Like it or not, the media spectacle of Manti Te’o is reminiscent of the one that continues to haunt Tim Tebow. The media has an insatiable appetite for more Manti, just like they did for Tebow until he faded into irrelevancy last season.
Some players crumble under a media microscope and never reach their potential—Ryan Leaf is one example. Tebow dealt with the attention well, but he couldn’t live up to the hype that followed. Now Tebow is not worth the hassle for NFL teams.
Te’o can avoid becoming the next Tebow by following this step-by-step guide. It’s really not going to be as hard for Te’o as it was for Tebow, but he has to avoid doing certain things that make matters worse.
The media is something that can be controlled to some extent, but you have to know what to do and when to do it. Right now, Te’o is getting some bad advice that is actually making things worse.
Step 1: Don’t Be a Baby
So what if Te’o made a fool of himself in front of the entire country by getting catfished? Te’o can’t change the past; all he can do is focus on the future. The only things to do are put on big-boy pants and answer all the silly questions that come his way.
So far, Te’o has answered all the questions as gracefully as he can, and the entire ordeal was pretty much behind him. That was until the San Diego Chargers decided to treat him with kid gloves and hide him from the media until minicamp.
The only question that was left to ask Te’o was how he was being received in the locker room, which is an easy enough question to answer. The stock answer would have even been fine. If Te’o was really over it, he might even be able to laugh about the whole situation with his teammates and the media.
People appreciate authenticity and someone who can laugh at themselves a little bit. What would be so wrong if Te’o admitted that teammates have given him grief, but that he’s been able to laugh right along with them?
Instead, the Chargers are treating Te’o differently from all the other rookies. Hiding Te’o from the media only creates more of a spectacle when he finally does talk. Te’o becomes the story now instead of the conversation shifting to football and the team.
The questions will turn to why he thinks he needs to be treated differently, as if there is any reason to do so at this point. Why don’t they want Te’o to talk? Is Te’o still sensitive about the subject? Those are fair questions now.
In this case, the best thing the Chargers can do is give the media too much Te'o. People are going to get tired of him if there is nothing new or noteworthy about what Te'o is saying. After just a few days, the questions are going to shift almost entirely to football equations and typical rookie stuff.
Step 2: Get Boring
The last thing Te’o needs is more attention. Te’o should not be making news for anything other than his performances in uniform. Attending the Maxim 100 party in Los Angeles was probably not a smart move considering they listed his fake girlfriend on the list of the world’s hottest women.
Te’o needs to learn to love home. No night clubs, no parties, no billboards and no Raiders hats is a good policy for Te’o. At least initially, Te’o is going to have to be a really boring person.
Boring people don’t remain media spectacles. Interesting people, comments and situations make news. Being boring and always being at home or team headquarters will also endear Te’o to the fans.
Like it or not, fans don’t want the players to have lives. The expectation is that NFL players should be working every waking hour of every day. It’s unrealistic and totally crazy, but fans want to see that kind of dedication.
The only reason the media should want to talk to Te’o is because he made a play or didn’t make a play during a practice. Te’o should even avoid wearing interesting clothing.
You know what rarely gets media coverage? NFL players supporting charities. Te’o can quite easily spend his free time helping others, which means he can be doing a lot of good for humanity while he waits for the media attention to subside.
Step 3: Become a Good Player
Great players can say pretty much whatever they want without reprisal. That’s not to say it’s necessarily good to have a player who attracts attention, but it’s tolerated a lot more when the player performs. It’s not an issue in the locker room if the best player on the team is a spectacle of sorts.
Te’o doesn’t seem like the type of guy who craves attention, but he embellished the story about his dead girlfriend for maximum media impact. If Te’o wants attention, he simply needs to become a good player.
Good players attract the right type of attention. The media wants to talk to the players that made an impact on the game. If Te’o becomes a great player, people will basically forget about his off-field incident just like they did Ray Lewis’.
There is no better way to become the anti-Tebow than to become a great player. Tebow never developed into a good passer, making him basically a media creation. Tebow never moved from spectacle to good NFL player that would have justified all the media coverage.
If Te’o doesn’t become a good player, getting catfished becomes a career-defining situation. If Te’o becomes a good player, getting catfished is a funny footnote on his football career. Te'o gets to decide which that will be.