Highlights this week include: a serious conversation about Twitter which exposes USC as a bunch of liars; some Venn diagram humor (hilarious!); we play "Hey, you know who's CRAZY?"; Twitter Tracker; LeGarrette Blount and the media's reaction thereto; the Undulating Curve of Media Hype; and the introduction of the Philosopher's Club, which will periodically feature quotes that I like for some reason or another. Click on through for more!
Twitter annoys me for many reasons. The main one is that it's primarily a forum for unmitigated egotism. Now, to different extents we all think that other people should be interested in our lives and thoughts. If I didn't, I wouldn't write for Burnt Orange Nation. My problem isn't with the egotism, but with the fact that Twitter has made it socially acceptable to shamelessly broadcast your egotism.
USC Safety Taylor Mays was asked about the Heisman race this year in the context of an article exploring why defensive players don't ever win, to which he hilariously responded: "McCoy is going to win," his reasoning being that Mr. McCoy is the only one of the big three quarterbacks yet to win. "Then they could have a little Heisman brunch." A hat tip where a hat tip is due. That's comic gold right there.
However, with respect to sports, Twitter has thrown on its head numerous conventions of the sports media complex in important ways. For one, it has allowed athletes to communicate with fans directly, removing the sports writer from his position as mouthpiece from the locker room. It's to the point where sportswriters are reporting on the quotes athletes give over Twitter (see, e.g., the Shawne Merriman fiasco this weekend). And if sports fans can read the primary source material themselves and form their own conclusions, then the value of the sportswriter-as-mouthpiece diminishes. However, due to the lockdown that big program coaches now have on their players' online activities (with the rare exception of someone like Rob Lunn, the former UConn lineman who blogged his senior season and rose to incredible and deserved popularity once I single-handedly launched his career; you're welcome buddy!), this is more of a concern with professional sports.
The second aspect of sports media that Twitter has upended (or is in the process of upending, anyway) is the information lockdown that major programs try to maintain (none more so than Texas). BON fave Bruce Feldman illustrated that point brilliantly when, about a week ago, he was at a Pete Carroll presser and first tweeted this at 12:23pm during the press conference: "odd moment at pete carroll presser: tj simers asks first question what do u have against mitch mustain? carroll not thrilled."
Nothing special there, really. I wouldn't have been thrilled with that question either if I were a head coach, even though it's pretty apparent that TJ Simers was joking. But then, later that evening, Feldman posts this: "it's funny looking at the ASAP transcript #USC put out from the Carroll presser. The TJ Simers questions are listed as (indiscernable on...)". So Feldman is effectively saying that the USC sports information department is censoring Simers' questions by saying they were "indiscernable" because he asked ones that they didn't like. Is it true? In short, absolutely. Read the transcript and watch the video. Not only are Simers' questions very much discernible, but Carroll's immediate annoyed reaction "I don't know why you'd even ask that" was also omitted from the transcript. Scandal! (Here's a tip, USC: if you're trying to pull a fast one in the written transcript, don't also release the unedited video.)
Of course, in the grand scheme of things, the fact that USC is censoring this type of thing isn't that big of a deal. But the fact that Bruce Feldman was there, saw it happen, and decided to publicize it via his non-ESPN affiliated Twitter account does represent a crack in the facade of the college football information monopoly. It's a small crack, but it's a crack. And the fact that it came via Twitter is not insignificant. Bruce Feldman has access to people and places that I do not have. Generally, in order to maintain that access, there is some level of unspoken decorum that exists between USC and Bruce Feldman the ESPN reporter. However, it is perhaps an unresolved issue as to whether that same decorum exists between USC and Bruce Feldman the Twitterer (for an example of the lack of Twitter decorum between colleagues, see this week's Twitter Tracker). So while ESPN may not want to annoy USC with criticisms, Twitter sure doesn't care. Maybe there's something to this Twitter nonsense after all.
I'm sure that you, much like me, have read every article about Texas that you could find all offseason. (It helps to have dimecoverage as a robotic amalgamator of everything we'd ever want to read.) And surely you've come across numerous article that rehash the same tired stories over and over again. Some of those articles manage to fuse two or more of these banalities.
So to your right is a Venn Diagram on which you could graph these stories, if you were so geekily inclined. I was inclinded to just that with one article that dimecoverage sent me the other day from the LA Times. I don't read Chris Dufresne very often, but I have to give him a hearty congratulations for cramming all five hackneyed storylines into one article. Believe it or not, it's actually quite well-written, which was sort of shocking and sad, in a way. There are two lessons from this: (1) don't waste your talent on the banal, and (2) if you're going for trite, don't forget that Shipley and McCoy are roommates! That circle looks awfully lonely down here. You couldn't have fit that one in somewhere too?
Moving along, nothing bothers me more than the pervasive holier-than-thou posturing that is so commonplace among modern sportswriters. This is far more pervasive among older baseball writers but college football is, much like baseball, a sport that mythologizes its past far more than the NFL or the NBA. It's probably not a coincidence that my two favorite sports are MLB and college football; I love the mythology of it all. But to me there's a distinctly negative side effect to the worship of all that sepia-toned history, and it's that some of us cling too strongly to the supposed glory of the past. Every time a player or coach does something controversial, the reaction is often framed by the damage it supposedly does to the sport rather than the damage done by the act itself. Because of this, we rarely get reactions to controversial events; we get overreactions.
Bruce Feldman: "Mike Lupica sez Pete Carroll's team is "underachieving" Right, cause Carroll's the one who's been livin off his rep & mailin it in 4 years."
Which of course brings me to the case of LeGarrette Blount. I watched what happened live and my first thought was "How many games is he going to get suspended?" I concluded 1, but then he tried to attack Boise State fans in the stands that were mercilessly taunting him as he walked by. He didn't make it into the crowd nor did he touch anyone at that point, but I saw so many of his Oregon teammates look disgusted with his actions that I thought the suspension would rise because he had to regain the respect of the locker room. But then the media got a hold of it and, well, here's some typical holier-than-thou nonsense from Jay Mariotti: "When the season's first national telecast explodes into a hideous episode, I don't like civility's chances in this day and age....To be blunt, Blount should have been arrested on the spot and prosecuted. " Nice pun, asshole.
Anyway, the mainstream media aren't the only ones who did this of course. Everyone on Addicted to Quack (our sister Oregon blog) was in the heat of the moment calling for him to be kicked off the team. Virtually everyone on the open BON thread was calling for it as well. And in response to all of this "Oh my god, why won't someone think of the CHILDREN?!?!" wailing from every corner, Oregon did what it felt it had to do and suspended Blount for the rest of his senior year. Which is insane. Texas players have gotten 3 game suspensions for DWIs! Oklahoma did not revoke the scholarship offer of a recruit who is facing felony charges. Oregon itself accepted a transfer from a guy kicked off of Nebraska for assault and other violations of team rules!
Hey, You Know Who's CRAZY?
Jason Whitlock. Since Saturday, he's pretty much written non-stop about his new-found yet nevertheless undying love for Blaine Gabbert. Whitlock is funny and engaging most of the time. But he's also super sanctimonious (speaking of...) and he's undoubtedly crazy. I'd stil trade Kirk Bohls for him any day of the week and twice on Saturday.
This dude let his emotions get the best of him (immediately following a game predicated on violence and aggression, mind you), and he punched one other dude who came up to him and taunted him (rumors are currently circulating that the BSU player either asked him a pointed question about his dead relative or flung the N-word around) and then, after some idiots in the crowd were probably saying even worse things, he tried and failed to get in a fight with them. This all made him look very bad and, by extension, reflected somewhat poorly on Oregon. That's what he did and that's all he did.
It frustrates me that anyone thinks that this is worth a year-long suspension. But I understand why. It's a combination of the fact that it happened on national television and the eagerness of holier-than-thou bloviators to wax rhapsodical about the state of our fair game and how modern society just doesn't appreciate what we have anymore. If this event had happened at a closed practice, would Blount have been suspended at all? Maybe one game? What if Blount had been playing for a less high profile team like Washington State and the game hadn't been on ESPN. Would fewer commentators have talked about it, leading to less uproar and a shorter suspension?
I think most of us would agree that the pervasiveness of the images we saw certainly affected how the situation with his suspension played out. And if that's the case, then how is that fair? If he should be punished for what he did rather than which cameras were on him when he did it, then when the fact that there are cameras on him at the time affects how he is punished, how can it possibly be a fair punishment? Furthermore, there's a reason that civilized criminal justice systems build in some time and process in between a crime and a trial/punishment: it allows tempers to cool and reason to take over. I realize this isn't under the purview of the criminal justice system, but the principles are universal: don't go to the grocery store hungry and don't punish people while you're mad.
More than anything, LeGarrette Blount should be rationally punished for exactly what he did to Byron Hout that night rather than for what the sanctimonious media believes he did to their sepia-toned memories of the college football of yesteryear. Now, reasonable people may certainly disagree about how long such a punishment should be. I don't mean to be sanctimonious myself; you may think a one year suspension is reasonable for this exactly what happened that night and that's fine, but I think most would agree that LeGarrette Blount was punished for more than just the events of that night. And for that the blame must lay at the feet of much of the mainstream media and fans themselves.
In the interest of fairness, some media members do not fall into this wide swath of sanctimony. Here are three articles that are far more reasoned than the usual drivel, and which fall in with my line of thinking:
And finally, without further ado but with apologies to Adam Sternbergh and New York Magazine, I present the Undulating Curve of Media Hype. If you can't read it, click it for a full-size version.