Monday, October 01, 2007

What the Oklahoma State blowup might tell us

I was on the road last week when a former student asked me for my thoughts on the blowup that Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy had over Jenni Carlson's column in the Oklahoman. (If you haven't seen it, here 's the Oklahoman video.)

As I have watched this unfold and read the column and various commentaries, my reaction has generally been why does this surprise us? My thoughts to the student:

I think the coach was a bit out of line, especially when the reporter followed up and said, in essence, so tell me what was wrong here so that I can correct it, and he blew her off. That tells me he was being a bit of a blowhard. And his comments about her not having children were totally out of line.

I've read the column, and the first thing that struck me was that it needed an editor -- get to the point -- the chicken-feeding significance takes too long to play out, leaving the reader possibly wondering for too long whether she is just being snarky or there is a point. Yes, she does get to it eventually, but the structure leaves her open to critics who will say the use of the info up top was gratuitous.

But then this kind of commentary walks that fine line between amateur athletes and Division 1 college football (aka, a big business). The column is very ESPNish:

-- "Thing is, it may not be as abrupt as it looks. If you believe the rumors and the rumblings, Reid has been pushing coaches that way for quite some time."
-- "Word is that Reid has considered transferring a couple different times," ...
-- "Even though Mike Gundy said last week that Robinson got the nod because he had the better week of practice, insiders say that the coaches decided to bench Reid early in the week."

We give ESPN a pass on such lazy stuff all the time. Why do we not expect that it will creep into our columns, especially when columnists are under lots of pressure these days as the linchpin of publications' strategy to be "edgy"?

I tend to like Ron Morris' outlook -- no need for you to directly criticize the player. If you are doing your reporting, you can get coaches and others who know something to fill in the details. (Morris is a columnist for The State newspaper in Columbia.)

Of course, Gundy has committed the ultimate sin -- he brought national attention to a situation that largely would have remained a local or regional matter and died out. Now, he's given it a life of its own. Smart. Very smart.

I like David Steel's take on all this:

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