiefs haven’t had a successful draft in years and for reasons beyond my comprehension decided to keep Scott Pioli as GM.  Nearly every single one of Pioli’s major decisions, draft picks and coaching hires, have been disastrous.  I predict the Chiefs either reach for a completely unqualified QB or draft a third consecutive defensive lineman with great measurables and really sheisty college stats.  Worst case scenario here is that the pick ends up as part of a trade package for Michael Vick.  If that happens I may have to permanently switch my allegiances to the ‘Skins bandwagon.  Hail RGIII.

2.  Alabama will crush Notre Dame- The resurgence of Notre Dame is a nice story and all but I don’t think they have a chance in hell of beating Alabama.  Alabama made it through the meat grinder that is the SEC season with only one loss and relatively few close calls.  Notre Dame obviously went undefeated this year but I’m not that impressed.  “Quality” wins over USC and Oklahoma don’t look nearly as impressive now as they did at the time and they had a huge and very questionable call go there way at the end of the Stanford game.  I hope I am wrong on this one, (fat chance) but I’m calling Alabama by at least ten.  I can’t tell if Nick Saban has signed a deal with the devil, or is actually the devil himself.  Either way my money is on the Crimson Tide.

3.  Andy Murray will win at least two majors- This one sounds crazy but I really think Murray follows up his breakout year and starts to dominate the Tennis scene.  Nadal’s body is breaking down and he has already pulled out of the Australian Open with a mysterious stomach virus.  Federer is old and will eventually start to show his age leaving Murray and the Novak Djokovic to split up the majors.  I’m thinking Australia and the French for the Djoker and Wimbledon and the US for Murray.

4.  Duke will win the national title- This is a homer pick, but a defensible one.  Duke has gone undefeated against an incredibly hard schedule, and looked really good doing it.  They pass the eye test, and look even better according to advanced metrics.  This ESPN.com piece, compiled using statistics that I do not understand, has Duke way ahead of the field.  Second place Indiana is closer to 10th place Ohio State than they are to Duke. Duke is pretty clearly the best team this year, and while the best team doesn’t always win the title the blue Devils are my pick.

5.  Brad Stevens will take the UCLA head coaching job- This is a double prediction because it requires incumbent UCLA head coach Ben Howland getting fired, and UCLA convincing Stevens to come to Westwood.  Considering the Bruins early season struggles and general culture of underachievement the former seems like a safe bet. (In 07-08 UCLA had Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison and Kevin Love and failed to win the title.)  The latter could be trickier but should still happen.  Stevens has been wildly successful at Butler and has been offered a couple of better jobs already but has wisely turned them down.  He has hero status at Butler and infinite job security.  It will take a prestigious program and a shit ton of cash to get him away from the Bulldogs.  UCLA can offer both.

(This will piss me off enormously because I want Brad Stevens to take over when Coach K retires.  Hopefully sometime around 2030.)

6.  The Heat will win the NBA title- I hate this so much but it is going to happen.  I don’t even want to talk about it.  Prove me wrong Lob City.

7.  The NHL will cancel the entire season- And absolutely no one will give a shit.

8.  Duke Football will make another bowl game- Quarterback Anthony Boone will lead the blue Devils to at least six wins in a watered down ACC and David Cutcliffe will be hailed (rightly) as the football messiah in Durham.  This one is a little bit of a stretch, but Duke’s defense was young last year and has literally nowhere to go but up.  The offense might regress a bit but six wins is very reasonable.  Keep in mind that I am a huge homer.

9.  The Patriots will win the Super Bowl- I actually have no idea who will win the Super Bowl this year, but it seems like a cop out to make sports predictions and not tackle the biggest sporting event of the year.  The Patriots have an unstoppable offense however and evil genius Bill Belichick calling the shots.  In an unpredictable and hopefully wildly exciting playoffs I like the patriots chances of winning best.

10.  Jadeveon Clowney will win the Heisman- This is the boldest prediction of them all.  No purely defensive player has ever won the Heisman, but that streak has to end sometime.  (Charles Woodson stole the trophy from Peyton Manning in 1997 but he returned kicks and played some receiver in addition to cornerback)  And I can think of no better player to end the offensive player hegemony than Clowney.  He is quite possibly the most athletic person on earth and has been the top rated football player in the country since high school.  And his hit yesterday is actually frightening.  The way he knocked the shit out of that poor Michigan player and then scooped the ball up with one hand is just nuts.

And honestly, just look at the dude.

bilde

The Heisman often comes down to just two players.  Kind of like Thunderdome.  And if two men enter, Jadevon Clowney always fucking leaves.