This isn’t a new topic for me. Some of you might recall my piece last year on the invasion of what I call fan boy media on the beat. Now, I’m not trying to beat a dead horse here and I’m not trying to come off as some sort of media elitist that thinks only certain people should be allowed to cover a team. I get that there are fan websites that cover schools differently than traditional media outlets, and I’m okay with that. I’d like to think I’m still too young to be a curmudgeon, but seriously, this is getting absurd. I was hoping this phenomenon had peaked and would start receding as schools and SIDs cracked the whip. I was wrong. It’s getting worse, not better.
Take this weekend for example. I was covering Clemson’s game at Auburn. Now, it’s nothing new to see “media” in the press box wearing shirts of the team they are supposed to be covering. This used to be frowned upon, but now it’s pretty common. However, Saturday night I saw something that was a first. There was someone with a credential in the press box and the post game news conference with a Clemson Tiger paw painted on her face. Even five years ago this would have gotten you booted from the press box, but apparently this is now acceptable.
At this stage if I show up at a game next week and there seven “media members” with their shirts off and C-L-E-M-S-O-N painted across their chests I’m not sure I’d be shocked. You used to be able to tell the difference between working media and a fan sitting in the stands. All this used to be kind of funny. Now it’s kind of sad. At the rate we’re going schools soon may be handing out pom poms instead of game notes.
It didn’t stop in the press box, there’s more. Let me give you a sampling of a few of the queries posed to Dabo Swinney on his Sunday conference call by a couple of esteemed media members. Here was the very first question to Dabo following his opening statement:
“Coach, you, uh, opted to take the ball first last night. I was wondering what factors went into that decision. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, but if you had known that the offense was going to go three and out and struggle the way it did and the defense was going to get so many three and outs to start the game would that decision maybe have been different?”
Maybe I shouldn’t knock this question. Maybe more reporters should be taking this approach.
“Coach, if you had known you were going to get stoned on that 4th and 1, would the decision to go for it maybe have been different?”
“Coach, obviously hindsight is 20/20, but if you had known the quarterback was going to throw an interception on that pass would you have considered running the ball instead?”
Coach, why can’t you predict the future so you don’t make these incorrect decisions?”
Dabo, to his credit, gave a polite response, “If I knew all that stuff, man, I’d never lose a game.”
Yeah, I could see where ESP would be a pretty beneficial coaching trait.
Believe it or not, that wasn’t even the worst question Sunday. It gets better, or worse, depending on your perspective.
“Coach, staying with Wayne Gallman for a second. All he does is block like an All-American tackle, catch like a first round wide receiver and still get you 100 yards rushing. Is there a better all around back, and I know there’s a guy out West that’s getting a lot of notoriety, is there a better all around back than Wayne Gallman?
I was waiting for his follow up question on Gallman, but it never came. It probably would have been something like, “Dabo, other than Jesus, do you think anyone in history could do what Wayne Gallman can do in the backfield?” Although, that probably isn’t a good guess. It sounded like this reporter would have taken Gallman over Jesus in his backfield.
The real irony is some of these fanboy media members are the same ones who claim (without irony) that it is people like me who are biased. Apparently if you don’t wear an orange shirt or have a Tiger paw painted on your face you aren’t a legit Clemson beat reporter. That’s right, I’m the one with the agenda, not the guy with the “All In” bracelet on his wrist at the press conference.
I’m not exactly sure why Clemson officials are allowing this. Sure, there are forms of this at a lot of schools, but it really stands out at Clemson. After I wrote about this a year ago an ESPN reporter told me that the beat “reporters” at Clemson have become infamous in the national media as laughable homers. Saturday’s game and last night’s conference call is a good example why that reputation exists.
What is bad about this is the fact that there’s some fine reporters on the Clemson beat, including some that work for non traditional outlets. The problem is we are starting to be outnumbered by fans with press credentials. Maybe I’m wrong, but this doesn’t seem like a good thing.