You Can't Have It Both Ways, Sports Fans

Two of the NFL's "good guys" -- Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye -- should get together for lunch, commiserate a bit and enjoy a good chuckle at the expense of the media and sports fans.

...Manning and Ogunleye have officially become members of the NFL's "Rock and a Hard Place" club.

Ogunleye stated last week that he'll no longer share his true feelings while answering media questions. Ogunleye was a hot topic heading into the Bears' playoff game last weekend after saying, "You know they (the Panthers) had all the hype coming into the game and we felt they didn't deserve it. And I think again, (they have) a lot more hype than they should, and we're going to continue to play as hard as we can. I'm not downplaying the Carolina Panthers, but I'm up-playing us."

Ogunleye, a confident and hard-working individual who has a reputation for being one of the NFL's good guys, was pasted in the media and on message boards despite the end of the statement where he clearly explained that his comments were attempting to show that his team -- the one he is quite proud of -- deserved as much hype as his upcoming opponent. Following the storm that ensued against him, he stated that he wouldn't share his honest opinions any longer and would simply provide the politically correct responses going forward.  

Ludicrous, isn't it? 

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning walked into a similar PR buzz saw following the Colts loss to the Steelers when -- in response to a direct question -- he stated, "Let's just say we had some problems in protection." 

Manning, who is usually the poster boy for tact and "pat" answers, finally let out his true feelings after a frustrating day. He didn't say his offensive line stunk up the joint, but the media and many fans took the shallow viewpoint of interpreting it that way.

Someone call actor Bill Murray and tell him we have a great storyline for "Lost In Translation, II."

Manning stated an obvious fact following a day where he had to pick himself up off the turf five times and barely kept himself in the field of play on one of them to avoid a safety. Were there pass protection problems? Golly, I'm pretty sure most folks could answer that question with ease.

Manning didn't say his offensive line missed assignments or had mental lapses during the game. He didn't call for the head of the offensive line coach like a Terrell Owens or Randy Moss might have enough gall to do. He didn't point fingers at center Jeff Saturday who calls the blocking schemes at the line in response to Manning's audibles. He didn't acccuse Edgerrin James or his tight ends of missing blocks on blitzing Steelers who wanted to take his head off.

He simply said, "we had some problems in protection."

All of a sudden, Manning was accused of calling out teammates, being a whiner, and not accepting responsibility for his role in the loss. Tunnel-vision was suddenly the hottest concept since the invention of the yo-yo.

Success breeds contempt, and Manning has been in the limelight for more than a decade since his days at Tennessee because he is one of the best at his trade. So it shouldn't be a great surprise that people lurk in the bushes waiting at every turn to take a simple statement or event and try to mangle it into something uglier than it truly was. These folks who pointed fingers at Manning somehow missed these other quotes, where he clearly acknowledged his part in the Colts collapse that day by repeatedly saying "we" or "us".

"Give Pittsburgh credit for coming in here and playing better than us....

"We just couldn't get much going...

And he even stood up for teammate Mike Vanderjagt after his devastating miss that could have sent the game into overtime.

"One play is not the reason the Colts didn't win this game," he said.

And if there was any question as to Manning's feelings about his teammates, it was apparent in this quote:

"We had good guys and guys you want to win for," he said.

Athletes like Ogunleye and Manning were stared down by the hypocrisy of the American media and public and paid a price for it this past week. On one hand the media and the public complain about "stock answers" repeated over and over again by athletes. They accuse them and their coaches of not having any fire or pride when they resort to vanilla-coated answers. They cry out for players and teams to "tell it like it is" while mocking them in their articles and public forums for being so darn politically correct.

And when any of them finally steps outside of those confines, they get trampled, kicked and berated for it.

You can't have it both ways, America. And as we continue to beat these guys up when they even casually -- or even with some measured-respect -- speak from their hearts, they'll be less likely to ever do it again.

And soon we'll know the answer to every question before it's even asked.

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