|Cupid can make mischief online.|
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Manti Te'o and the continued primacy of football
We have all been familiar with such names. The comic strip popped back into my thoughts recently with that media storm over that Notre Dame football player.
Talk about a name that looks like a typo: "Manti Te'o." Nothing wrong with the first name. It's an atypical first name but only by our established Anglo standards (although getting less established all the time). We are all having to adjust to names that never would have fit in with the kind of TV sitcoms that boomers watched in their youth. Such sitcoms have been referred to as "benevolent Aryan melodramas." No, the name "Manti Te'o" wouldn't have fit in there.
What looks like a typo is this fellow's last name. I have gotten used to non-Anglo names but this apostrophe business is something new. Nothing wrong with it, I'm just not used to it.
Until just very recently, I couldn't have told you who this individual is. On the day the big "scandal" story broke, I needed some background on who he was and who he played for.
People who follow my writing - God bless you all - know I have grown quite skeptical about football. To a very large extent I have withdrawn from the sport. It's hard to go "cold turkey." There is a slight curiosity appeal I still see in the sport. The sport has terrible health consequences for its participants, with new revelations rolling out regularly. George Will asserts the problems may well not be solvable. A significant Bloomberg piece asserts that football doesn't have a "concussion problem," it has an "existential problem."
But football still seems very much to reign in American culture. So, that big national championship game involving Te'o's team was a marquee item, I guess. It was Notre Dame vs. Alabama. The Catholic institution of Notre Dame didn't have a prayer. The southern boys romped. The Alabama coach didn't even seem happy having Gatorade poured over him. He's getting paid very well to put up with such annoyances. Maybe it's time for that awkward "Gatorade shower" tradition to end. Just like the "tomahawk chop."
There wasn't much for journalists to mine in the Notre Dame vs. Alabama game, at least not from the on-field stuff. Off the field? Significant fodder emerged. First we had the "Brent Musburger controversy" in which the old venerated broadcaster - "You are looking live. . ." - fawned excessively over a woman deemed attractive. Our changing culture has made such comments not necessarily innocuous. We've come a long way from the Dean Martin Variety Hour.
The Musburger story ran its course in the news cycle, then along comes linebacker Manti Te'o with his romance and tragedy escapades - a real tear-jerker for a time. I followed none of this as it developed. I needed a "primer" when the scandal angle broke out.
This is a young man who plays football. Who really cares if his thoughts run a little wild sometimes? I don't think young people are nearly as excited about this "scandal" as older folks like me. Young people know how easy it is to create sort of a fantasy universe for yourselves online. The line between reality and fantasy is at least blurred.
If this kid weren't a "football star," nobody would care about whatever cockeyed directions his perception took with online communications. The media see him as a sports star and put him under a microscope for reasons having nothing to do with his football talents. Young people see it as ridiculous, I feel. Give the guy his 15 minutes of fame and then let's all move on.
I'd like to suggest we all just move on from big-time college football. Columnist Will has been growing skeptical about college football for some time. He talks about the "coach centrism" that has taken away some of the appeal of football as a simple test of athletic skills between two teams of athletes. Coaches have become these genius superpowers unto themselves, more important and better paid than governors of their states. These empires have to come under closer scrutiny, to see why it is such models are necessary to simply present a sports product.
The Manti Te'o story is also about the big traditional commercial media. That media establishment is close to "jumping the shark" if it hasn't already done so. It must have found the debt ceiling issue to be boring. Or, maybe it found it could no longer scare us with stories like the debt ceiling "impending crisis," because there is now a "cry wolf" ring to such stories. This is due to what the media dragged us through with the "fiscal cliff." Endless experts coming on these TV studio sets and saying "I think we're going over the fiscal cliff." Stock up on freeze-dried food, everyone.
Except of course there was no crisis. Politicians got together and enabled the country to limp along a little longer, which is what they always do. The big push at the end of that episode was from "Wall Street finance Republicans." So, that tells us, lest there be any doubt, that Wall Street is running America. At least until we get to Bastille Day.
We should be focused on macro economic issues. Instead the media steer us toward a young man who has an imaginary girlfriend. He's "news" because he's a talented football player. Heaven help us all.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org