One of the strangest stories I have ever heard of relating not just to sports but to life in general surfaced today with the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax. I mean a story that combines the star player of the most recognizable college football program in the nation with the dark side of social media and with several shady characters is bound to brew up quite the storm.
I find this story incredibly sad. It doesn’t matter if Manti Te’o is an innocent victim or a major player in a quest for more publicity, there is no way that this tale ends well. People who love watching these types of unfortunate train wrecks happen are probably pulling their seats up extra close and keeping their iPhones handy because this roller coaster will take several more twists and turns before it is all over.
And I know I sound like a broken record considering what I wrote about last night, but because of the up in the air status of this bizarre story we need to stop yapping and rushing to judgment on Twitter and other social media outlets and just let the situation run its course. It is very obvious that there are two strongly conflicting stories regarding Manti Te’o’s involvement in this event. Let’s just recognize all the strange directions this story has already taken and brace for several more before we even think about offering up our expertise.
This negative story does eat at me quite a bit because it gives less than stellar publicity to a program I have admired and to an athlete I have considered top-notch. It goes without saying that both Notre Dame and Manti Te’o represent intercollegiate athletics, something that I have both an undying love for and a career in. When something like this happens that encompasses the attention of the nation, it hurts.
Life is interesting sometimes though. The moment the whole Manti snafu really started to escalate and ESPN started to push all efforts into covering the story and social media went bonkers with the most one-liners I have ever seen, something happened that made my pride and appreciation for the student-athletes who make college athletics possible skyrocket. And wouldn’t you know it, this sudden jolt of euphoria got pumped into my veins not by hot shot athletes or million dollar coaches thousands of miles away in mega-conferences but rather by people inhabiting the exact same building I was in.
At a little after 5 p.m. today our assistant sports information director Joel Carlson, yes, that same Joel Carlson who I crowned the best writer in Missoula five months ago, sent out to the media and published onto www.gogriz.com a masterpiece. Written with beauty, with emotion, and with purpose, I couldn’t help but brush away tears from my eyes about four different times while reading his article.
Now I can try to summarize his piece and put in my own words how amazing the person is who is featured in it but I would not be doing the article or the person justice.
So without going into detail let me just give you the gist (not a summary) of what you all need to go read about: Alyssa Smith is a Lady Griz basketball player who not only excels on the court but in life. She went through a horrific ordeal one morning at a day care right before she turned 2 years old. She survived and moved on, scars and all. She found a place that brought together young people who suffered the same traumatic experience she endured. When she grew too old to be a participant at this place, she took a leadership role. After many years in that leadership role, she has taken on a savior role. Alyssa is doing all she can as a Lady Griz basketball player in Missoula to save a camp 500 miles away in Washington state. Combined with the continued help of a big Griz supporter with a heart of gold plus a generous Missoula community, she is going to do it.
You want to forget about Manti Te’o? You want to feel touched and inspired? Please take ten minutes to read “Montana’s shining light for Camp Eyabsut” by Joel Carlson. I warn you, reading the first part of the story is a little tough to stomach, but in the end it is well worth it. So what if I become discouraged for a few minutes over some hoax in South Bend? I need to look no further than the floor of Dahlberg Arena to let me know who the real heroes of intercollegiate athletics are. Don’t Blink.