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updated: 1/27/2013 5:53 PM

These days, off-field action far more compelling

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  • Fans get excited when they see players like the Bulls' Marco Belinelli make a game-winning shot, but they stay with stories like those about Manti Te'o and Lance Armstrong much longer, writes Mike Imrem.

    Fans get excited when they see players like the Bulls' Marco Belinelli make a game-winning shot, but they stay with stories like those about Manti Te'o and Lance Armstrong much longer, writes Mike Imrem.
    Associated Press


Last week two Chicago athletes performed two remarkable plays.

One night Bulls center Joakim Noah crashed out of bounds to save a loose ball so Marco Belinelli could score what turned out to be the winning basket.

The next night Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane doodled and then dipsied a no-look pass so Marian Hossa could score the winning goal.

The mass media briefly noted both plays and quickly reverted back from the remarkable to the interesting: Lance Armstrong's cheating and Manti Te'o's lying.

I'm as guilty as anyone despite being in awe of what Noah and Kane did.

Once those games were over it was more compelling to follow Armstrong and Te'o as they talked more and made sense less.

The on-field stuff once was the entree and the off-field stuff the dessert. Now the on-field stuff is the appetizer and the off-field stuff the entree.

An athlete makes a great play and you gawk at it, check the replay and move on. He does something unethical and you read about it, analyze it, judge it, listen to his explanation and judge it all over again.

The games are fun but the soap operas are fascinating.

It's difficult to tell whether life imitates sports, sports imitate life or each imitates the other.

A week ago Barack Obama addressed the nation after being inaugurated for his second term as president of the United States.

What Obama said was important. It touched on many of the issues facing the country. Of course, it was as hard to understand and as hard to believe as any political speech is.

So the next several days -- all the way up to and including Sunday morning's news programs -- I listened more intently to the discussions concerning Beyoncé.

You know, did she lip-sync the words to the national anthem at the inaugural ceremony? Seriously, don't inquiring minds want to know?

The real question now is whether Beyoncé will reveal the truth to Anderson Cooper or Dr. Phil or stoop to Maury.

(It should be to a man, right, since Armstrong spilled to Oprah and Te'o to Katie, or do women simply offer a more forgiving confessional to either gender?)

Uh, where was I?

Oh yeah, Joakim Noah and Patrick Kane, two all-stars making all-star plays to win games.

If they did so to win playoff games the feats would have been enduring and if they did so to win championships they would have been legendary.

But this is January, when NBA and NHL plodding is forgettable no matter how spectacular.

America has an appetite for sports, but ESPN's family of networks can't merely air game highlights over and over again throughout a 24-hour news cycle.

Instead, the worldwide leader alternates a play like Noah's with an Armstrong sound bite and then a play like Kane's with a Te'o sound bite and then somewhere mentions that Al Pacino will play Joe Paterno in a feature film.

This week all of those stories will be put on hold as Super Bowl previews feature the Harbaugh brothers as if they were the Smith Bros. curing the common cough.

Better that a Super scandal emerges, or at least a controversy, to keep sports journalists from breaking down the no-huddle offense and 3-4 defense for us.

Players from the 49ers and Ravens will make remarkable, Kane-and-Noah type plays on Sunday.

None of them will be as compelling as if Deadspin reveals that the Harbaughs are imaginary brothers.

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