I wasn’t quite sure where I was going with whole thing when I got started, or maybe, I did not intend to end up where I am when this began would be a better way of saying it.
At first, I was angered by what I considered negative press, from both the Wizard of Odds and the World Wide Leader, but then I became a little more understanding after I saw the video of Nick Saban and Ian Rapoport’s exchange. I did and still believe that situation – the answer to “the question”- could have been handled with more tact. There was the belief that Ian could shed more light on it. He did that, but also during this process- I’m starting to love that word- he did much more, or rather his answers to my question and his subsequent thoughts and anecdotes, whether intended or not, made me really dig deeper into this stew – which has many flavors and cooks very slowly – and think out a lot of things. I’m going to try to organize all that in the post and place it out there for your consumption.
First things first; I have really appreciated all the comments, which have been mostly positive, for the latest posts. I also appreciate the new readers that have stopped by for this. I hope you’ll return. I also would like to think those that added this site to their links. I’ve got a much busier day checking the blogs that linked me and catching up on my blog roll. I owe thanks to Orson and Holly at EDSBS – their links always generate a lot of traffic. Also thanks to the guys at RollBamaRoll and Gerry Dorsey at Uncle Rico’s Time Machine, who has been with me for a while now. To shorten this up, basically look at my blog roll and check those folks out if you haven’t. Finally, very special thanks to Ian Rapoport, who took a chance and placed his trust in someone he knew only as Picture Me Rollin.
Here is what I learned, in no certain order:
There is no such thing as good or bad news. There is only news and all of it is worth reporting. The news itself has no character or temperament. We, the consumer, add the connotation to it. A completely hypothetical situation would be Nick Saban yelling at a recruit’s mother. This would be horrible news to Alabama fans, whether they admitted it or not. Tommy Tuberville on the other hand would probably dance a jig if that happened, especially if it was the mother of a recruit he wanted. You could also be certain Auburn fans would rejoice inwardly and outwardly – after calling Finebaum and condemning Saban. Granted, Alabama fans and Saban would not want this publicized because of the reflection on the school but rest assured that it is news and would be reported. Just because we as don’t like something does not mean it isn’t newsworthy.
Some things are not news, or at least shouldn’t be. Jeremy Elder’s mother was upset about his arrest. That is certain and quoting her saying as much did nothing for anybody. If she said she didn’t care that he had been arrested that might be news.
I once knew someone (cough-cough) who did Jager shots with a former, high-profile, student-athlete who may or may not have been of legal drinking age. There are certain people who would call this news and would give it a negative connotation, but to me, it isn’t news. It was a college kid doing the same thing I did as a college kid. Would he have been better served being at home watching a movie? Probably, but then again, I would have been better off doing that as well.
The internet age is vastly different, as far as information dispersal, than any other time before. With the free flow of information and the ease with which it can be accessed there are bound to be changes in what we, the public, find out about. This certainly has not always been the case. I have heard stories about Joe Namath’s time on our campus that would make Jenna Jameson and Hunter S. Thompson blush. Those were not put out there for mass public consumption and none of us are the any worse for it, in spite of the fact that if any one of those instances happened to a college athlete today, his dismissal would be eminent (unless he played quarterback at LSU). I believe that some things, in regards to player’s personal lives specifically, should not be reported. Most of the time they are not, and brushes with the law should be fair game, but I do worry about the future. In the absence of real news there is tendency to “create” news out of things that are not.
Reporters are not fans. They view things completely different than we do. Despite my recent flirtations with what some consider journalism and no matter how my tongue-in-cheek paragraphs about firing Saban were perceived, I am a huge Alabama fan, and in that light is the way, I hope, that I always view things. I take pride in the accomplishments of the University of Alabama and it pains me when bad things happen to it, its reputation, and the people associated with it. When I consume news that concerns the program, whether I witness it in person or read or hear a report about it, my perspective is how it affects the program and ultimately me.
I’ll give a few examples: Alabama hired Nick Saban as a coach…they got a great recruiting class… depth was developed in the defensive lines… blue chip recruits are leaning towards Alabama; all these things increase the probability that Alabama will win on the football field in the future, and that makes me happy. It also makes it less likely that the rival fans of my favorite team will have real ammunition to tease me about – Trey Blackmon’s troubles with the law are good news to me (see above) but if I’m an Auburn fan, it is much more easily dismissed as taunting because of the win streak.
Conversely when Alabama has players arrested, or a recruit chooses UT or AU over Alabama, or Saban announces a decision to leave, the probability of wins on the field is diminished and that is not good in my mind.
Alabama has a large fan base and rabid support because it has a history of winning on the field and it has the potential to do that again. Vanderbilt (sorry – no offense) has support but there is a reason that Alabama puts more fans in their stadium when they play in Nashville; Vanderbilt, while a fine institution – perhaps better than Alabama in many regards – does not win football games. Fans want to see wins. End of story.
My desire is to see Alabama victorious on Fall Saturdays. To that end, I process all information concerning Alabama with its effect on that outcome. Ian, as a beat reporter, disseminates information to the masses about Alabama football regardless of its effect on game outcomes. If it’s news he’s going to report it because that is his job. I believe that the tough part for him is putting that information out there in truthful a manner as possible. I say that because his only request before he talked to me was that I represent him truthfully and that was harder than I thought it would be – in fact, I am still a little worried that I put my on spin on some of it. See, I heard what he said and I tried to write it as verbatim as I could but in the recall it was hard to be absolutely sure I was quoting him accurately. He said this but he did he mean it like this or maybe this way… those were thoughts as I wrote out the post.
The bottom line is that it is unfair to be angry or to even judge a reporter because he or she prints a story that you don’t agree with. As long as it is accurate the desired task was accomplished. Their job is to report. My job is to follow the team and support it.
Columns are a different matter. A column is by nature a matter of opinion. The personal spin of the columnist is put on it and there is a big responsibility in that. I stand by what I said about Ray Melcik (and Finebaum); their opinion is of no more value than mine or yours, as long as it based on the same information. To his credit I do believe that Melick does try to be somewhat objective (I don’t believe that about Finebaum). The difference between Melick’s opinion and mine are this: he has a bigger platform from which to speak (for now) and is heard by more people. Opinions are neither right nor wrong but they can be ill-informed and clouded by bias. Maybe as a fan I take criticism to much to heart and ultimately that is why I choose not to read Melick or listen to Finebaum. I know that I certainly don’t mind listening when Alabama is being praised and that may be a little hypocritical but I think it is just part of the human condition; you get farther with praise than you do criticism any day. You can ask my wife if you don’t believe me.
In conclusion, I now believe that I understand the role of a reporter better. Some of us get so emotional and passionate about the football team we are following that a message we perceive as negative sets us off. That should be expected but that should not make us angry at the message bearer.
I also believe that very few of us know Nick Saban. I’ll leave it at that. The history of his time in Tuscaloosa will determine what kind of coach he really is. I’m not sure that I will ever be able to tell you what type of man he is, and so I’ll leave that to the people that know him.