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Manti Te'o, Danica Patrick and Match Play

Feb 27, 2013 -- 10:19am

 

Cleaning out a sports writer’s notebook . . .

Manti Te’o said stress was partly to blame for his disappointing showing at the NFL Combine. That’s another reason I wouldn’t touch the former Notre Dame linebacker in the upcoming NFL draft.

You’d think the stress of lining up against Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers would be greater than the Combine. And even that, I think, would pale compared to the stress he’ll face when it comes to dealing with other NFL players, including his future teammates.

In the super sized macho world of NFL players, how do you think they’ll react to Te’o’s fairy tale girlfriend? There will be some good-natured kidding, no doubt, but there will be more mean-spirited verbal jabs. Players will talk behind his back and some will avoid him altogether. Imagine the trash talk he’ll hear on the field. Imagine the rumors about his lifestyle that Te’o will surely hear away from the field and lockerroom.

Combine stress? Te’o ain’t seen nothing yet.

***

Kudos to Danica Patrick. No one has been a bigger critic of Patrick than yours truly. That doesn’t mean I can’t admit it if I’m wrong. Well, I’m not ready to go that far, but I am willing to admit she showed me enough driving skill in Sunday’s Daytona 500 to now think she can be a competitive driver in stock car racing’s highest division.

She drove in the lead pack the entire race and showed the kind of patience and skill it takes to be an honest too goodness Sprint Cup racer. Absolutely she drove a conservative race but that’s what it takes in restrictor plate racing. The fact she didn’t try to make a bold room late tells me she’s a rookie and that no other driver is willing to partner up with her – yet.

This isn’t about Patrick being a woman. I couldn’t care less if a driver is male or female. I just think drivers should earn their way to Sprint Cup racing and, once there, prove they belong. Patrick got there because she’s a woman. She finished 8th because she earned it.

***

I loved the World Golf Championships Match Play Championship and agree with those die-hard golf fans who wish there were other match play tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule. But I also understand why there isn’t and why there won’t be.

First, the game’s top players don’t like it. It allows lesser players to get away with too many bad shots. Make an 8? No sweat, only the loss of one hole. You get the idea. Phil Mickelson didn’t even bother showing up last week and both Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods were first-round losers. Both seemed happy to get out of town early.

Second, the match play format is simply too risky for the folks footing the bills, the TV networks. This year’s semifinalists were recognizable names, but there’s too great a chance you’ll get guys about as well known as NFL offensive linemen.

The format obviously works well in team competition such the Ryder Cup, but for individual competition it is a tough sell in the competitive world of televised sports.

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