What An Opportunity

Up, up, and away.

In Sports on January 19, 2013 at 2:03 pm


I miss Smallville. I’m ok saying that out loud. I watched Smallville from beginning to end and Superman became my favorite superhero; I felt like I somehow knew him. Smallville ran for 10 seasons, from the now-defunct WB to the CW. Spanning from the beginning of the 5th grade till the end of my junior year of college, Smallville was just the coolest thing to me. Clark Kent’s struggles with stuff we go through, and then the added pressure of having the ability to save the world, made for engaging television. Through it all, he eventually becomes a symbol of all that is good and represents the best of humanity and human nature.

However, The Last Son of Krypton is not the focal point of discussion today. Thinking about Smallville also got me thinking of the intro: “Save Me” by Remy Zero. Interpolated within scenes from the show and cast members, “Save Me” captured the plight of Clark Kent in song. I always thought the song suited Smallville and I think it’s a good place to begin our discourse.

“Somebody save me…”

To imply that athletes are held to a moral standard that supersedes that of most of society is not exactly an original thought. Athletes, and sports teams for that matter, make money based upon consumer-ship. Buying tickets to games, jerseys, a brand or the products of a sponsor are all activities that lead to investments in athletes and their teams. Therefore, we seem to impose the highest moral standards upon them. If you have the most talent that allows you to make the most money, then you deserve the most scrutiny. Athletes are then supposed to become symbols of all that is good and represent the best of humanity and human nature.

“And I would give you anything you want, know

You were all I wanted”

So what happens when they can’t be the best on the basis of their talent or work ethic? What if there was a way to provide more of the material that makes them great? What if greatness was in a needle? Did PEDs make the pitches for Roger Clemens? Did PEDs hit the ball for Barry Bonds? Did PEDs save thousands of lives with the research from the Livestrong Foundation? What if you gave everything to achieve greatness? You could inspire so many people and all you had to do was take an injection. What if this was an opportunity to play on a level playing field with everyone else? You could make enough money to donate to charities and give back to your hometown and local communities where you play. All you have to do is choose what truths to tell and what lies to defend. What if you could be Superman?

“And all my dreams are falling down”

And after the Hall of Fame election of 2013, or lack thereof, and the story of Lance Armstrong, Manti Te’o made headlines; his story has not so much made headlines as much as it seems to have dominated the national discourse. A feel-good story that instantly became shockingly bizarre. We will know more as time goes on but this is what we know so far: Lennay Kekua did not exist.

For those who don’t know, or those looking for a refresher, I’ll say what I know; or more specifically, what I have heard and choose to accept this far.

Manti Te’o was a senior middle linebacker on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. On a nationally broadcast game in September against Michigan St., those watching found out that this young man had lost his grandmother and his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, during the same week. An unspeakable tragedy, we watched a young man have a great game, seemingly inspired by his situation.

Throughout the season, his story became the story of the Notre Dame football team as they rose to #1 in the national rankings. The public was treated to stories of Te’o’s devotion in Kekua’s last days and his unrelenting love and affection. Te’o was a finalist for the Heisman, partly for his great play and partly for  his inspirational story of aspiring for, and achieving greatness, in the face of immense tragedy. Notre Dame went on to play for a national championship in January. Even after a disappointing loss in the championship game, Te’o was seen as a wonderful story that embodied all that is good and represented the best of humanity and human nature.

Then a strange report came out. We were led  to believe, with extraordinary detail, that Lennay Kekua did not exist. Account after account suggested that her, and her story, had been fabricated. Immediately, it became clear that we all had been duped. We all had bought into a fable, with a substantial moral, but a fable nonetheless. Now, as more details come out, one is left wondering whether Te’o knew about the hoax. Was he “catfished” by some elaborate prank or a willful participant? Is he a very trusting young man who was taken advantage of or a narcissistic sociopath with the audacity to believe he could pull off such a ruse? We may never know. Either way, we know this: Manti Te’o is not the player we thought. The court of public opinion is split and the conversations I have had with friends have touched on just about every theory out there. And really, can one be refuted at this point?

Even still, with the allegations against the prominent members of the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot and the confession of Lance Armstrong, it is safe to say that there is a disillusionment towards heroes. There is a sense that if you probe just below the surface, we will find a shell of a human being that is propped up on their talent, commercialism, and the belief of fans.

And whatever direction this Manti Te’o story takes, it is safe to assume that he too wanted his chance at greatness. Whether as a star-crossed dreamer or a calculated associate, he was Superman. But one may argue the hero was never really a hero at all. And maybe worst of all, as was the case with Bonds, Clemens, and Armstrong, some of us thought that. But we wanted to believe anyway. Superman’s gone, but we will wait for someone else to put on a cape and paint a “S” on their chest.

I guess Smallville had it right all along:

“Somebody save me
Let your warm hands break right through and
Somebody save me
I don’t care how you do it
Just stay, stay
Oh come on
I’ve been waiting for you”


  1. I know how you feel! I’m a smallville fanatic and it’s hard to let it go! I have that song on my iPod but only because of the show(:

  2. Ah Smallville was just great, definitely the kind of revamp that Superman needed! Read my thoughts on the new Superman film “Man of Steel” and the last one “Superman Returns” and see what you think!

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