Thursday, January 17, 2013

Swarbrink summons his inner Fonzie

Just as I was beginning to fathom the most unusual story I believe I've ever heard, it jumped the shark like a boss.

What the hell was Notre Dame's Jack Swarbrick thinking getting in front of cameras and mics for nearly a full hour answering questions about an imaginary dead girlfriend? Every time it started to get that TMZ/Entertainment Tonight feel I had to remind myself - this athletic director of one of the biggest, most historic programs in college football is talking about a fictitious person. He's sticking up for a former player, but it's a player with some serious character flaws at odd mental illness at worst.

Regardless of how much Manti knew and when, is he worth the ridicule and shame of this scandal? Granted he and the team are intertwined pretty tightly. But I still think most programs stay at arm's length on this one. At least I would hope so.

So it's clear Notre Dame is still wrapped inside the Manti Te'o bubble; basking in the glory of a nearly undefeated season that thrust them into the national limelight and discussion. They can't see the forest for the piles of lies that have obstructed their view.

I don't care much for Notre Dame. Especially since they cover up sexual assault scandals better than they do ones with fake girlfriends. But watching that press conference last night was truly sad. One player became bigger than the program. We've seen that happen before, arguably even in Athens. But we've never seen it displayed in such a train wreck kind of way.

Te'o will move on somehow. His talent will carry him onto a roster somewhere. But one day the Fighting Irish will look back on Swarbrick's press conference and wonder...WTF were we thinking?

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Two more things. I've seen and heard some of the media say things like "Deadspin of all places" and "that site" with a large measure of consternation and disdain. Say what you will about the sports/entertainment/gossip-y website, but they did something the rest of the national sports media failed to do - check sources and investigate leads. Hell, ESPN even mentioned the site by name (BOTH on the scroll and audibly in their report) in lieu of their infamous "Sources" catchall. So the least some of the media can do is admit they were duped as much as Te'o is claiming to have been.

Also, I feel bad for the next athlete that has a true emotionally wrenching and heartbreaking story. This scandal has set a precedent. And it will be vetted and checked beyond measure.