September 21st, 2014

Pogue’s Ponderings: Some sports stories these days hard to believe

by Greg Pogue

Remember when competition among athletes was the lead story and sidebars were just that.

These days, there is an incessant news cycle in a world of immediate access via all the mutations of social media. It feeds a voracious desire to quench an insatiable appetite to keep abreast of what’s happening now.

   And now. And now.

   Oops, did we miss something?

   And now. And now.

Somebody’s utterance in 140 characters or less can find its way onto Sportscenter in a matter of moments. Then there is the reaction to the reaction to the reaction of the reaction. Man, that sure went viral.

Thus, the emphasis on reporting more of the peripheral in sports than just the routine of results. This team beat that team. Now, go find the unique angle. Peel back the onion and show us the core.

Many times, though, that can be a good thing. Investigative reporting and diligence by those who want to make sure wrongs are turned into rights, or at least have been vetted for public perusal, have led to many disturbing finds.

In 2012, the top four national sports stories of the year, according to the Associated Press, had nothing to do with who won or lost. Instead, the sordid PennState tragedy of convicted child molester and former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was sadly the No. 1 sports story in the country last year.

And rightfully so. The story eventually took down iconic PennState football coach Joe Paterno, whose wins during that time were expunged, his stadium statue removed, and his death during the proceedings only adding to the lore.

Following that at No. 2 was defrocked cyclist Lance Armstrong, who had his seven Tour de France titles vacated. Just this past week, he already has made a strong case to be among the top five stories of 2013 when he admitted to Opray Winfrey that he was a cheater and liar throughout his now-tarnished career.

The worst part about Armstrong was his bullying and trying to ruin the lives of those who now are known to have told the truth concerning his cheating. Here’s hoping his self-serving attempts to rehab his image falls on deaf ears.

Top stories Nos. 3 and 4 last year were the NFL “Bounty-Gate” case with the New Orleans Saints players and the NFL’s growing issue concerning player concussions. It wasn’t until the No. 5 slot – the Summer Olympics in London -- that competition finally appeared among the top sports stories of last year.

With all that said, it will difficult to imagine a story the remainder of the year being more sensational and impactful and curious than the bizarre case of Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te’o. We still don’t know whether he is victim or villain of an elaborate online hoax where his girlfriend who died during the season to much public attention turned out to have never existed.

With a non-camera interview Friday with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap and other reporting by various media outlets, the public sentiment is that Te’o might have been actually duped, making him the most gullible person in the history of gullibility. Come Thursday, his first on-camera interview with ABC’s Katie Couric will air.

And here I thought all the time that “catfishing” was heading to PercyPriestLake, putting a worm on a hook, and pulling that big boy to the boat or land and, eventually, getting it ready for the frying pan. Who knew that it was also a term used by those who entrap unsuspecting souls in elaborate online hoaxes?

Guess it’s not good a thing to be a catfish. Just ask Te’o.

Call it a generational thing, but it is nearly beyond belief that a person can profess such emotions and wear them on their sleeve for the world to see without every seeing that person at face-to-face at least once. But there are a lot of credible folks, especially Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, who believe the Te’o version of what happened without reproach.

What’s next? Aliens suiting up to play? Make sure they pass their ACT and have a strong core curriculum academically.

Or maybe they’re already here in the coaching ranks. Leading candidates for moles from other worlds are Alabama’s Nick Saban and New England’s Bill Belichick. That might be a more believable story than the an imaginary girlfriend who died grabbing national headlines.

Speaking of that, think of all the national news agencies who also were duped. Te’o and his story made the cover of Sports Illustrated. To their defense, nobody could have imagined anything like this.

And really now, who could see that one coming?

Greg Pogue is host of The First Quarter on 102.5-FM The Game ESPN Radio Nashville. E-mail him at


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