The new year in sports: A good man is hard to find

Jan 18, 2013

With the college football season finally behind us, I wanted to write a simple college football roundup, ending in a sweet little story about a very good guy.

But every time I tried, some bad news got in the way.

The first obstacle was Lance Armstrong.  In case you missed it – though I can’t imagine how – it turns out the man who came back from cancer to win a record seven Tours de France and write two best-selling books about his inspirational story, is a fraud. 

He was taking performance-enhancing drugs the whole time, and whenever someone tried to tell the truth about him, he went out of his way to ruin their careers, their finances, or their lives.  He is a genuinely bad person. 

So, that’s all the time I want to give him.

Now, back to college football.  On Monday, January 7th – six days after New Year’s, when the college football season always ended in the old days – I stayed up until midnight to watch the national title game between Alabama and Notre Dame. 

I don’t know why I stayed up that late – it was over by halftime, when Alabama was already ahead, 28-0 – but I did learn Alabama head coach Nick Saban – who already makes more than $5 million a year – earned another $400,000 for winning the game.  His players – who, you might recall, actually played in the game – received $500 of souvenirs. 

I was heartened, at least, to see the head coaches at Penn State, Notre Dame and Oregon all turn down bigger money from the NFL to stay with their schools.  Until, that is, Chip Kelly, the head coach at Nike University the University of Oregon, changed his mind, took the money, and ran. 

Okay, now can I get to my favorite story, about Michigan’s Taylor Lewan? 

When politicians and corporate executives have to choose between confessing corruption or incompetence, they choose incompetence, every time. And so did Te'o...

No?  There’s some bizarre story from Notre Dame I’ve got to talk about? Okay, it seems their All-American linebacker, Manti Te’o, who was a candidate for the Heisman Trophy, told reporters at the outset of the season that he lost his grandmother, and his girlfriend, in the same week. 

True enough, Te’o lost his grandmother.  But this week, we learned, he didn’t lose his girlfriend, because she does not exist.  So, did Te’o engineer the hoax, or was he a sucker?  When politicians and corporate executives have to choose between confessing corruption or incompetence, they choose incompetence, every time.  And so did Te’o, and Notre Dame.  Victims, all. 

Okay, now? 

Yes!  The story I want to tell is about the University of Michigan’s Taylor Lewan.  Only a junior, he rose to become the Big Ten’s offensive lineman of the year, a first team All-American, and a likely first-round draft pick, which would be worth many millions.      

Just about all Lewan’s comments sounded like he was long gone.  But, at last week’s press conference, he told us he had decided to turn down the NFL, stay at Michigan, stick with his teammates, finish his degree, and graduate on time.  For this, the experts said he was stupid and crazy. 

But Lewan didn’t seem to care.  A few minutes later, he made a cameo appearance at Michigan’s basketball game to serve as the conductor of the pep band, to great applause.  As a conductor, I’d have to say he is an excellent left tackle.  The guy didn’t hit the beat by accident. 

But as a person, Taylor Lewan has been the best news in sports this year. 

So Lance Armstrong, Chip Kelley and Manti Te’o, please step back, and give the stage to Mr. Lewan. 

But, not the baton.