An open letter to the world of sports media
By RT WALSH
I get it. Heck, we all get it. You're an aging sports writer trying to stay relevant in the chaotic world of digital sports journalism. You have a publication to run, podcasts to record, appearances to make, deadlines to meet.
You like your job, because it is easy and fun and makes you feel important. You have opinions on things and the world needs to hear them. Thousands of years from now, when humanity has brought about its own destruction via nuclear holocaust, and mutant motorcycle gangs roam across the wasteland searching for sustenance, the last remnants of our civilization will be to cue up your best podcast on Youtube. The last act of humanity will be a pageview.
Your urge to comment is not unique to you, of course. It's quite common for people to comment on things - oftentimes about things which they have little to no understanding. Having simple, unsubstantiated opinions on complex issues is about as American as watching pro wrestling or pretending to care about soccer every four years.
You never need to be right, you just need to say something that people will pay attention to.
Which is why it's important that you take a moment out of your busy day to tell me why, exactly, it is that Jim Boeheim should resign as the coach of the Syracuse University men's basketball team. Boeheim, as you know (right?), has been the Orange head coach for nearly 40 seasons. He has used his position and standing to help raise millions of dollars for cancer research, while providing hope to a region of the country that continues its seemingly hopeless uphill trudge against economic decline. The man is an institution, universally respected by his peers and the countless student athletes who have played for him.
But none of that matters, I guess. When it's time for you to drag an old man's name through the mud to bolster your career, well ... it's time. Those links ain't gonna click themselves, right?
Leading the #HotTake charge have been Grantland.com and its Editor-in-Chief, Bill Simmons. On Colin Cowherd's radio show last week, Simmons argued that "if people underneath you or around you are doing things that are illegal... then you shouldn't be running the program, anyway." Simmons went on to flap his gums further, shaming Boeheim for announcing his retirement in three years time, rather than immediately. And when Dick Vitale had the gall to show up at a fundraiser for his old friend, Boeheim? Simmons let him have it on Twitter, too.
Has Simmons been a one-man #HotTake army, though? Of course not!
As with any overblown sports fiasco, this thing isn't dead until everyone's had their flogs. Here you go -a newspaper editorial board officially becomes the 50th different entity to compare Boeheim to a negligent CEO.Even Pat Forde joined the fray, using the Boeheim situation to practice writing dialogue. I suppose we should be thankful that Forde decided to put effort into something beyond Googling pictures of Ashley Judd, though, so ... kudos?
Now, I've written before about what it was like being a Syracuse basketball fan after the sanctions dropped, so I can hardly call myself impartial when it comes to Jimmy B.
I don't really care to go down that road again. I'm well aware that my school did things it shouldn't have done, and that much of the responsibility for those transgressions falls upon the shoulders of the team's coach. What's gone on at my alma mater this month is much like the first glimpse of yourself in the mirror after the holiday season. It's tough to accept, but there's nothing to be gained from denial: you can only accept the consequences of your actions and try to do better next time.
So please, understand this: I'm not suggesting that Boeheim should be completely exonerated of wrong doing. But, at a minimum, he should be afforded the opportunity to appeal the rulings against him, right? He isn't asking for special treatment, and neither is Syracuse. He has every right to state publicly and unequivocally that the NCAA's punishments are unjust. He might be Wrong in your eyes, but his right to free speech remains unfettered.
Simply put, standing up for oneself and pushing back to establish proportionality is not remotely the same thing as an outright denial or a failure to take responsibility.
Ultimately, I am at a loss as to why an entity which gleefully scoops up every opportunity to rip the NCAA would would be so against a coach who's actively and openly refusing to abide by the NCAA's bullshit. I'm confused as to how a grown man can say with no amount of irony that Boeheim should resign his dream job and walk away from his seven figure salary out of shame. This isn't feudal Japan! The perception of others, legitimate or not, isn't going to force Boeheim to figuratively fall upon his sword for dishonoring his family. Nor should it.
Coach Boeheim is obviously not Joe Paterno, but there are some parallels to be drawn with respect to the fervent loyalists to both men at Penn State and Syracuse. I realize that I, like most of my fellow 'Cuse disciples, will never possess an unbiased perspective about anything associated with the school's basketball program, or its coach. We know that Boeheim is a good man, and no amount of Internet saber rattling is going to change our minds.
So in my quest to be a "good" sports writer, I hereby accept any and all opinions I may have as fact, and I pledge to be as resistant to change as I can. For example, it's possible that the NCAA is the creation of mole people living within the earth's core. The organization's mission could be to create its own government and army in order to dethrone all of the world's leaders and establish an Orwellian, totalitarian dystopia. But the NCAA being run by a group of war mongering, subterranean mammals is just my unsubstantiated opinion. Don't let it get you angry for being so blindingly stupid.
The beautiful thing about sports journalism is that I don't really need any proof, or even anecdotal evidence, to say that I think the NCAA was engineered by the Illuminati. I could say that I think Mark Emmert is a just a bunch of cats stacked one on top of the other wearing a trench coat. Ooh, let's talk about how Emmert may or may not have his body cloned and suspended in a cryogenic chamber for his own organ harvesting purposes. I'm allowed to have whatever asinine opinions I want - assuming I can present them in a pretty enough manner as to entice sports fans to read them.
By choosing to write what is just a long-winded explanation of an opinion, we sports writers can really just jot down whatever we want and say "well, that's just my opinion" when people disagree. By this infalliable logic, of course, I can't be held accountable for saying things like "Pat Forde's head is the size of a ripe, hormone injected watermelon" or "Bill Simmons has the tiny, bound feet of a young Chinese woman living during the Song Dynasty."
Opinions don't have to be right, they just need to get attention.
In the end, the only facts we need to have straight about anything? The acknowledgement that our "facts" are just semi-informed opinions masquerading as facts. Then we're free to say whatever we want without the consequences of being wrong. (Actually, you already know all this.) So thanks for showing me the way, guys. Maybe if I keep it up, I may develop the special kind of reckless ignorance that will help me become the next ... you.
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