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We want players to be honest, unless we disagree with them

Feb 13, 2013, 12:51 PM EDT

Celtic v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Getty Images

During the aftermath of yesterday’s events at Celtic Park, I had a short Twitter conversation with a friend about Neil Lennon. Was he to blame for the result, considering he made the decision to include central defender Efe Ambrose? The Nigerian had just returned from the Cup of Nations that morning. Should he have even been allowed to play?

My point at the time: We can speculate all we want, but until we get more information from the coach, player, or teammates, we have to concede we probably don’t know enough. At least, we don’t know near as much a Neil Lennon. We don’t know how Ambrose felt, how Lennon perceives the trade-off between him and the alternatives, or how those around Celtic were seeing the situation. We needed more information before hoisting the Celtic bost.

Now we have that little more information. Kris Commons, he of the open first half chance from 12 yards out that couldn’t be steered on frame, has gone public with his criticism of Lennon’s decision. In the process, the Celtic attacker got snared in a media trap.

Scraped from an ESPNFC blog post, one that cites BBC Scotland:

“Look, the manager picked him. The manager pulled him to one side and asked him if he was feeling okay. He said he was feeling brilliant.

“If he wasn’t feeling okay, then he should have said so. If he felt good then he should have put in a better performance.

“It was just very sloppy individual mistakes – something you’d probably get away with on a playground, not in the last 16 of the Champions League.”

Commons continued:

“There are certain individuals who let the team down. Hopefully this is just a one-off. 

“The back four have made errors which have probably cost us the tie. But it’s partly down to them why we’re here in the first place.

“It’s just a bitter one to swallow.”

The author’s reaction echoes other sentiments you can find online. Commons should have kept his mouth shut, not criticized his teammate and coach, and not acted like such a “fool.”

All of which is fair. But I think Commons’ comments are fair, too. We all saw Ambrose play, right? What’s Commons doing to do, insist it wasn’t a factor? Maybe he could he demurred, but that wouldn’t have gone over any better, unless Commons outright lied about Ambrose’s contributions.

I see both sides of this one, but I also can’t help but see the hypocrisy in jumping on a player for being honest. I’m not saying that anybody’s engaging in this on a personal level, but there is a tension between media (in general) pining for honest athletes only to deride them for as bad teammates when they remove their filters.

Calling out a teammate in the wake of a loss — a teammate that flew back from Africa and immediately stepped on a soccer field — is bad form. But so is calling out a guy for giving an honest answer to a question. It’s difficult to justify coming down on a guy for not lying.

We want players to avoid double speak, clichés, and evasive answers. Except when we don’t.

  1. wfjackson3 - Feb 13, 2013 at 1:44 PM

    This may not be in play here, but I think this kind of media behavior is the result of a much larger number of athletes working as analysts and journalists after their professional playing careers are over. At the very least, too many people claim moral superiority and decide to cast judgment on the professional decisions of athletes. Maybe calling out the manager is a bad move 99 times out of 100. But perhaps this is the 1 time it works out? How are we even to know?

  2. capsfan19 - Feb 13, 2013 at 1:50 PM

    Honestly commons is absolutely correct. Its a shame but two of those goals are DIRECTLY due to poor defense from ambrose.

  3. unclemosesgreen - Feb 13, 2013 at 3:00 PM

    Can’t go with you here. Ambrose was terrible, there’s no doubting that. He also had the header from six yards that he drilled right into Gigi’s arms.

    But you just can’t criticize a player in the media. Period. Can’t do it. The honesty isn’t the problem, it’s the criticizing of a teammate through the media. It’s not just bad form, it’s weak and undercutting behavior. If I were Commons’ teammate I’d punch him in the liver.

    • wfjackson3 - Feb 13, 2013 at 8:13 PM

      Again, I doubt that you have objective information about outcomes when one teammate criticizes another in the media. How do other circumstances surrounding said criticism impact the outcome of this situation? Responses similar to yours is what leads the media to call him out for his comments, because they know you agree and will read about it.

      • wfjackson3 - Feb 14, 2013 at 11:22 AM

        So what you are saying is that you ensured the result was always negative? That doesn’t mean it always works out poorly, it just means you don’t like it so you make sure it always works out poorly when you are involved.

        You seem incredibly objective and level headed. I will take all of your personal attacks to heart. Thank you for opening my eyes.

  4. unclemosesgreen - Feb 14, 2013 at 4:56 AM

    Be honest. In the lockerroom.

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