Friday, September 28, 2007

Mike Gundy vs. "The Media"

I used to be a sports journalist. Very small time, I assure you. But in that time I covered the gamut of sports events, mostly high school, but extensive college coverage and a selection of professional sports.

As a journalist you treat athletes at different levels differently. You just do.

When I covered high school athletics, the players were treated with kid gloves. They were, after all, just kids. If a player fumbled the ball on the goal line, it went into the story as "The Bulldogs fumbled on the goal line," not "Mike Smith, like he has 12 times before, fumbled the ball but this time it cost his team the game." These kids are trying their best, and they don't deserve to have their mistakes publicized. 1000 kids in the state fumbled the football that night, this one kid doesn't deserve to be singled out in the newspaper.

Pro athletes are completely on the other side. If a pro athlete errs, you can break out the tar and feathers. Editorializing about the quality of play and effort from pro players is everyday fodder for sports columns. It's part of the deal. If you're getting paid, in most cases handsomely, to play a sport, you better expect some criticism, much of it totally unfair. If you can't handle that, you really shouldn't be a pro athlete.

College football falls somewhere in between. Coaches are fair game, but the students are still just amateur athletes, and just kids really, barely older than their high school counterparts. If a player fumbles he does get singled out, but you try not to ridicule him.

okstateBased on that, you'd have to say that when Jenni Carlson basically called a Oklahoma State Cowboys player a "mama's boy" in The Daily Tenneseean you'd conclude that her comments were totally out of line. And of course they were out of line, but not totally when given the proper perspective.

Having lived in Oklahoma, I can tell you that college athletics are different there. With the exception of a temporary stay by the New Orleans Hornets NBA team, Oklahoma has no professional sports teams. But they don't see it that way. The atmosphere in Oklahoma is that THEIR COLLEGE SPORTS TEAMS are treated AS IF THEY WERE PROFESSIONALS.

This is not an environment that Jenni Carlson created, it's one that she walked into. College players are celebrated and demonized in the pages of the Daily Oklahoman routinely. That's just how they operate in OKC. It's not right and it's not fair, but that's the way it is.

Absolutely what Jenni Carlson did was wrong, but totally understandable given the environment she works in.


Micah Seymour said...

A taxpayer paid free education at quality higher learning institution is pretty good compensation for being good at catching and throwing a ball around.

I understand the point of your post, but even here in Illinois where we do have pro teams, big-time college athletes who are getting scholarships et al worth tens of thousands of dollars should be fair game to heavy criticism.

Dantana said...

all that matters whether covering amateur or pro is that you could look the person in the eye and say the exact same thing you wrote about them.