Category Archives: Spirituality

How Will the Te’o Madness End?

TeoI have no idea how this Manti Te’o madness will end. Right now, all I know is that I feel as if I’m being duped. I don’t know by whom, or by everyone (including my sportswriter colleagues who are no doubt enduring some serous career soul-searching tonight).

There are still soooo many questions, too many to even articulate. And the answers we’ve received, well, at least for me, don’t quite complete the most bizarre puzzle I may have ever witnessed in this profession.

Of course, the biggest question may be the simplest one: Why?

If Te’o is truly the victim, then why would someone go such machinations to perpetrate this hoax. Is this what passes for fun in the digital age? Is this what our kids have to look forward to, or be wary of? As a friend of mine often says, Who does that?!

If he’s not the victim, then why?

He seems like a fine young man, a spiritual young man–and he’s a terrific football player. He captured our consciousness for his play on the field, for his leadership. And he should have a solid future playing on Sundays.

So why?!

It has been reported that Te’o will speak soon, perhaps has early as Thursday. He must, and he must soon.

Because right now, only he can stop the madness.

Gabby: You’ve Done Enough.

If I was advising Gabby Douglas I’d have told her to pack her leotard and two gold medals right after the all-around and told her to become the most famous prime-time cheerleader on the planet.

I wouldn’t have allowed her to touch another uneven bar, floor mat, pommel horse–whatever.

Certainly not in London. Maybe not for the rest of ’12.

Why?

Because she had nowhere to go bot to fall on her tush.

Just as she did today–figuratively–finishing dead last in the unevens, an event at which she typically soars.

But who could be surprised? I wasn’t.

It was enough that she was suddenly the girl on top of the mountain–a very dangerous place to be whether at the Olympics or at back at high school. Suddenly she was the target, the potential notch on the tiny belt of every other woman in the competition.

Moreover, she she suddenly had to deal with the  asinine silliness about her hair, and the unfortunate news of her mom’s bankruptcy filing, and, well, dang, she’s just 16.

Gabby will have to content with more than a mountain of love from us when she returns home. Enough love to choke a kid. More love than we can imagine.

It’s the “price,” as one columnist eloquently stated today.

True. So why add to the bill by making her compete again when her heart and head are clearly still dealing with the good, the bad and the silly of success?

Take a seat, Gabby. Cheer your teammates. Rest. You’ll need it.

God’s Tweet to Stevie Johnson: “I don’t do stupid, dude–and I had nothing to do with those dropped balls!–the REAL Head Coach”

The national reaction to Tim Tebow’s public displays of faith was pretty stunning to me, but again it was not.

He’s not the the first professional athlete to “give God credit” during games. From Mark Bavaro to Barry Bonds to Larry Fitzgerald, athletes in almost every sport have been very public about their faith.

But none have been vilified and mocked like Tebow. Earlier this year, two of those laugh-a-minute Detroit Lions – linebacker Stephen Tulloch and tight end Tony Scheffler – thought it fun to mock Tebow’s prayerful pose after sacking him.

As a christian myself, I wasn’t surprised. Despite the fact that America is known as a “christian” nation, religion is still a lightening rod in many circles, inspiring ridicule (fear?) among some. But I have marveled at how Tebow has handled it all, never wavering nor stooping to the level of the critics or those players who mocked him.

Moreover, he continued to improve, to handle the heat, to win. In doing so, he has demonstrated the strength of his faith more than a thousand images of him bowing on one knee could have.

AP photo

By contrast, we have Buffalo’s talented but stunningly immature wideout Stevie Johnson.

On Sunday, just hours before Tebow led the Broncos to yet another fourth-quarter comeback victory, over San Diego, Johnson scored against the New York Jets and proceeded to put on a display of stupid shenanigans by mocking Jets wideout Plaxico Burress.

Photo by Tyson Trish / NorthJersey.com Staff


How?

By pretending to dance then shoot himself in the leg–an night-club accident that cost Burress two years in prison. Not funny.

What was funny was that Johnson, who professes to be a christian–remember his tweet blaming God for another dropped ball last season?–dropped three potential game-winning passes in the final minute.

Clearly, God don’t like stupid.

RSJ note: Johnson seems to have realized the massive error of his ways. He has apologized to Burress and the world.

Tiger: The First Swing

It was an event unlike any we’ve seen since Magic Johnson announced he was HIV-positive. Every network was tuned in. Every eye or ear eager to hear what Tiger Woods would have to say after nearly 80 days in hiding.
It was an odd setting, a stark room with a lone podium before an eerie blue curtain. The heads in the audience were merely that for much of the event – heads – until the primary camera broke and we were given a glance at a few of the people sitting before him to his right.
It lasted longer than most expected.
And I think it was better than most expected.
Tiger Woods said what he had to say. He hit all the salient points, used all the necessary words. He took ownership of his actions and apologized to everyone who may have been hurt or disappointed.
He was contrite, and yet defiant at times – staring into the camera when he apologized to the children of the Tiger Woods Learning Center (very appropriate), and top the parents of children who had held him up as a role model. And when he flat out told the media to “stop following my wife and kids.” (Agreed!)
He was not the Tiger I last saw in person a couple of years ago. But how could he have been? Everything that guy was is gone.
He was emotional. He was swagger-less.
Today was step one is trying to recover what he can.
I criticized him for not agreeing to take questions from the media (and for trying to control every aspect of the event), but now I know why: He’s not ready. Not even close.
He said he’s going back to rehab, and I believe he will be ready soon. And when he does I think he will submit to an interview by one of the major, respected journalists, Roberts (who cut her teeth in sports), Bob Costas or Bryant Gumbel.
And then he will play golf. (I think he’ll be back on Tour in ’10)
Until then, he’s back practicing golf. He’s running.
Most important, he’s working on Tiger.
He talked about being a man of integrity. We’ll see.
He talked about having more respect for the game. We’ll see.
Tiger’s always been about hard work and preparation. Today he laid out for us what we should expect of Tiger 2.0.
Now let’s see if he, in the language of his sport, sticks it or whiffs.

Seems Leadership Isn’t as Valued as “They” Say

He could have made a lot of teams better.

He could have made a lot of teams better.

Leadership is invaluable, so they say. It can be the difference-maker, an intangible element than can catapult a good team toward greatness, a great team toward a championship.

So they say.

And yet, Ray Lewis couldn’t get a sniff. The quintessential leader in all of sports, a man coming off a Pro Bowl season (his 10th), a man who works as hard as any player in any sport, couldn’t find a team that would look past his 33-year-old body and value his ability to transform a mere defense into a near-impenetrable force. Instead, the market for his talents is as null as the Dow.

This is not a sympathy play. At least not for Lewis, the Ravens’ heart/soul/beast/linebacker. He re-signed with Baltimore for three years and a reported $22 million. He will finish his Hall of Fame NFL career with the same team that drafted him in 1996 out of Miami (back when the ‘Canes were kick-ass). Lewis sounded humbled at the announcement of his signing, knowing that in an age of free agency and chase-the-check roster movements, he is a true anomaly.

“From beginning to end as a Raven,” he said before pausing. “Wow.”

Lewis deserved his deal. The Ravens were one of the surprise teams last season, largely because of their second-in-the-league defense, led by the Ragin’ Raven, Lewis.

Statistically, he had 117 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks. Real numbers. Yet there were others who had better numbers. Others who were younger and had more tackles, more sacks, more “upside.” So they said.

So when the NFL’s free-agent season opened, Lewis was “money-balled,” NFL-style. Teams signed linebackers with better numbers but guys you wouldn’t know from me if they stood next to you at the mall.

This is a sympathy play for the death of leadership.

Ray Lewis is among the last of a breed. A defensive howitzer in the mold of Ray Nitschke, Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Deion Sanders. He is smart, academically prepared for games. And he’s the guy offenses watch, even at 33. Where is Ray Lewis? What’s he thinking?

Would not the T.O.-less Cowboys have been better with Lewis as their “face”? You think he might have been able to light a torch under Tony Romo rather than try to torch him?

Would not the Jets and a few other teams that were on the market for a linebacker have been better with Lewis?

Yes, they would have.

They would have had a leader who inspires by example, who sets the bar high and who plays with a presence.

But they passed.

Maybe they passed because leadership is hard to quantitfy. It’s hard to put a price tag on passion.

So they say.

Photo by AFP/Getty Images/File/Streeter Lecka)

The Truth (Almost) Sets Him Free

New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte listens to a question ...
    God made him do it, and that’s just fine with me. We’ve long known that Andy Pettitte is a man of faith (full disclosure: so am I), so when he cited the role scripture played in his decision to be forthcoming about his use of HGH and openly shared the importance of his church, family and spirituality in his life it was not an aberration. He wasn’t yet another chastened celebrity or athlete who only “found God” when he found himself alone at the bottom of a very dark and hopeless hole.
    No, this was Andy being Andy, which is to say like the rest of us – an imperfect human being. He was open, contrite and forthcoming. Were there inconsistencies? Yes. Contradictions? Of course.
    Perhaps the biggest was this: If Pettitte was so moved by his conscious to reveal the truth, why did he not do so until after he was outed in th Mitchell Report? He shared that he had misgivings immediately after the two shots he admits receiving in 2002, which is what caused him to stop the injections so quickly. But it wasn’t until now that those misgivings – and the associated guilt with having done something wrong – caused him to fess up.
    This is where Pettitte took the most heat. The scripture he cited  – Romans 13: 4-5 – states: “For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.”
     Pettitte did what God asked him to do. Just not on our time.
    He did it when it needed to be done – when it needed to be heard. His time.
    He did it when the words would be an example to others in baseball who need to speak the truth rather than rail against the injustice of it all, or continue deny that which become less reftuable with each passing day.
    Andy Pettitte did it when Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds needed to hear him.
New York Yankees Mariano Rivera (L-R), Jorge Posada and Derek ...
Teammates Rivera, Posada and Jeter… 

Does Anyone Have a Mouth Filter?!

Dana Jacobson

Not again. Well, this time the venue wasn’t national television, but the remarks were just as vile. Worse, actually. Today, ESPN’s Dana Jacobson, co-host of the morning show “First Take,” was suspended by the network for a week because of derogatory remarks she made about Jesus at a roast for colleagues Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic (of ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning”) in Atlantic City earlier this month.

According to the The Press of Atlantic City, Jacobson made an “absolute fool of herself, swilling vodka from a Belvedere bottle, mumbling along and cursing like a sailor as Mike & Mike rested their heads in their hands in embarrassment.”

They were kind. At least one other site has offered an unfiltered version of the remarks: It notes that Jacobson reportedly trashed Notre Dame, Golic’s alma mater. No crime in that, but in the midst of her tirade the anchor reportedly said, “F–k Notre Dame,” “F–k Touchdown Jesus,” “F–k Jesus.”

Wow.

Full disclosure: I worked with Jacobson for several weeks during the previous incarnation of “First Take,” “Cold Pizza.” She was smart, funny and very supportive. Like many women in the male-dominated sports media, she’d become “one of the guys,” holding her own on any sports conversation and never backing down from a good sports “fight.” I like her, so I was particularly pained when I read of her rant. As a Christian, I was incensed.

So, yes, just like the Golf Channel’s Kelly Tilghman, her suspension was warranted.

And it might get worse for her. The Christian Defense Coalition, has called for Jacobson to be fired. According to the Christian Newswire, the group has planned a public vigil for this Friday at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol. CDC director Rev. Patrick said this to the wire service: “Hate speech, and religious intolerance should have no place in American society. When we see these things raise their ugly head, it is critical that people of good will unite together and prayerfully stand against such bigotry and prejudice. By publicly saying, ‘F–k Jesus,’ while representing ESPN, Dana Jacobson has crossed a very well defined line. Her comments are so outrageous and inflammatory that the only proper response for ESPN is to immediately release her. A week suspension is simply not enough and sends a message that ESPN tolerates this kind of behavior and speech.”

Another organization, the controversial (and some say fringe) Catholic League has called ESPN to verify her comments. If they are correct as reported, said organization President Bill Donahue, then the penalty was “inadequate.” An earlier post on the Catholic League’s website was entitled “ESPN Anchorwoman Trashes Jesus Christ.”“Imagine the outrage if Ms. Jacobson said, ‘F–k Mohammed,’ ‘F–k Jews,’ or ‘F–k African Americans.,’ ” said Donahue. ” Although the faith community can forgive and extend mercy to Ms. Jacobson, she still must assume full responsibility and accept the consequences for her hate-filled rhetoric.”

And we haven’t even heard a peek from Rev. Al Sharpton – yet.

It’ll be interesting to hear from those who howled that Tilghman was unfairly punished, and that she should have been protected by the first amendment. Free Speech ain’t free, as I’m sure you’ve heard many times. You can’t yell “Fire” in a crowded building, and we are all accountable for the words we utter. If you don’t believe me, go into your boss’ office and tell her what you really think.

Those of us in the media are also held to a higher standard. We fight for the right to speak freely and report freely, but we are also cognizant of every word we write and speak – at least most of us are. No single word I write is by accident, nor is it written without thought to the consequences of using it. When I am on television – even during commercial breaks – I am conscious of everything I say, whether live or on tape. (Now watch a game with me and my buddies, as we did last Sunday night, and the mouth filter is OFF!)

We are held to a higher standard because we understand the power of words – written or spoken. It is why many of us joined this profession. We do not take words for granted, no matter where we are.

Even at a roast. I understand that wherever I am publicly, I am representing not only Roy S. Johnson, but also Men’s Fitness, SportsNet New York, NBATV, as well as my family and friends. Anyone might slip, as Tilghman did, but I do my best to respect them all and mind my words.

That she was not “on the air” offers no solace for Jacobson.

In the obligatory statement to the world, she said: “I am sorry. My actions at the roast were inappropriate and in no way represent who I really am. I have personally apologized to many of the people involved. I won’t make excuses for my behavior but do hope that I can be forgiven for such a poor lack of judgment.”

She will definitely be forgiven, but will she be back on the air?

===========================

Jacobson v Tilghman: Who’s Worse? Read: Here.

Vick: Class of ’09 (If He’s Lucky)

 

Atlanta Falcons football player Michael Vick makes a statement ...

May I provide some clarity to the noise that crackled across the airwaves and digital space all day following the sentencing of Michael Vick to 23 months in prison on charges stemming from his involvement in the well-chronicled dog-fighting mess? Here me on this: Michael Vick got what he deserved. He messed up (that change of language is for the little children who may stumble upon this post) – or made a severe “error in judgment,” as his able attorney, Billy Martin, so aptly stated today – and now must pay his debt.

Some said they were stunned that U.S. Henry E. Hudson levied a judgment that that exceeded the prosecutions recommendations of up to 18 months. Others (some of them journalists, sadly) railed that Vick was hit harder than the parade of the celebrities of late who’ve been sentenced to, oh, 90 seconds in jail for DUI and other related charges that, some said, “put humans in danger.”

Help me, please. The latter group needs to get a grip. The comparison is apples and zebras. Michael Vick bankrolled a heinous, illegal dogfighting and gambling operation. Emphasis on bankrolled. “He did more than fund it,” prosecutor Michael Gill said, speaking of the “Bad Newz Kennels” dogfighting operation. “He was in this thing up to his neck with the other defendants.”

Vick was the proverbial “big fish” the law always seeks. He was the kingpin, the Godfather, as it were. Moreover, he participated in said heinous and illegal acts. And he killed dogs. Killed.

Those facts alone were putting him at the high-end of the prison vacation pool. Now why did Judge Hudson go beyond the recommendations. Again, this is all on Vick.

He was stupid. Knowing that he would be tested for drugs, he failed a test for marijuana while under indictment. Dumb.

Now dumber. Given the opportunity to be forthcoming to authorities after pleading guilty, he was “less than truthful” with the feds, the judge said today. (Is that a polite way of saying “He lied?”) It was reported that when Vick did not admit to being involved to the extent that his co-defendents said he was. Even worse, when during a polygraph test he was asked if he participated in the killing of dogs he, well, was again “less than truthful.”

D umber.

Once again, this year is showing us what the Feds were the sports story of the year. Don’t mess with ’em. Don;t step on their toes. And, Lord, don’t lie to them. Ask Barry Bonds. Ask Marion Jones. Ask Bud Selig. Ask, well, just about any athlete in almost any sport.

Ask Michael Vick. Maybe now he’ll tell the truth.

 

 

 

SI 2007 Sportsman of the Year: Sorry, But This Must Be a Joke

This image provided by Sports Illustrated shows Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre on the cover of the Dec. 10, 2007 issue of Sports Illustrated. Favre, the winningest quarterback of all time and the NFL's leader in touchdown passes, has been chosen as the 2007 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. (AP Photo/Sports Illustrated)

I’m not surprised.

Saddened. But not surprised.

Incensed. But not surprised.

My former colleagues named Green Bay QB Brett Favre their 2007 Sportsman of the Year today. Great guy. Great QB, and he’s having an unexpectedly great season. (At least he was until that little visit to Dallas at few days back.)

But, uh, Tony Dungy?? Great Guy. Great coach, and he won the freakin’ Super Bowl! He led his team, the Indianapolis Colts, to the biggest championship in pro sports a year after his teen-aged son committed suicide. A year after Dungy showed America what it was like to be a man of great faith in the midst of unspeakable tragedy.

And during that year – when he questioned whether he should coach again, comforted his wife and children, and dealt with his own great pain – Tony Dungy lived that faith, talked that faith and walked that faith, and he touched all of America as his team reached the pinnacle of its sport.

Tony Dungy was America’s coach.

And oh yes, he became the first African-American coach to win the Super Bowl, and in doing so, achieved a milestone that stands alongside all the great firsts achieved by so many people of color throughout our nation’s tortured racial history. But to me, that’s secondary to the way he embodied being a man in the midst of the storm of storms. That’s why he was my selection for SI’s 2007 Sportsman of the Year. No-brainer.

But I don’t work there any more. That’s full disclosure for those who find this post and don’t know that 12 years of my professional life were spent at the magazine.

I was there long enough to not be surprised at this selection. Favre has long been a favorite of the top editors there. Years ago, when it looked as if his Hall of Fame career was done, as he fought on gamely while it looked like his prodigious skills had eroded and that he should perhaps retire, they were looking for ways to tout him.

In fact I chuckled when the magazine published the cover below in December, 2006, a year after I last departed. I chuckled because there had been discussions about a Favre cover touting “Leadership” as far back as when I was still there. When I saw the “For the Love of the Game” cover I said to myself: “They finally figured out a way to get that cover.”

Yeah, they love them some Favre over there at SI. Little did I know how much.

Too bad. They missed a great story. They missed a great opportunity. They missed a great man.

I’m not surprised.

But this cover now!
Dec. 4, 2006 - Brett Favre, the NFL's answer to Twain's barefoot antihero.

D.O.A. at Shea

Photo

At church this morning, my pastor said something that resonated with me: “God creates the the vision,” he began. “Then he kills the vision before resurrecting it supernaturally. He does that so that when the vision becomes real, you know it’s not you that made it happen.”

He wasn’t speaking to me directly – though anyone who knows the trials I endured over the last coupleof years knows how how those words spoke to me.

He certainly wasn’t speaking of the Mets, whose historic collapse culminated this afternoon in a stunning loss to the last-place Florida Marlins that eliminated the team from post-season contention. No baseball team had ever suffered such a September swoon. Ever.

Why this team needed to hot bottom only He know. But they have. Maybe someay Willie, Jose, Omar, David, Pedro and Tom will know why.