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Pete Rose, Lance Armstrong and an obligatory mention of Manti Te’o

Jan 17, 2013, 11:33 AM EDT

I’m sure you wanted to know what Pete Rose thinks of the Lance Armstrong situation. Thankfully, he was on Today Show this morning and was asked about it:

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No word on his views of Manti Te’o.

Speaking of Armstrong, Rose and Te’o, it’s probably a good time to think hard about why our sports media keeps getting duped by lying athletes.  To that end, here is a great article from Poynter about how these things keep happening and how the media can most effectively address it.  As for how we ended up here in the first place. It’s not just lax fact-checking. It’s that baloney has is, in reality, a feature of sports coverage, not a bug:

But this relaxed approach to sports coverage — which certainly isn’t universal — is only part of the problem. More problematic these days is the fact that sports writers and producers are always on the hunt for a narrative, something that can elevate games above boring statistics and leaderboard shuffling.

All journalists love telling a good story, but sports coverage and presentation have become reliant on it. A game can’t just be a series of pre-prepared tactics and random interventions of chance. These days, it needs to be a clash of iconic personalities, the heroes of our modern mythology playing out their epic storylines one installment at a time.

We’ve been railing against that kind of thing in baseball for years. When we do, we’re often told that we don’t truly understand what’s going on if we don’t know the personalities and the drama involved.  Personally, I’m cool with staying away from that kind of drama.

  1. gosport474 - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    Totally agree, the Kardashianism of sports has gone way overboard.

    • El Bravo - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:44 AM

      The Kardashians have gone so overboard they are now an “ism”. I’m scared.

      • Old Gator - Jan 17, 2013 at 1:19 PM

        The Kardashians are a symptom, not a cause. Their dabblings with in vitro virtilization – which in their case probably means mixing the sperm donations of someone already tested for idiocy chromosomes with composted manure before being implanted in their brain stems – are just further evidence of basic functions they apparently don’t know how to perform, heavily CGI-faked home videos notwithstanding. The downfall of civilization began when the tabloids were moved from the magazine rack at the back of the grocery store to their current position by the checkout counter. Now, everyone gets their little injection of stupid on the way home to eat. I believe the susceptibility of the already marginally stupid to Glenn Beck’s tirades and the rise of the Tea Party must be, at least to some degree, attributable to this phenomenon.

      • dontfeedgigantor - Jan 17, 2013 at 9:52 PM

        “The downfall of civilization began when the tabloids were moved from the magazine rack at the back of the grocery store to their current position by the checkout counter.”

        I disagree. The same can be said about the nonsense spewed on so-called news channels. The problem is that people just don’t ignore it. They give in to that primal, reptilian part of their brain and eat that crap up. Turn the TV off; ignore the tabloid stand. The brain is similar to a muscle in that it has to be exercised to say in good shape. If people would simply engage their brains more often, then perhaps they’d realize that such garbage is neither relevant nor meaningful to their own lives and they’d stop paying attention to it.

        It’s really too bad that public schools don’t teach critical thinking. Critical thinking and skepticism can eliminate a lot of time-wasting bullshit from daily life. I was always bored to death in school, but now that I’m older, I just want to soak up as much information as I can. I can’t afford to fill my head with nonsense.

        I kind of think that the average person really isn’t all that dumb, just mentally lazy. But to be honest, that’s probably a bit more depressing than if they were just stupid.

      • Old Gator - Jan 18, 2013 at 2:25 AM

        As a specialist in the reptilian brain – just ask my pet rattlesnake, Friendo – I can assure you that although it is possible to ignore reality television like the Kardashians and surreality television like the Trailer Park Network news by just not watching it, it is not possible to ignore the tabloid covers at the supermarket checkout counter – not, that is, if you want to be sure to get the correct change back. No one pays for groceries with their eyes closed the way Feesh fans, all ten of them, will pay for their seats this season. Ergo, I restate my assertion that it is, indeed, the unavoidable tabloid covers at the supermarket that are making us dumber that the avoidable garbage on TV.

  2. rajplayscoy - Jan 17, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    Pete Rose at Lego Land! Awesome visual.

    • Old Gator - Jan 17, 2013 at 1:23 PM

      He actually visited the dwarves in the Lego mine, too. I wonder who carried his canary.

      • heyblueyoustink - Jan 17, 2013 at 1:40 PM

        Lego Bilbo of course!

  3. natslady - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    Personally, I’m cool with staying away from that kind of drama.

    Except when it involves the Red Sox.

    • bklynbaseball - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:32 PM

      Absolutely!! Can’t wait for Theo’s book next week!

  4. mybrunoblog - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    Sports journalism is become fueled by what people are buzzing about on the Internet, twitterverse, sports radio etc. Long gone are the days of a sports columnist creating a strong narrative that will set a news trend. There is a a new evolving order in the world off sports reporting. The Manti Te’o story illustrates this fact perfectly.

  5. natslady - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    The link to the article didn’t work for me (Chrome browser), so I’ll substitute a couple of my own thoughts. (Actually, I was with you, Craig, until your last sentence…)

    Part of the problem, IMO, is the nature of college sports. There are too many teams, so unless you are (a) betting (b) rooting for your alma mater or (c) in an area where there is no pro team–there isn’t much to go by except the “narratives” and the Heisman candidates. Part of the fun of rooting for a team is getting to know the players, and that’s really hard to do in college sports beyond the top few in the country. Not the top few on each team in a game, the top few in the country. Yet game after game, and bowl game after bowl game is presented on national television, when most are only of legitimate local or regional interest.

    You have the same phenomenon in the Olympics, where you have obscure athletes (and obscure sports) so the way to gin up the interest is with “back-stories.” How many of those back-stories are checked beyond the athlete’s coach, teammates and parents? Bottom line is, as long as people are nosy about the private lives of athletes, movie stars and politicians, paparazzi will earn their dimes…

    AND, there are a lot of dimes, plus you are seeing more and more outlets trying to get a share of the $pie, and they have more and more airtime to fill. On the case at hand, I have no doubt that Te’o and his friends dreamed this up for his Heisman candidacy, and the University was complicit. You would think after Paterno/Sandusky, the press would be more cynical about athletes, athletic directors and administrators, but so far, not.

    In the end, this was a pretty harmless hoax, no one actually died and a lot of fools ended up with their folly shown up. (And Te’o didn’t win the Heisman, right?) Take it as a warning and do better, that’s what I ask.

    • natslady - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:41 PM

      Sorry about the italics. Do we have that edit function yet?

    • historiophiliac - Jan 17, 2013 at 1:26 PM

      Not to bust on my alma mater or anything but when a local sports reporter wrote an unflattering personal story about a college player here a few years back, the coach went off at a press conference and I’m pretty sure that rant went viral (thanks, Spikey). There haven’t been any more of those negative stories since. No one wants to hear them anyway. They *want* the inspiring heartwarming crap. We are suckers for that and vote for it with our dollars.

    • yahmule - Jan 17, 2013 at 5:00 PM

      I think just about everybody has lost someone they cared about and been personally affected by that terrible disease. If Te’o and his friends decided to trivialize it by using it as a media prop, then they’re pretty despicable.

      • dontfeedgigantor - Jan 17, 2013 at 10:45 PM

        It seems kind of obvious that he had to have been in on it. Even if he was dumb enough to be duped initially, he obviously figured it out at some point and went along with it. According to Notre Dame’s own statement, he told them it was a hoax two days before he talked about her again in an interview. So clearly at some point he was knowingly propagating the story.

        But seeing as how the likely hoaxster was a family friend, the number of holes in the story, and the sheer absurdity of someone being stupid enough to fall for a fake girl for over a year, I think it’s more likely that he was in on it from the start.

  6. randygnyc - Jan 17, 2013 at 12:45 PM

    I’ve watched the first two episodes of Pete’s reality show. He’s a spitting image of my late father, in more than one way. I recognize that’s the primary source of my bias, but I watched Pete play for many years, and I’m sympathetic to his troubles. If nothing else, I hope Pete finds the monetary success I know he so desperately wants. His self imposed banishment from baseball has essentially ruined his life. I hope he lives to see himself properly enshrined in the HOF.

    • historiophiliac - Jan 17, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      Dude, how am I not supposed to call you Pete Jr. now?

      • paperlions - Jan 17, 2013 at 1:48 PM


      • historiophiliac - Jan 17, 2013 at 2:01 PM

        Yes! Even better, paper. :)

  7. sportsdrenched - Jan 17, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    I can’t beleive Fawn would date guys like that. Ewwwwwwwww!

  8. sdelmonte - Jan 17, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    I don’t see much resemblance between Te’o and Armstrong. The media went after Lance for years, even when I think a lot of people wanted to leave him alone for being an inspiration.

    A better analogy is the 1998 home run derby, where everyone knew about the andro in McGwire’s locker and chose to pursue the story of the chase to the exclusion of the questions they (and we) should have asked. And even here, it’s really a very different sort of story since the Great Girlfriend Hoax probably did a lot less to make Te’o play better than PEDs.

    Which isn’t to say that the mainstream media shouldn’t be embarrassed today. But each of these topics (and Rose, too) is rather unique.

    • dontfeedgigantor - Jan 17, 2013 at 10:35 PM

      Armstrong didn’t just lie repeatedly, he attacked the people who accused him of doping. He sued, and he attacked people personally. He probably wrecked quite a few lives in the process, all to keep his image intact. People knew that he was doping for years, but his aggressive tactics and his influence kept the public thinking that he was clean.

      I really don’t care about the doping. Everyone in cycling was doing it. But Armstrong is just an asshole.

      As far as Te’o goes, what he did was pretty low, but if he would just admit it and move on, then I’d be fine with that.

  9. baccards - Jan 17, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    So much drama, so little importance – The “reporting” of fictional happenings and accomplishments goes back to, at the very least, Bill Stern in the 30’s and 40’s (that is in the 20th century for you kids)
    It can be quite a hoot.

  10. Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Jan 17, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    The problem is that we as a society are always looking for someone to put up on a pedestal, and then are for some reason shocked to discover they are human beings. It becomes an endless feedback loop of hype, to the point that when something like finding out Lance Armstrong doped, or that MLB players used PEDs, or that Manti…well, I don’t even want to speculate on that until the facts are out…the point is, the same people who endlessly hyped these people up to sell ads now have to feel this sanctimonious sense of betrayal (which is still just to sell ads).

    No matter how all of this turns out, whether people learn to forgive Lance Armstrong, or Pete Rose, or Manti probably-knew-about-it-all-along…I hope we can all agree that we’re still holding out for Tim Tebow getting caught with a dead hooker.

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