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

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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.