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The sports world suffered a twitter-breaking case of shock and awe today with Deadspin’s piece detailing what appears to be the phony story concocted about the late girlfriend of Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te’o.  While the American public and the media sure felt duped, one of Te’o’s teammates wasn’t surprised, telling PepperOnSports.com that the players on the Fighting Irish football team smelled something fishy back in September 2012. 

The Notre Dame football player, who asked for anonymity, told Pepper On Sports, “No we all knew he had only seen her once.  But when the media was saying how he went through both deaths we knew,”  said the source, referring to the back-to-back deaths of Te’o’s grandmother and girlfriend Lennay Kekua, who allegedly died of Leukemia. 

In defense of the Heisman Trophy candidate, the source said he believes the lie may have indeed started with somebody duping Te’o using a phony twitter account, and eventually, faking their own death.

Early in my conversation with the source, the Notre Dame player said, “He lied, but the media blew it up.”  In response to my follow-up question asking if the source thought that Te’o kept the story going because of the media attention, the player replied, “Yeah.  Right after the Michigan [State] game.  He should have never brought her in the media. His grandma passing was enough.” 

Notre Dame’s victory over Michigan State and subsequent media explosion appears to have been the turning point for the source and many of his teammates. 

The source said while the players discussed their suspicions amongst themselves, they never confronted Te’o.

“We would never bring it up.  But we would look at him when he would get all emotional during media about his girl,” the player said.

When asked if he thought Te’o was a good actor, the player replied, “Very good.”  

Russian Rhymes: NHL Star Ovechkin Raps In Music Video

As a sports-loving society, we’ve been subjected to numerous cases of horrendous musical endeavors from our favorite athletes over the years.  Sure, some have been so bad that they’re good (i.e. 1985 Bears “Super Bowl Shuffle”), but most are just awful without any redeeming qualities. 

While I love Alexander Ovechkin’s “Russian Spy” SportsCenter commercial, I’m not as enthusiastic about the Washington Capital winger’s latest detour into the world of fine arts. 

This time, one of the NHL’s biggest stars took up rapping.  Yes, rapping, as in hip hop.  I tend to forget that folks from every country in the world rap so every time I hear the style performed in a different language, it makes me chuckle.  Russian rapper Sasha Belyi’s song “Champion” features Ovechkin lending his vocal stylings  to the track as well as his attempt at dancing and bobbing to the beat in the “special” music video above.  Watching the video, I can’t decide if I’m repulsed, amused or both.  Ovi is featured throughout the video, but doesn’t start rapping until the 2:50 mark. 

The website RussianMachineNeverBreaks.com translated Ovechkin’s rap:

Alumni of Dynamo
8 on the back.
  In the All-Star game all attention is on me.

On the NatTeam since 17
.  Scored 100 points in a season
Gold medal in Canada in ‘08

Among the ten best players of the decade, 
Stick in my hands,  Rap in my headphones

Saying hello from Washington,
 Together with Sanya Belyi,
 For every champion
[And then a bizarre sound that sounds like the English words “Look out!”]

Fantastic!  Equally amusing is the behind-the-scenes feature about Ovi’s involvement with the song MTV Russia aired.  In the video, the 26-year-old Moscow native is shown wearing a t-shirt reading in english “sex and love are the future.”  Prophetic indeed.  Here’s the link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=u0E2JVEicEo

With the Capitals in the midst of a rough season (at least by their lofty standards) and Ovechkin struggling to match his sky high production of previous years, it’s nice to see him smiling and enjoying himself.  While I’m pretty sure Rebecca Black is slightly more talented on the mic than Ovi, I’d rather hear this Russian rap any day of the week.  Fridays included. 

Mad Tiger Mom: Football Recruit Gets Punked By Mother On National TV For Committing To Alabama Instead Of LSU

The claws came out at the Under Armour High School Football All-America game, airing live on ESPN Thursday night as one young man learned a hard lesson about parents in front of the entire nation.

Landon Collins, a safety from Dutchtown High School in Geismar, LA  is ranked the No. 15 overall recruit in the country by Rivals.com, leaving him his choice of top schools.  For Collins, it came down to Alabama and LSU (of course) as the Louisiana-native, surrounded by his family, decided to verbally commit to Alabama on live television. 

Unfortunately for Collins, his mother was not happy about her son joining the Crimson Tide, and she sure wasn’t afraid to show it!  If you haven’t done so already, watch the video posted above…

How funny was that!?!? I’m assuming Collins and his mother had discussed his decision before that moment on live TV (at least I would hope so), thus he already knew she wasn’t exactly supportive of his choice. 

Going against a parent’s wishes, especially when it comes to a life-changing choice, can get pretty ugly, as Collins found out Thursday evening.  Mama Collins was so mad that she couldn’t even hide her disappointment and put on a united family front for the cameras, instead, throwing her son right under the bus! 

All of this begs the question, why did a kid from the state of Louisiana decide to leave home and a wildly successful program for the hated, out-of-state rival?

After watching that video, maybe Collins wants to get away from his mother for a while.  Plus, Baton Rouge is only 25 miles from Collins’ home town, and for many kids, college might be the only opportunity they have to leave home and go out on their own. 

My other guess, which is probably more realistic, is that Collins had more fun on his recruiting trip to Alabama.  Think about this logically:

Where would you rather live, Tuscaloosa or Baton Rouge?  Who would you rather deal with every day for the next four years, Nick Saban or Les Miles?  What would you rather be, the Crimson Tide (whatever that means) or a Tiger? 

LSU seems like a no-brainer here, so surely, the fine folks at Alabama found a way to leave a lasting impression on Collins.

When I was a sophomore at the University of Arizona, my friends and I attended a house party one Friday evening where one of my friends proceeded to drink a little too much.  She ended up making out with a high school senior who was in town for his official recruiting visit, in front of about 100 party guests.  If that wasn’t bad enough, under the influence of alcohol, the two ended up stumbling during the make out session and falling to the ground, which was absolutely hysterical.  Thankfully, nobody was injured.  This was a classic moment that we still talk about, and that young recruit committed to Arizona because he made out with a college girl on his trip!  I kid you not. 

Common sense would say that more important factors should dictate where you choose to spend your college/athletic career, but if you think back to when you were an 18-year-old, girls and partying were probably near the top of your list of priorities. 

What force is strong enough to convince a teenager to leave the New Orleans area and willingly endure the wrath of his mother, all in one fell swoop?  My gut tells me the tide was awfully strong in Tuscaloosa the weekend Landon Collins came to town.  Sorry Mom!

College Basketball Player Steals The Show…From The Bench

The last man on the bench is usually a different kind of dude.  He practices as hard as the starters, but never expects to play in the game. He usually goes to class, does his homework and is beyond thankful for all of the free athletic department swag that comprises his daily wardrobe.  He might be a walk-on, thus never knowing which season might be his last.  The last man on the bench is the last player the ladies approach at parties.  The last man on the bench typically takes very little, if anything, for granted. 

But perhaps the most important aspect of being a benchwarmer is the “fresh legs factor.”  The last man on the bench is always fresh, energetic and ready to go at any given moment.

Enter Peter Dill.  The Seton Hall walk-on stole the spotlight on SportsCenter as ESPN’s flagship show devoted an entire highlight to the senior guard’s sideline celebrations from the bench during the Pirate’s 75-63 upset win over No. 8 UConn. 

Dill logged zero seconds of playing time in Tuesday night’s game, and in fact, has only played eight minutes in his entire collegiate basketball career. 

Clearly, Dill contributes in other ways.  Without the New Jersey native going hard at practice, his teammates certainly wouldn’t have been prepared for a team like UConn.  Without Dill’s tireless and unconditional support from the sideline, it is doubtful the Pirates would’ve had the motivation to finish off the Huskies.

From the discount double check (aka Aaron Rodgers’ belt celebration) to the classic fist pump, take a moment to enjoy the video above as SportsCenter takes you on a journey of Peter Dill’s sideline celebrations. It’s about time this young man gets the credit and recognition he deserves. 

P.S. If this video doesn’t make you laugh, you probably have no soul.  Just sayin.

   

- Former Penn State Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky is charged with 40 felony counts relating to alleged sexual abuse of eight young boys, resulting in the firing of several school administrators, including Head Coach Joe Paterno.  The New York Times reports ten other alleged victims have since come forward. 

-Two adult men accuse Syracuse Associate Head Basketball Coach Bernie Fine of sexual abuse spanning more than a decade, resulting in Fine being placed on administrative leave.

-Former U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach Don Peters is permanently banned from the sport and removed from the Hall of Fame after an investigation of sexual abuse involving two teenage girls.

And that was just in the last 10 days!

Whether or not such allegations are true or false, it’s been a rough week for the athletic coaching profession.  

The flood gates have officially opened as one person speaking out typically provokes bravery in victims who were once too afraid or ashamed to come forward with their stories.  A single accusation can also get the attention of fame-seekers who don’t care how many lives they ruin en route to those precious 15 minutes. 

Perhaps the scariest piece of this puzzle is the fact that coaches, the men and women who are supposed to teach and care for our children, might be child predators. 

I come from a family of teachers, some of whom have coached sports in public schools.  Most of my favorite teachers in high school were also the coaches of various athletic teams.  I have had nothing but wonderful experiences with the coaches I know.

Having said that, I stumbled upon some scary facts regarding coaches and sexual abuse. 

The Seattle Times published a story in December 2003 called “Coaches Who Prey.  The Abuse of Girls And The System That Allows It,” written by Christine Willmsen and Maureen O’Hagan.  The article covers several topics including different cases in Washington state of coaches being fired for sexual abuse, how many of these men were then hired by other schools, and how easy it is for offenders to become private coaches due to a lack of regulation. 

Here a some facts from the article:

- “Over the past decade, 159 coaches in Washington have been fired or reprimanded for sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to rape. Nearly all were male coaches victimizing girls. At least 98 of these coaches continued to coach or teach”

- “The number of offending coaches is much greater. When faced with complaints against coaches, school officials often failed to investigate them and sometimes ignored a law requiring them to report suspected abuse to police. Many times, they disregarded a state law requiring them to report misconduct to the state education office.”

- “Even after getting caught, many men were allowed to continue coaching because school administrators promised to keep their disciplinary records secret if the coaches simply left. Some districts paid tens of thousands of dollars to get coaches to leave. Other districts hired coaches they knew had records of sexual misconduct.”

- “In the growing field of private club teams, coaches can get a job or start a team with almost no regulation or oversight. Men who coach teams sanctioned by the Amateur Athletic Union have been convicted of such crimes as assault, indecent liberties with a child and drug possession.”

The article describes how the passage of Title IX in 1972 created a huge need for coaches in order to comply with the law and most of those hired to coach girls were men. 

According to the article, “As a profession, coaching has one of the highest rates of sexual-misconduct complaints, according to Bill Lennon, a Bellevue licensed sex-offender therapist and expert on sexual abuse by teachers.”

It makes sense for a sexual predator to use coaching as his or her gateway to children.  Coaches work with athletes for several hours at a time, have plenty of one-on-one interaction, travel together and go mainly unsupervised. 

"The Times analysis shows that Washington teachers who coach are three times more likely to be investigated by the state for sexual misconduct than noncoaching teachers. (Coaches who teach at private schools are not required to have a teaching certificate. Without public records, reporters could not include them in the analysis.)"

The article also cites a North Carolina study that found in schools, “the No. 1 reason for dismissal of a coach — accounting for 1 in every 5 firings — was not a team’s poor performance on the field, but the coach’s sexual relationship with a student.”

Okay, so after reading such nightmare statistics, what can people do to protect their children? 

Criminals exist in all walks of life and many will slip through the cracks.  It’s the sad, scary truth.  Not every child can be protected.  But hopefully the public outcry surrounding recent coaching sex scandals will scare the crap out of encourage school administrations to do their homework diligently before hiring any staff member. 

Hopefully with every survivor who recounts his or her story, millions of kids and parents alike will listen and learn how to recognize the telltale signs of a predator, preventing them from becoming future victims. 

Hopefully this public forum will release survivors from their shame and parents will feel more comfortable having difficult conversations with their children. 

From Pee-Wee to the Pros, there are probably a million athletic coaches in this country.  The vast, overwhelming majority of those men and women enjoy instilling values and teaching the games they love to kids.  It is sad that a few bad apples have managed to spoil the rest of the bunch of such an honorable profession.


To read the disturbing yet fascinating and important Seattle Times article in its entirety, click here:  http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/news/local/coaches/news/dayone.html

Game On In Texas: Rangers Purposely Built Visitors Bullpen To Be A  Pain In The…?

The World Series has played out like a soap opera thus far, with Monday’s game five win by the Texas Rangers serving up the strangest script yet.  A series of blunders by the St. Louis Cardinals certainly helped lead the home team to a 4-2 victory and a 3-2 series lead, leaving many wondering how such an experienced skipper like Tony La Russa could allow so many miscues when the stakes were so high. 

A bit of inside information from one of TV’s more notable sports writers might help explain part of the snafu, as well as lend some credibility to La Russa’s seemingly silly explanation. 

La Russa explained his mismatches on the mound as bullpen bloopers of sorts, citing poor communication between the dugout and the bullpen.  The Cards manager said that the bullpen coach misheard his instructions over the phone, probably due to the high volume of the crowd noise. 

Shout out to Tony Reali, host of ESPN’s Around The Horn for posting an outtake from Tuesday’s show (posted above) where guest Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News said that the visitors bullpen’s sketchy placement and set-up was purposely built that way, putting the away team at a disadvantage.  Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was built in 1994 and has often been criticized for not having been built with a retractable roof, considering the sweltering Texas summers. 

From multiple camera angles on the TV broadcast, it looks like you can’t see inside the bullpen from the dugout, which, I’d bet, the visiting team finds slightly annoying. In an ABC News article, La Russa addressed previous bullpen incidences at other ball parks, saying, “Yeah, smoke signals from the dugout.  There are times, like what happened in Philadelphia (during the first round of the playoffs). The phone went out, and so we used cell phones. And then the Phillies brought down walkie talkies, and they fixed the phone.”

I’ve heard of stadiums and arenas undergoing renovations and purposely leaving the visitors locker room untouched for that same reason; to keep a bunch of big, strong, tough athletes in a small, confined and uncomfortable space before games.  Within reason, I say it’s a pretty solid display of gamesmanship on the part of home team management and ownership.  This kind of stuff shouldn’t affect great teams anyway.  Rangers Ballpark in Arlington did undergo renovations heading into the 2011 baseball season, clearly, none of which included the visitors bullpen.  I fully expect the Busch Squirrel to exact revenge on the Rangers in St. Louis, completely chewing through the Texas dugout-to-bullpen phone line all together!

Click here for ABC News’ story on Bullpen-gate.  http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/cardinals-bullpen-relief-game-14807061

Referee-Inspired Streaker Charged With Criminal Impersonation And An Arizona Alum’s Confessions of Rushing The Field, Dreams of Streaking

If you missed Thursday night’s UCLA vs. Arizona football game, televised nationwide on ESPN, consider yourself lucky.  The 48-12 blow out of the Bruins was only worth watching for the following three reasons:

1) You are an Arizona fan or alum, like me
2) You like to see athletes make themselves look like idiots by brawling mid-game
3) You enjoy the art that is creative streaking.

Just before halftime, with Arizona already leading UCLA 42-7, this dope, now identified as 22-year-old UA student Jace Lankow hopped out of the stands and onto the field wearing a referee’s uniform (he threw a wrinkle into the standard Zebra uni by wearing shorts).  Here’s a quick play-by-play of what ensued. Lankow finds himself in the middle of a stopped play and did his best ref impression before taking off running while simultaneously taking off his clothes!  I’m telling you, I laugh every time I watch the video.  He was quickly tackled by security, although not soon enough as he was already down to his undies by the time they took him down.  The best part of the video is when security is on top of him, getting the kid in handcuffs when they all start looking in one direction… turns out nakie-boy was just the warm-up act for a bench-clearing brawl between the Bruins and Wildcats which resulted in a few player ejections. 

According to KOLD-TV in Tucson, Lankow was booked and charged with criminal impersonation!!!  I’m laughing as I’m typing because you can’t even make this stuff up.  Impersonating who, a Footlocker employee? 

To quote Tim Cowlishaw on Around The Horn, “Don’t condone it, but the streaker looked a lot more like a ref than UCLA looked like a football team or Rick Neuheisel looked like a football coach.” 

I echo Cowlishaw’s sentiments all the way around. 

First thing’s first; it’s all too easy to rush the field at Arizona Stadium.  The first time I did it (yes, it happened more than once) was when we beat the Washington Huskies on November 8, 2003, snapping an eight game losing streak.  It was our only Pac10 win of the season (we finished the year 2-10 overall, yikes!), my best friend who was a player on the team had a GREAT game, and the crowd treated this victory like it was a Rose Bowl win. 

With time still ticking in the clock, I turned to my parents, who were visiting from California, handed them my purse, and said, “Hold this, I’m going in!!!”  I remember my Mom yelling, “Jaaaaccqquelllline!!!”  I ran a few rows down, looked over the fence, and jumped, getting a little help from a male cheerleader down below.  Yes, the crowd rushed the field in celebration of beating the only other winless team in the Pac10.  Sounds pathetic, but I had tears of joy in my eyes.  It was our equivalent of a bowl game victory, and a moment I will forever cherish. 

Thursday’s ref-inspired streaker looks like he had similar seats in the student section based on the video, so it’s no surprise he made it on the field as easily as he did. 

His wouldn’t be the first creative stunt pulled on the U of A campus.  Streaking was quite popular when I was a student at Arizona and my friends and I joked that before we graduated, our goal was to streak and end up in the “Police Beat,” a section of the Daily Wildcat detailing all on-campus arrests in a funny, yet factual fashion.  Is that not the worst college-related goal you’ve ever heard of? 

Anyway, our streaking fantasy was to run through the Integrated Learning Center, (a luxurious and popular new addition to the main library at the time) during finals week in hopes of providing some comic relief to our fellow stir-crazy and exhausted students.  Thankfully, we were all too chicken to go through with it, we never even came close, but those late-night, five cups of coffee-induced conversations sure bring back fond memories. 

The brilliance of this student to use a referee’s uniform to accomplish his streaking mission comes as no shock, as The University of Arizona is a breeding ground for creative minds. 

UA’s Planetary Sciences department leads the nation in building spacecraft sent to Mars, the school houses the world’s most cleverly-named kosher restaurant, the Oy Vey Cafe, and Arizona students were the first to pie Ann Coulter in the face. 

Clearly, the ref-streaker was just following a long tradition of innovative Wildcats who came before him.  No harm, no foul. 

  

British born race car driver Dan Wheldon died Sunday after injuries sustained in a 15-car wreck early in the Las Vegas Indy 300, according to the Associated Press.  The AP reports that drivers were told of his death in a meeting around two hours after the crash.  

The 33-year-old won the Indianapolis 500 for the second time in May (he also won the race in 2005), among other major racing accomplishments including earning the title of IRL IndyCar Series Champion in 2005. 

The trouble began on Lap 13 when Weldon’s car flew over another car involved in the massive wreck, and into the catch fence outside of Turn 2.

Wheldon’s participation in the Izod IndyCar World Championship involved a promotional aspect, as IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard offered to pay a non-regular series driver $5 million if they won the race, and although Wheldon didn’t technically qualify, Bernard extended the offer to him anyway.  Wheldon would’ve split the $5 million with Ann Babenco of High Bridge, N.J a randomly selected fan.  As a part of Wheldon’s special circumstances in the race, he started in the very back of the field, 34 cars deep, but had quickly worked his way through his competitors when the wreck happened. 

After the crash stopped the race, driver Paul Tracy who was also involved in the wreck told the AP, “Just a horrendous accident.  Lot of prayers right now for Dan, because it’s going to be a long recovery. They’re scrambling in there right now. There’s 20 doctors in there.”  The accident left cars crumpled, upside down and on fire on the track with debris strewn down the straightaway. 

According to the AP, “drivers had been concerned about the high speeds on LVMS’ 1.5-mile oval after they reached nearly 225 mph during practice.”

Fellow drivers J.R. Hildebrand and Pippa Mann were taken to the hospital because of dizziness and Will Power because of back pain. 

In a Driver Blog series on usatoday.com, Wheldon wrote Saturday about problems with his car throughout practices and qualifying sessions.  He said he was more than 3mph off pace, so the problem had to be technical and his team would have to take the car apart to figure out the source of the slow-down. 

After blogging about how great his team was and how hard they were working to diagnose the problem and fix the car , Wheldon wrote, “This is going to be an amazing show. The two championship contenders, Dario Franchitti and Will Power, are starting right next to each other in the middle of the grid. Honestly, if I can be fast enough early in the race to be able to get up there and latch onto those two, it will be pure entertainment. It’s going to be a pack race, and you never know how that’s going to turn out.”

Fellow drivers honored Wheldon with a 5-lap tribute in which ABC’s broadcast of the race went silent.  I have seen Wheldon interviewed many times in the last year (in fact, I just saw him on Dan Lebatard Is Highly Questionable a few weeks ago) and he seemed like such a nice, upbeat person, despite falling on tough times in his career.  Unable to get picked up by a team this season, Wheldon had worked on three race broadcasts on the Versus network as a commentator.

Wheldon is survived by his wife Susie, and two young sons, Sebastian, born in 2009 and Oliver, born in March of this year. 

Chip Off The Old Block: Coach Kelly Lets Obnoxious Ducks Fans Have It, Yelling At Them On Live Television

You are Chip Kelly.  Your ninth-ranked Oregon Ducks just won a hard-fought game against #21 Arizona State.  The final score, 41-27 doesn’t reflect how competitive and exhausting the game actually was.  It’s after 10pm, and the only thing standing in the way of you getting your party on in Eugene is the lovely Erin Andrews, waiting to ask you a few hard-hitting questions on national television.  You get to Erin, and this is what you have to deal with (you at home, watch the video…please…)

Kelly reminds me of a curmudgeon neighborhood store owner, yelling at the brats that come in to buy snacks after school and cause a ruckus.  While Kelly seems to have a temper (I certainly wouldn’t want to make him mad) I can’t blame him for setting those goofballs straight.  Way to turn the tables and heckle your home crowd hecklers!  Andrews’ reaction was pretty priceless too. 

Although the description of my blog states, “Laugh, cry and learn,” I certainly didn’t anticipate eliciting waterworks on Day 1.  But here I sit with tears in my eyes after reading Rick Reilly’s new take on an old story we all know too well. 

It has been well documented that a group of Flight 93 passengers challenging the terrorist hijackers resulted in the plane going down in a Shanksvill, Pennsylvania field instead of a more populated area, most likely, the Capitol Building in Washington DC.

A simple summary of the story is, as Reilly puts it, “…four athletes pushing a food cart.”  Many often unjustly use war lexicon in reference to athletes and sporting events, but in this case, it appears that the athletic background of these four men perhaps played a role in a true battle between the good guys and bad guys. 

(click the title to open the link)

(Source: ESPN)