Watching Sports Center and eating cereal this morning, I kept thinking about how I don’t give a damn about Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend – I just wanted to see some basketball highlights.
Thing is, a lot of people do give a damn about this, to the point where the pundits were claiming his draft value might drop, that he may never again have the support of the fans if it turned out he had knowingly perpetrated a hoax.
This got me thinking, what must an athlete do before I relinquish my fandom?
Before we define our line, let’s look at some similar sports scandals and try and remember how we felt about them.
According to some sources, Tiger cheated on his wife with over 100 women. Whatever the actual number, the subsequent fallout caused several of his sponsors to drop him and his golf game to diminish significantly. Fans dropped him faster than his wife and his current image, three years later, is only just beginning to recover, as evidenced by Nike’s new McIlRoy vs. Tiger ads.
Brady fathered an illegitimate child with model-actress Bridget Moynahan, just as he was leaving her for supermodel Giselle Bündchen. It barely dented his image.
Ray was charged in connection with a murder outside of a nightclub in Akron in January of 2000. His murder charge was later reduced in a plea deal. In his final season, with a looming AFC title game against the Patriots, football coverage has been a Ray-a-thon. His jersey has been the NFL’s top-seller recently and it seems his overall legacy will be positive, despite being accused of stabbing a man to death.
Vick was indicted for charges surrounding a dogfighting operation run out of his home in Virginia, resulting in 19 months in prison. He is now starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. His image took a major hit, but luckily for him, he plays for a fanbase devoid of normal human emotions.
The list of athlete scandals obviously goes on and on, but we have a nice little spread to work with here. Where’s your line? At what point do you stop being a fan? Here are the two guidelines I’ve come up with for myself:
I’m no longer a fan if he’s a scumbag:
Michael Vick is a scumbag. He tortured animals and only stopped because someone made him. If Ben Roethlisberger actually raped that girl or Ray Lewis actually murdered that guy, they’re both scumbags and I would never root for them, buy their jerseys, or support my team in their acquisition.
I’ll still be a fan if he’s unfaithful:
I’m not saying it’s right to cheat, but I don’t think being a fan of a professional athlete who cheated on his wife necessarily condones his actions. Besides, if I were an attractive, multi-million dollar superstar athlete like Brady or Tiger, and hot women were throwing themselves at me, I’d be catching them by the armful. Which guy wouldn’t? Again, it doesn’t make it right, but it’s human nature to the very core.
What about Manti Te'o?
The headlines today read something like: “Breaking News – Manti Te’o’s girlfriend was not real.”
They should read: “Breaking News – Manti Te’o is either a weird guy, who doesn’t know what a real relationship entails, or he’s a Class A piece of crap, who created a leukemia-ridden girlfriend to boost his image.”
Either way, the question is, if your team drafts him in April, would you be happy about it?
I would be, but I probably wouldn’t buy his jersey.