Weird on Weird: The Te’o Saga Continues

I can’t remember a weirder story than the one involving Manti Te’o.

ESPN.com’s story, which contains mostly responses and reactions, is interesting in comparison to the story that broke on Deadspin.com.

ESPN’s article would have one believe that Te’o was the victim of an elaborate online hoax. Deadspin leads the reader to believe Te’o was involved.  An example or two:

ESPN:

Swarbrick said Te’o never met Kekua in person.

“What I will tell you, this was exclusively an online relationship,” he said.

Deadspin:

Nov. 28, 2009: Te’o and Kekua meet after Stanford’s 45-38 victory over Notre Dame in Palo Alto, according to the South Bend Tribune: “Their stares got pleasantly tangled, then Manti Te’o extended his hand to the stranger with a warm smile and soulful eyes.” Kekua, a Stanford student, swaps phone numbers with Te’o.

ESPN (quoting Te’o):

“This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.”

Deadspin:

2010-2011: Te’o and Kekua are friends. “She was gifted in music, multi-lingual, had dreams grounded in reality and the talent to catch up to them” (South Bend Tribune). “They started out as just friends,” Te’o’s father, Brian, told the Tribune in October 2012. “Every once in a while, she would travel to Hawaii, and that happened to be the time Manti was home, so he would meet with her there.”

Those accounts are quite different. Which is the truth?  I dunno.  I guess we’ll see which one shows up first on Oprah.

The biggest thing that bothers me about all this is the media.  How does a story this big, this false, pass through the media’s fingers with no one ever asking a question?  Did not one reporter from Hawaii, California, South Bend or anywhere else, think about contacting the girlfriend’s family or friends or think about visiting the doctors who treated her or grave site where she was buried?  Why did no one even think about practicing a little journalism? 

There’s a lesson somewhere in this for all of us.

 

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Worrying About the Tide

If you’re like me, you woke up yesterday morning a tad bit disgusted with yourself for worrying any at all about the BCS title game with Notre Dame.

I try my best to keep worrying about football in perspective. After all the Bible says this about worrying:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 ESV

This passage even applies to football, as small as it may be in the whole big scheme of things. So I certainly don’t want to sin by worrying about football, of all things.

But I was a tad bit concerned. I mean, I do like to win and I do hate losing and I really didn’t want to lose to Notre Dame. Thankfully, most of the 37 days between the SEC championship game and the title game were very busy for me personally and I didn’t have a lot of time to think about football, much less worry about it. So I was good on the worrying front for a while.

Also, after going through two previous “off-seasons” between Bama’s last game and the championship game, I knew it was best to avoid as much media as possible to avoid the inevitable overload.

But around Christmas, the schedule slacked up a bit (thankfully) and I could turn more attention to football (and to this blog). I

So I began paying more attention to the media and somewhat got sucked into the idea that Notre Dame had a chance. On Tuesday I began thinking about how they sucked us** in.  Here are a few thoughts:

1) Notre Dame is Notre Dame and the media folk were glad to see them back. The Irish have arguably the top brand in college football and they’ve been mishmash for white a while. The opportunity to hype an undefeated Irish team caused all reason to flee the media.

2) It was Notre Dame vs. Alabama. This was perhaps the best match up the ESPN folks could have imagined. How can a match up between these programs not be hyped to the max and over hyped to the point of hoping for a competitive game?

3) Would Alabama have its “mind right?” This was part of the “dynasty vs. destiny” talk. After all, a hungry-haven’t been-here-in-a-long-time Notre Dame team surely had an emotional advantage over Bama. Fueling this fire was talk of players being sent home and distracted practices. Many Tide fans also remember the cockiness and entitled feeling of the 1992 Miami Hurricanes and were over eager to find any sort of hint of this happening this time around (so, of course, that it could be appropriately snuffed out in plenty of time).

4) Bama was a 10-point favorite. 24-14 or 34-24 would have been a lot different than 42-14. 42-14 is a wood shedding. 24-14 is a much too close game where a turnover or penalty can swing momentum and change the outcome.

In the end, though, our common sense should have prevailed. Alabama was better at every single position group – including linebacker – than the Irish. Notre Dame struggled against some much weaker teams. Alabama’s one loss came against a team quarterbacked by a Heisman winner a week after traveling to LSU and winning in the final moments. And this list could go on.

Before the game, this was one comment I had:

We’re the favorite heading into next Monday’s game.  If both teams play their best, we should win and it might not even be close.  But if we turn the ball over and play spotty on special teams we can expect something similar to the first four games in this series.  And that’s what scares me.

In the end, I think proved to be true.  I just wish I had listened to my own words.

Roll Tide, everyone, and enjoy #15.

 

National Championship Next Day Thoughts

In 2006, I took the family to Knoxville to watch Alabama play Tennessee.  My kids were young and really didn’t understand all that was happening, but I remember one of them asking, “Dad, will we ever win again?”

Of course, my daughter lacked any sort of historical perspective and didn’t understand the rich heritage of Alabama football, so she couldn’t be soothed by the memories of victories past.  And I have to say, I didn’t honestly know how long it would take for us to win again.

Fast forward six years and a few months later, and we now bask in the glow of three national championships in four years.  I grew up in the 1970s and never thought that sort of dominance could be repeated.  But it has.

To be honesty, I’m sort of numb.  Three out of four is hard to fathom.  Beating down Notre Dame 42-14 is hard to fathom.  Realizing that we are watching some of the best players to ever play at Alabama is hard to fathom.

A few comments on the game…

*** Manti Te’0 is a class act and has an incredible personal story.  He’s hard to root against.  Perhaps Te’o just had a bad game at a bad time – I guess his pro career will tell that tale, but if not, he appears to have been vastly overrated.  That’s not necessarily his fault.  I think the media wanted so badly for Notre Dame to be good and hitched their wagon to Te’0.

*** Eddie Lacy, now that he’s healthy, is a beast.  He was clearly playing through some issues early in the season and wasn’t full go.  The last two games, however, we’ve seen the full Lacy.  He’s big, strong, fast, quick to the hole and, of course, has the spin move.  Lacy will make a great pro back.

*** Alabama wanted the game on Everett Golson’s shoulders and that’s what they got.  He really didn’t play all that badly – 21 of 36 for 270 yards a touchdown and a pick, but in the first half the ND offense didn’t make plays when they needed them.  And there was really no way the Irish offense could keep up with Bama’s.

*** The Tide defense allowed 302 yards, with the vast majority of those coming through the air.  To me, that’s not on the defensive backs, but the result of a lack of a pass rush.  We need a dominant pass rusher in the mode of either Courtney Upshaw or Marcel Dareus.

*** Speaking of defensive backs, it was bold of Irish coach Brian Kelly to try to pick on Dee Milliner.  Does he know something the rest of the country doesn’t?

*** And speaking of Kelly, nice concession speech on the way to the locker room at half time.

*** I guess Barrett Jones could block Louis Nix III after all.

It’s the off season now.  Lord willing, we’ll have more time to discuss what just happened.

Roll Tide.

Game Day

We’ve finally made it to game day.  Thirty-seven days after beating Georgia in the SEC title game, the Tide finally gets to play again.  For all the marbles.  Against Notre Dame.  As a heavy favorite.

The glass half-full part of me sees all of this and winces.  I see a set up and I see things like this:

Alabama’s first national title under Nick Saban was hard and was fueled in a big way by the loss to Florida in the 2008 SEC championship game.  The 2011 title – just last year – was hard, but was fueled in a big way by the big-time under achieving in 2010.

But as hard as the first two were, the one played for tonight will be – and has been – even harder.  Winning two titles in three years brings along a bandwagon of satisfied, entitled and expecting.  To fight through that and compete – simply because of the challenge – takes a special person and a special team.

Bama’s favored by 9 or 10 points, but Notre Dame is a worthy opponent and I’m certain they will bring their “A” game and play their best.  As I’ve mentioned before, our plan will be to make life miserable for Everett Golson.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we went up-tempo to start the game and wouldn’t be surprised if we keep the ball in the air.  But at some point, we’ll ask Chance Warmack and company to take the game over.  If we take care of the ball, we should be fine.  If we don’t, all bets are off.

Prediction: Alabama 20, Notre Dame 13

“At some point in the game, you have to take the game.”

Nick Saban addressed the world last night via his radio show and said this in response to a question by Phil Savage:

Saban cited some of the usual factors such as tackling, turnovers, control of the line of scrimmage and finishing. He said it’s impossible to carry over momentum from the regular season, so the team must approach this as a one-game season and play with passion and “tremendous mental toughness. At some point in the game, you have to take the game.”

Well said, coach Saban, well said.

This match up with Notre Dame reminds me most of games with LSU over the last few years.  With LSU, there hasn’t been a lot of fancy stuff, mostly just smash-mouth football.  Old man football.  And that’s what we’ll see against the Irish.  Sure, we may see the occasional hurry-up offense, but mostly, I think, we’ll see who can run the ball the best and who can protect their quarterback the best.

As I’ve said before, I believe the game for Notre Dame will fall on the shoulders of Everett Golson.  If Golson can avoid poor decisions and be accurate on third downs, the Irish will be able to move the ball on Bama and it may be a long night.

Defensively, the Irish will load up to stop the run.  We shouldn’t be fooled; we won’t be playing the Georgia defense Monday night.  The Golden Domers may not be as talented as the Dawgs, but they are a better defense and will sell out to stop the Tide’s running game.

From Bama’s view point, stopping the run on first down and forcing second-and-long and third-and-long is a must.  This, as mentioned above, puts the game on Golson’s shoulders and forces him to be the hero.  To turn Golson into the goat, Alabama’s extra defensive backs – Geno Washington and Vinnie Sunseri – have to have good games.  A high percentage night by Golson means they didn’t.

Offensively, it’ll be interesting to see how the Tide plays this one.  The offensive line is better run blocking than pass blocking, but the Irish will load up to stop the run.  Will the Tide force it’s will onto the Irish and run the ball anyway?  Or will we put the game on McCarron’s back again and try to take advantage of an over matched Irish secondary?  My guess here is that we try to play fast from the beginning, score quickly and put as much pressure as possible on the Notre Dame offense.

Tackling, turnovers and the line of scrimmage – again, all those matter.  But as coach Saban also said, eventually to win the game you have to take it.  We’ll see if our boys are up to the challenge.

 

This is Going to Hurt You More than It Hurts Me

The players recommended it and Nick Saban punched the tickets:

“When you’re in a situation such as this and you’re playing in a big game like this, you have to establish a focus,” Warmack said at Saturday’s Media Day at Sun Life Stadium. “In order to establish that, you have to make examples of some people. As hard as it is, you still have to do that.”

It’ll be interesting to see the long-term impact this has on the two players involved.  Saban commented on that:

“It was more difficult for me to carry this out than it may be even for the players because I love the players. I love the players on our team. I don’t really ever want to do anything that hurts a player. But does this hurt a player? Or does this help a player understand the consequences of not doing what’s been defined for you to do?”

 

 

More Saban Jedi Mind Tricks?

As fans, we look for any clues leading up to ball games to let us know if our team is prepared and ready.  So, I’ll have to admit, at first I didn’t take this as a good sign:

“We sent two players home due to a curfew violation,” Saban said in the statement.

Nope.  Not good at all.  I don’t care if it’s two team managers getting sent home, I wouldn’t view this as a good sign.

And then I got to thinking.

What if this is another of Nick Saban’s Jedi Mind Tricks?  Planned or not, Saban is a master at using the unwitting media to serve somewhat of a useful purpose.  Maybe this is another example.

The Tide rolls into Miami as the across-the-board favorites.  Bama is the strongest team in the strongest league and that’s a fact.  What’s also a fact is the media hype is about to intensified  100 fold as the bowl season ends and all attention turns to Miami.  What if Saban is tired of hearing how much better his team is than Notre Dame, especially when we’ve seen a couple of SEC teams (coughFloridacough) underwhelm recently?  And what if Tide practices haven’t gone as well and haven’t been as intense as he would prefer?

Sending a couple of subs home early might be just the message he needs to send to his team heading into the weekend before the game.  And if the media chirps about that this weekend rather than talking about how great the Tide is, that would be swell, too.