Monday Morning Briefing
This story originally published on IrishEyes.com

Publisher
Posted Jan 21, 2013


O'Malley's new weekly Monday morning column touches on coverage of Manti Te'o, Te'o's draft stock, the NFL playoffs, and Notre Dame's basketball future...

Has it really been just two weeks? Things sure have changed since the morning of January 7 when Irish fans woke to a dreamscape that included their beloved team's presence in the BCS Championship game. About 12 hours later, of course, reality struck -- and unreality followed.

Between head coach Brian Kelly's dalliance with the NFL and cemented legend Manti Te'o's half-truths, no two-week period has tested, nor lessened a fan base's collective positive vibes more than the last 14 days at and around Notre Dame.

Kelly stayed, Te'o spoke and reassured most he was guilty of embellishment -- and it must be said, lying, -- rather than an unimaginable and wholly out-of-character scheme of self-promotion, and Notre Dame remains somewhere outside of the nation's No. 1 football team.

All of the above could be related and interdependent -- I choose to think Alabama was better; separate from that, much better with a month-plus to prepare, and that Notre Dame didn't help themselves by playing its worst game in two seasons.

Regarding Te'o:

  • I could live to be 100 and never "cover" a stranger, more polarizing sports story than that of Te'o's last week. The oddity of course is that most of it -- save for a press conference with Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick -- was "covered" from a chair, desk (or counter -- a lot of late night's in my kitchen), and lap top, as news broke through contained interviews and social media rather than traditional means...

  • As noted in my initial column on the subject, at no point did I think Te'o was behind the hoax. I'm relieved that it appears he's not. But I'm also certain his legacy will be forever changed because of it. Not tarnished, necessarily -- for some it will be -- but change.

    It doesn't bother me that much that he lied throughout three months of interviews regarding his online relationship -- as noted previously, at some point, he could no longer risk telling the truth. I get that. But as sports fans, don't blame the national media for its sensationalized coverage of this saga -- you definitely didn't mind it, nor did Notre Dame, I might add, when the same national media set out to celebrate and revere all things Te'o as it developed...

  • Assuming the remainder of the story's developments are as projected, my final view of Te'o is relatively unchanged: he's the most improved player I've ever seen -- that was already "very good" -- between his junior and senior seasons in program history. He's the best team leader in program history, at least that I can quantify from afar. His worst game of his season came at the worst possible time -- he's far from alone in that regard.

    And he was an impressive student-athlete, representative of the University, and all around good person. And he's human. He lied. So have I, so have you. As for his draft stock dropping as a result of the situation...have any of you watched the NFL?

    He who can run, hit, study, learn, and play through pain is both coveted and afforded ample opportunity. Te'o might drop a touch because Eddie Lacy made him look less-than-impressive, but not because his closest friend was from the internet...

  • And yes, its a lesson that when something seems too good to be true, it probably is…

Weekend Musings

Mike Brey's Irish got back on a track with a 69-66 win over Rutgers Saturday night. The veteran group struggled to separate from the Scarlet Knights for the same reason they often struggle in tournament play: when challenged defensively and athletically, they labor to score.

  • Teams that commit to guarding Notre Dame can beat them. If the Irish are crisp and knocking down shots early, they can still compete with most, especially in the watered down sport that is college basketball. And Brey's Irish can defend and rebound with most, qualities that should equate to Big East and NCAA Tournament success. But I can't shake the feeling that if Rutgers' guards seem too quick, and if Rutgers pressure defense seems too bothersome, that March 2013 won't be much different than its predecessors…

  • An influx of athleticism could give Brey his most explosive team 15 seasons into his Irish coaching career. Look for the 2014-15 Irish, led by 5th-year Jerian Grant, senior Pat Connaughton, juniors Cam Biedscheid and Zach Auguste, and sophomores Demetrius Jackson, Steve Vasturia, and V.J. Beachem, to make a run with an exciting, up-tempo attack. Unfortunately that group is one big man short.

  • Notre Dame vs. Georgetown tonight will determine if the Irish can compete for a top four finish in conference play. Win and I'm convinced (because a win likely means a 7-2 or even 8-1 finish in league home games). Lose, and an uphill struggled to remain in the top eight (one-game bye) ensues…

Has an NFL quarterback added more impressive pelts than the trio poached by Baltimore's Joe Flacco this month? Flacco has helped beat the sport's future, Indianapolis' Andrew Luck, and past, present, and all-time greats Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, in successive weeks.

All that stands in his way is a sensational half-season starter at quarterback named Colin Kaepernick -- a dual threat triggerman Notre Dame and since-deposed defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta ripped up for a 35-0 victory in September 2009. (For those not aware, Kaepernick was Nevada's star quarterback that day, the season-opener and best game of Charlie Weis' last season in South Bend.)

As a lifelong Notre Dame season-ticket holder and alumnus, and as a lifelong San Francisco 49ers fan, this has been quite a football season to both cover and view from afar. But if you think I'm on cloud nine, imagine how former Western Michigan and Western Kentucky head coach Jack Harbaugh feels this morning.

Congratulations to both of his sons, John and Jim, and the first ever, nearly unimaginable meeting between brothers born just 15 months apart, in Super Bowl XLVII -- here's hoping it ends similarly to Super Bowl XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV, and XXIX, if you catch my drift.

Until next week...


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