Friday, March 26, 2010

Urban's Tony Soprano moment

I wrote part of a blog entry yesterday focusing on the soon to be much discussed Urban Meyer confrontation with Jeremy Fowler of the Orlando Sentinel and then decided I wasn't satisfied with it. Before I wrote on this, I wanted to call around and get some extra perspective from people who were there including Jeremy himself if possible. Having done that, here are my thoughts.

1. As noted here Tuesday, Thompson didn't phrase what he was trying to say very well but to me it was clear his intent was not to take a shot at Tebow. Let's pretend Thompson resented Tebow for not getting him the ball more and secretly believed he was a total chump all last year. Even assuming that to be the case, it still wouldn't make sense for him to even hint at that publicly. Thompson would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that doing so would anger his coach, the fans, and any teammates who were tight with Tebow. What would there be for him to gain? The assumption (one that most of the reporters present for Thompson's postpractice interview made) should have been that he misspoke rather than that he was trying to slam Tim Tebow. Asking a followup to verify that would have been a good idea.

2. Jeremy Fowler is not "a bad guy", despite Urban Meyer calling him that. He's a UF alum who's a solid reporter and worked hard to get where he is. Did he make a mistake in how he handled the Deonte Thompson quote? I believe he did, although I understand why. While it's an accurate quote from Thompson, it's one I learned about first on Jeremy's Twitter feed almost immediately after it was uttered. That is the unfortunate byproduct of all the leaps forward in technology we've made in the past two decades.

First the rise of the web led newspapers and broadcasters to begin racing to get stories online as quickly as possible when news was breaking. That led to more outlets taking gambles than they would have in the past, while shrinking the time for thoughtful reflection on what the news event meant. Now, thanks to Twitter, no one has time to even write the preliminary story. If something's happening or even might be happening you need to put it out on your feed as quick as possible. That's what happened here - Fowler heard a quote that sounded controversial and raced to get it on Twitter and his blog before anyone else did. He didn't ask the kid a trick question or set him up, but he felt like he had something hot his readers were going to want to know. It wasn't done with malicious intent - trying to accumulate Twitter followers and web hits is a huge part of media life these days. I suspect Fowler would not have handled the quote the same way if there wasn't that pressure to rush things onto the web like there is these days.

3. Urban Meyer was a psychology major. Never forget that when evaluating his actions. Could he have reached Fowler by phone, or even called him over on the pratice field and let him have it? It would have been more professional to do it that way, but Meyer didn't want to. He was sending a message to the kids on his team as well as future recruits that he has their backs. Remember this scene from season five of the Sopranos, where Tony roughs one of his underlings up to make clear he's still the man in charge after getting shot and being laid up (warning: bad language on that clip)? To some degree I feel Wednesday's scrap was a Soprano moment. Urban Meyer is smart enough to know he's not going to be able to unilaterally ban the Orlando Sentinel from covering future football events. The warning was issued anyway, as Meyer demonstrated he wasn't going soft post leave of absence.

4. Media commentators will continue to rip Meyer about being a control freak. They're lecturing him about his stress and questioning whether he should even be coaching. Some are taking cheap shots like Mike Bianchi's...

"I always thought a bad guy was someone who breaks the law or commits crimes. You know, like many of the recruits Meyer has brought onto UF’s campus – recruits who have been arrested nearly 30 times since the coach arrived five years ago."

The number is 27, but 'nearly thirty" sounds worse. Not all of those players were Meyer signees, nor were all of them actually guilty of something. Bianchi (a guy I like) is well aware of this, but he's defending his co-worker so he's going to fight dirty. Meyer has his players backs, and the media are going to have their own guy's too. Fans shouldn't get too worked up about it.

I may do a seperate "general subjects" post later - if so it'll be up by noon. If not, have a great weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

1 comment:

Walt said...

Nice synopsis, Heath. Good job of giving insight to the mindset of both sides of the issue.
As a former media member I understand the "circle the wagons" reaction that we're now witnessing. It is predictable.

Have to believe Meyer knew what he was doing (though I would have preferred a more private approach).

I do find some irony in the slings and arrows launched by those at the ESPN fraternity. They now must worship at the altar of Bob Knight, a legendary abuser of any and all media reps. Yet somehow he has become a "respected" elder statesman of that fraternity!

Anyway, enjoy your blog and try to read it everyday. Keep up the good work.