While the big boys in big markets cry because Nick (Saban) won’t talk, or Urban says the same thing when he does talk, I say…it’s not that big a deal. There’s more to a good story than just writing.
When Nick Saban jumped down the throat of the ESPN reporter a couple of weeks ago because she kept asking questions about his quarterbacks, he set off a firestorm of media outcry around the country…on how unprofessional it is when coaches and players won’t cooperate with reporters.
An acquaintance in Cleveland actually wrote recently, pursuant to the Urban Meyer mess, “That fans have a right to know just what kind of guys is leading their football team.”
Really? A right? Show me that in the Constitution, I told him. Or even the Magna Carta.
“Ah, you know what I mean,” he whined (he’s been a whiner since college). “We have a job to do.”
And that’s true, depending on how you take your job and what you try to do with it.
For instance, I recently had dinner in Columbus with Ohio State baseball coach Greg Beals, and one of the things we talked about over steaks and the appropriate complementing beverage was the manner in which Press Pros reports that which we see on a daily basis.
“I appreciate that you keep to the facts of what you see,” said Beals, as opposed to the veiled facts of what you sometimes hear. “Makes my job and our relationship a lot easier.”
I get that. I’ve always gotten that. And to Beals’ point, I’ve always maintained that coach’s right to exist supersedes your right to know as a fan, or as a reader. There’s just some things that don’t need to be written, or reported. Like what’s sometimes said between spouses in the morning over the first cup of coffee.
And therein lies a lot of the issues between the media and Nick Saban types. It’s just too big a temptation to poke the bull, when you know that if you do the bull is likely to spout off something that’s just too juicy not to write – something that might give you an edge in readership over competitors.
On the other hand…do that too much and you don’t get near the cooperation on things that are better to write – things that actually matter and things that sustain your career.
Hundreds of times I’ve gotten quotes from area coaches on the understood condition of anonymity, because it’s different in a high school community. You realize that things are said out of frustration – even things that need to be said. But you also know the cost of it being said. Hence, you make it a point to protect your sources in that manner…and they know it.
Quite a different scenario than the recent Urban Meyer he said/she said fiasco…and who knew what, and when, and about who. But then again, a scoop like that about the coach at Ohio State is a much better career builder than a quote from Geron Stokes or Chip Otten. Like I said, in the world of the upwardly mobile types, looking for an edge…just too good to pass up.
I consider Paul Daugherty from the Cincinnati Enquirer to be one of the country’s best columnists, and this week he wrote: “We care deeply about whether players talk to us. We take it personally, we think less of the players who opt not to share their wisdom. But, if I’m those guys, I wouldn’t talk to me, either, most of the time. I’m grateful to the players that do. I’m really grateful to those who talk, are sometimes honest, usually interesting and tell me things I don’t know, either about the game or themselves. They’re rare.”
Well I agree with him, and will also share, again, that relationships like that with coaches and players are earned – over a period of time. It’s a trust, not unlike that you have at home. It’s something you constantly work on because coaches know…that writers have a job to do and they want to do it as well as they while respecting the lives of their source. There are some things that should be written. There are some things that probably shouldn’t. How you manage that trust goes a long way in determining how long you do work like this.
Because, at the end of the day…it’s just too easy for Chip Otten, or Tim Goodwin, or Matt Burgbacher to turn and walk away. Their right to exist does supersede…your right to know!