Philadelphia’s own Mo’ne Davis is on the national cover of Sports Illustrated this week. The Little League World Series star is the first little leaguer to appear on the magazine’s cover.
When the news came that legendary sportswriter Gary Smith was retiring from Sports Illustrated, I did what any writer would do: I called my dad.
Before I was born, my father worked as the Eagles beat writer for the Bucks County Courier Times. He covered the team during the Dick Vermeil era, the team’s first taste of success since 1960. So did Smith. I asked my father about him on Monday, and he told me two stories:
It’s two months before Gaybowl XIII, when the seven-on-seven National Gay Flag Football League champion will be crowned in Phoenix, and the Philadelphia Revolution is bereft of its star. In the middle of an overgrown Little League field in East Passyunk, where a mucky dune marks the 50-yard line, a bespectacled, double-knee-brace-wearing team captain drills the squad on route-running. Then, 30 minutes into the two-hour practice, he arrives: arms muscled, pecs protruding from a pink-sleeved t-shirt. He moseys toward the bleachers wearing a camo-green hat and Versace Eros cologne. He has just left Voyeur three hours ago. “I know nothing right now,” he mumbles, pulling on his cleats, grabbing his receiver’s gloves, and jumping in line for some 10-yard hitch routes.
Believe it or not, here’s a story about sports journalism and Penn State football fans that has nothing to do with Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky. Doesn’t matter. There’s still obnoxiousness involved.
Sports Illustrated writer David Epstein has written a story questioning whether Penn State athletics still have too much power at the university. The focus this time isn’t Sandusky’s problems, but rather—as PennLive.com notes—”takes a critical look at the medical care operation of the PSU football program, the recent reshuffling of the medical staff and head trainer Tim Bream, who was investigated by an outside law firm in January.”
Epstein’s story suggests that in an era of diminished resources, Penn State cut back on player care. “O’Brien hired Penn State alum Tim Bream, who worked with Joyner at the ’92 Olympics, as athletic trainer in February 2012. Sources involved in health care for Penn State athletics who spoke with SI on the condition of anonymity say they saw Bream, who does not have a medical degree, engage in practices normally reserved for doctors, such as giving players anti-inflammatory drugs without a prescription and lancing a boil on a player’s neck. University medical sources also said that Bream told physicians to stop talking with the parents of players and that doctors should not spend as much time with the team.”
Penn State denies the allegations: “”To characterize the medical care Penn State provides our student-athletes as anything other than the highest quality is erroneous. Access to urgent and quality care for our athletes is no less than where it was at any point in the past 20 years.”
And in any case, Penn State football fans are behaving pretty much as you’ve come to expect: By taking to Twitter and ripping David Epstein a new one.
— Henry Heisler (@endurants) May 15, 2013
@sidavidepstein enjoy ur 2mins of fame.. Hacks like you r out of sight in a few anyway..
— the Happy Ninja (@HapiNinja) May 15, 2013
— Austin Paradis (@SliceOfParadis) May 15, 2013
— Dan Mealing (@SpiderCat79) May 15, 2013
And my favorite:
— Mike Wilson (@MikeWil_son) May 14, 2013
Hey, THON is a great charity. It’s weird how Penn State fans use it as a shield and a cudgel against any and all criticism of the university, though. What does it have to do with Epstein’s story?
In any case, Epstein’s story seems concerned with the welfare of the players still at Penn State. Instead of reflexively defending the institution, you’d think real football fans would want to ensure their favorite players are treated well. That they choose to lash out, instead, is, well interesting.
Philly.com reports that tennis star Maria Sharapova has thumbed her nose at Philly, by declining to sell her new line of lip-themed candies–Sugarpova–to any local retailers. Newsworks, meanwhile, says Nike is snubbing Philly stores too. Haven’t you people heard? We have a vibrant business community in Philadelphia! We veto burdensome paid-sick leave bills! [Philly.com]
I am sharing this story because I am Manti Te’o’s mother. Ever since the hooligans from something called Deadspin told the world that Manti’s dead girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, never existed, everybody’s been talking about my son. They wonder if he’s a fraud. They say he’s a liar. They say it’s his fault Notre Dame laid an egg at the BCS Championship Game. But I understand my son better than anyone else, so I am speaking out here.
First of all, you should know that Lennay isn’t Manti’s first imaginary friend. Manti has always had imaginary friends, from the time he was a very little boy. His first imaginary friend was a rabbit named Heisman. Heisman lasted for a few years. Then he was replaced by an old man and a young man. Their names were Gipper and Rudy. The old one creeped me out a little when Manti talked to him, but I liked Rudy. He seemed to have a lot of moxie. At least for an imaginary friend. In the fourth grade, Manti had his first imaginary girlfriend. Her name was Britney. He liked her so much that sometimes he’d ask me to set a place for her at supper. He’d say, “Would you like some macaroni salad, Britney?” Sometimes he’d put some on her plate and then sneak bites when he thought I didn’t see.
What a lot of people don’t seem to understand is that Manti is a Mormon, and Mormons are very familiar with the concept of imaginary friends. The founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, had many, many such friends, including an angel named Moroni. He had to have been imaginary, because who would name an angel Moroni? (Smith also named a city “Nauvoo.” He was terrible with names.) Also, John the Baptist visited Smith. Not to mention God.
But let’s get back to Lennay. I thought she was a very nice girl. She understood about boundaries. My Manti has been very busy this year. Notre Dame is not like other schools, you know. Notre Dame happens to have the highest graduation rate for football players of any FBS college. It’s not like Oklahoma or USC. Manti has to go to his classes. And you know how real girlfriends are, with the insecurity and all the drama. Like, “Oh Manti, you think that Kim Kardashian is hotter than I am, don’t you? It’s all right; I don’t mind. You can admit it.” Something like that can waste a whole afternoon once a girl gets going. And besides his classes, Manti has to get to the gym.
Also? And since I am Manti’s mom, I’m female, so I’m allowed to say this. Some real girlfriends are real trouble. If you try to break up with them, they’ll say you raped them. It happens. An imaginary girlfriend will never do that. Well, I guess she could. But why on earth would she? You’re the one imagining her. Not to mention the ones who “forget” to take the Pill and get pregnant. And think of all the money Manti saved with not buying Lennay jewelry and flashy clothes and vodka that costs $100 a bottle! Not that he drinks, because he’s Mormon. I’m not sure she was. I would hope he would have a Mormon imaginary girlfriend. But she’s his imaginary girlfriend, not mine.
There are probably people out there who think it’s time for Manti to put away childish things like imaginary friends and get a real girlfriend. But what if he did, and that real girlfriend got in a bad car accident and then died of leukemia? He would have to go to that girlfriend’s funeral, even if she had told him not to, told him to keep on playing football. He would have to go even though one of his earlier imaginary friends was named the Gipper. Wouldn’t he? Yes he would. I’m proud of Manti and all he’s done, and I’m grateful to Lennay for being imaginary so she didn’t take up too much of his time and energy, so he could become the most decorated defensive player in college football history and wind up on the cover of Sports Illustrated. You losers at Deadspin are just jealous, because Manti is so talented and you are all a bunch of wannabes, as we say in the islands. As for the rest of you, I think you should all just mind your own business until after the NFL draft.
It will probably come as a surprise to Philadelphia Eagles fans to hear that quarterback Michael Vick is overrated. After all, they’ve spent this season tearing their hair out and filling the local Twittersphere with digital howls of angst every time Vick fumbles. (Which, uh, has been often enough to warrant this headline.) There was even some talk he’d lose his job over the bye week. How can someone so unloved by his own fan base be “overrated?” But there you have it: A new Sports Illustrated poll of 180 NFL players says Vick is the fourth most-overrated player in the league. Lucky for Vick, that places him only second in the NFC East—Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo is one slot ahead of him at No. 3. But Eagles fans can take consolation from this: At least they’re not Jets fans—Tim Tebow and March Sanchez grabbed the top two slots on the list. [Sports Illustrated]
On top of flash mobs, whooping cough’s comeback, and the mental picture of Newt Gingrich as a swinger, now there are omnipresent bathing suit catalogs. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, they’re not just in my mailbox anymore. Way to go, Al Gore. They also come by email and social media, which I’m not even entirely sure how to use, but all I know is that I can’t enjoy a simple bowl of rigatoni and ricotta while playing Words With Friends because there are bathing suits in my Facebook newsfeed. Read more »
Why is Kate Upton creating so much noise? Look around. So many once-bedrock institutions up for grabs—newspapers, the Republican Party, our school system … and now the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, too? The S.I. swimsuit issue, though not of the same import as journalism or public education, was an institution we—or at least adolescent American boys— could count on, at least until Upton up and shook her bad self on the Internet. Read more »