Girl: Do not try to bend the spoon, that’s impossible; only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Girl: There is no spoon.
– The Matrix
We generally try to stay relevant to the topic in this space. And college athletics is anything but relevant in the realm of Boston sports media. That said, the Manti Te’o saga, probably the strangest story to break since the ascent of Twitter, has destroyed the Internet, induced a litany of conspiracy theories, and, ultimately, illuminated a myriad of failings on the part of major publications across the country; leaving one, rather unlikely, entity, Deadspin, standing atop the mountain.
To tersely recap, Te’o’s girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, died of leukemia hours after his grandmother passed away. Only she didn’t, because Kekua never actually existed. Under the guise of Te’o’s emotional leadership, Notre Dame would go undefeated before losing in the National Championship Game. Elements of this inspirational story were told across multiple outlets, including ESPN, Sports Illustrated, LA Times, New York Times, the AP and more; recounted on CBS This Morning; and, perhaps, the cathartic nature helped spearhead Te’o’s prominence as a Heisman candidate. (The last of which, we hold reservations towards – he did have to, you know, make plays on the field.)
Notre Dame held a gripping press conference last night where it stood behind its embattled linebacker, claiming he had been a victim of an elaborate hoax. That’s where we are.
Make no mistake about it, on a much, much smaller scale, this story echoes the New York Times’ shoddy reporting during the weapons of mass destruction stories early last decade, which, no matter where your political allegiances lay, helped justify a war.It will be taught in journalism classes. Probably forever.
Speculating whether or not Te’o was complicit, knew at some point, or was completely oblivious is not a practice we have any interest in participating in; nor is wondering What This All Means. (that’s something I’ll tackle in next week’s Obstructed View column. Here is yesterday’s column, in case you missed it.)
Let the record show, however, Deadspin insinuated Te’o willingly participated in the hoax. And, more than any other news outlet, the one whom boasts, “Sports News Without Favor, Access or Discretion,” is to be trusted most here. Remarkably, they’ve earned that right. How, exactly, did we get to this point?
Last summer, I had a lengthy conversation with Deadspin’s co-founder and editor emeritus, Will Leitch. The New York Magazine editor, GQ contributor, and Sports On Earth columnist, told me he left Deadspin because “it was time.” His assertions are better described in his ode to his successor, A.J. Daulerio, entitled, “A.J. Ruined Deadspin, Thank God.” Editorially speaking, how you feel about paying for Brett Favre penis photos is certainly polarizing, but as Leitch wrote, Daulerio did, in fact, take Deadspin to the next level. Favre’s penis paid for the “art projects” and real reporting, like the Te’o story. When Daulerio left to become editor-in-chief of Gawker (Deadspin’s parent company), his replacement, Tommy Craggs, who turned down an opportunity to join forces with Bill Simmons at Grantland, used the leverage spawned from Daulerio’s reign to further push Deadspin away from smut and towards what it is today, which as we found out Wednesday night, is an amalgam of hilarious sports commentary (do yourself a favor and read Drew Magary if you haven’t already) and fantastic investigative pieces.
It’s still a Gawker site – the stench of the big screen identifying what content is generating page views will always exist, but it seems to have worked out. In my lengthy interview with Richard Deitsch, the renowned Sports Illustrated media columnist, we talked about Deadspin at length. “ … I’ve always said this,” Deitsch told me. “They do not pretend to be The New York Times, they do not play by the same rules as everyone else, so you have to judge them on that.”
He’s right. Deadspin is not the New York Times … they could be better.
This Week In Felger &
Senator McCarthy appears confused, and is on the verge of combusting. “It’s a quarterback’s league,” the Governor bemoaned all season long. Yet, The Last Great Contrarian is picking the Ravens, and Joe Flacco, to beat the Patriots, despite having Tom Brady under center.
This, among other things, is why The Squeaky One Who Agrees found himself in a precarious position, and with tremendous trepidation, announced “You’re going against your core values.”
The Likely Bitter One Who Deserves His Own Platform announced that the Kanye West Of Sports Radio ranked Flacco 20th amongst his peers starting in the NFL. Ye’ responded, claiming if you switched the surrounding situations of Flacco and Mark Sanchez, the difference in outcomes would be immaterial.
“You’re wrong,” a stunned (and undoubtedly freighted) Squeaky One Who Agrees retorted.
“I have a gut feeling. Too many things went the Patriots way last time, and won’t this time around,” Senator McCarthy fired back.
A slow gaze was shared between He & His Cohorts. The three looked at one another, realizing the Sports Radio Zenith – a true nirvana – had been reached: Arguing against oneself. A special moment that should be captured in a time capsule.
It was a productive day.