Les Miles’ Affair with a Student, the Media and Hypocrisy
The line between sports writers and sports bloggers is not a vague one – at least that’s what both sports writers and sports bloggers would want you to think. Bloggers fancy themselves the rogue cowboys of fans, writers meanwhile are the sheriffs cleaning up after the cowboys and making Sports Town a better place. But the chasm between the two archetypes is surprisingly nonexistent.
Sports writers will tell you that bloggers have deflowered the industry with their loose tongues and unrestrained prose. Bloggers will say that writers lack creativity. Writers will say that bloggers lack real access. Bloggers will say writers are too limited by deadlines and employer agendas. Writers will say that they’re the true professionals. Bloggers will write just as many words while working a “real” job and thus lay claim to higher annual compensation.
At the end of the day, both groups write about sports. The good ones from each group get paid. The good ones from each group gain a following. The good ones from each group are equal parts cowboy and sheriff. There really isn’t a line.
Case in point: I (note: I’m not grouping myself among the “good” ones) started DudeYouCrazy as a blog (it was even located at a .blogspot domain). At some mythical point it became an “online media source” for all logistical purposes. I’m a member of the Football Writers Association of America. If you ask me if I’m a blogger, I’ll say yes. If you ask me if I’m a writer, I’ll say yes. There is no line…
With one lone exception: self awareness. Sports writers seem to place themselves on a pedestal above sports bloggers, while bloggers seem to misidentify themselves as sports writers. A few weeks back I received an email from a colleague, Greg Poole, who runs the Leather Helmet Blog. We exchanged pleasantries before getting to the true crux of his email: he considers himself a writer, but the media gods that be consider him a blogger; and as such his access (credentials for games, press conference, etc.) is limited. Greg bemoaned the University of Georgia’s “ridiculous prohibition against the word ‘blogger.’” I whole heartedly agreed with his frustration. Greg thinks he’s a writer, but the system says he’s a blogger. And the system looks down on bloggers.
I’m sure any of a number of qualified, credentialed and AP’ed sports writers could list 100 reasons why Greg Poole and other fantastic wordsmiths who fall under the category “blogger” aren’t “sports writer” material. And those “true journalists” would jump at the chance to show how “amateur” bloggers are. They would undoubtedly cite Saturday night’s incident.
Saturday an Alabama message board reported that Les Miles was going to resign from his post as the head coach at LSU on Monday. The cause for the sudden resignation: an affair with a student. After everything that went on with Bobby Petrino last year and more filthily with Jerry Sandusky in years’ past, this rumor was surprising but far from “unbelievable.”
A broadcast journalism major at Western Kentucky most notably tweeted about the rumor (although others had alluded to it earlier) and others of course jumped in. I even took to the tweeter machine to roll with the punches saying, “If this Les Miles student affair thing is true, there’s only one thing to say: Stiiiilllll got it.”
By 10:00 PM or so the rumor had been squashed and resigned to just that…a rumor. It should be noted that even prior to that time frame almost every mention I saw of the situation either labeled the going-ons as “rumored” or otherwise questioned the validity of the claim (even my joke said, “if true”). I can’t remember seeing a source cited because I can’t remember seeing anybody really “reporting” anything other than that there was a “rumor.” Frankly, if enough people report a rumor and you report that a rumor is being reported, I don’t know that you need sources.
By 10:30 the media had not only dismissed the validity of the rumor, but also dismissed the validity of anyone who did so much as Tweet about the rumor. Apparently, any retweeting or commenting on the rumor (even the mention of the “story” qualified it as only a rumor) was nothing more than a childish, immature attempt to story-grab according to the sports writers of the world. There went those guns-blazing, ready fire aim cowboy bloggers again, right? What an outrage!
And yet, I’m not outraged. I’m not ticked. Les Miles should be. But as a writer/blogger/dude and a sports fan, I’m not remotely bothered by the reporting of a rumor. Again, nobody claimed to have a source, nobody claimed to have facts. Folks claimed that a rumor was circulating and a rumor was in fact circulating. That style of circular reporting happens all the time. Why should I be outraged? Why should the sports media – the king of circular reporting – be outraged?
All last summer the media reported a rumor – supported only by the media itself – that the Southern California Trojans were the best team in college football. The media reported it, believed it, heard it, reported it, wrote it, said it, thought it, polled it, reported it, tweeted it and reported it some more. That was a rumor.
How many journalists bought into the journalist-infused rumor that Notre Dame was one of the nation’s two best football teams this year? How many of those journalists believed and reported the rumor (with no real sources) that Manti Te’o’s girlfriend had died after a car crash and a bout with Leukemia?
And those are the sports writers that are so outraged that sports bloggers repeated a rumor on Twitter?
Even bloggers can write with a purpose, guys. Really, they can do it. I have said often before that I write for two purposes – 1. To inform and 2. To entertain. If a mass of people are believing something that I think is a rumor, should I not inform my readers/followers of what’s going on? If the majority of the nation suddenly bought into a rumor that Jesse Palmer was leaving ESPN’s College Gameday to take over for Joe Flacco as the Baltimore Raven’s QB, wouldn’t I be remiss to not mention that? Even if there wasn’t a source cited, shouldn’t I offer up a, “Wow, this Jesse Palmer to the Ravens rumor is crazy! Remember when he was the #bachelor?”? Why wouldn’t I try to inform and/or entertanin my audience if the rumor presented means to do so?
I fail to see – in today’s tell-me-something-now lifestyle – what was wrong with the tweeting of a rumor, especially when using phrases like “I’m hearing/seeing/reading a rumor.”
I don’t know where I fall on the whole blogger/writer thing, but there seems to be some latent hypocrisy on one side. And it’s on the side that is pointing the fingers. So maybe there is a line. I hope I’m on the right side.
That’s all I got/