At the same time, he could occasionally stand to take off the crimson-colored glasses. In a post from yesterday, Caps went after Gentry Estes and sportswriters in general, for what he sees as petulance towards Nick Saban stemming from the (apparently) acrimonious relationship Saban has deliberately sought out with the press.
What the public doesn’t like, and I don’t care for are crybaby sportswriters. You’ve got a difficult job—but it isn’t like you’ve got to do real reporting. It isn’t investigative reporting where you have to dig for documents or find sources who are afraid to talk out of fear of reprisal. It isn’t dangerous reporting where an indicted man threatens you or one of your female writers covering the police beat. Sportswriters don’t even write about the important things—after all it is just a game.I'm not contesting this point, by any means. Just know that sportswriters, particularly beat reporters covering college sports, are frustrated individuals. They're shut out of practice. They're shut out of locker rooms. And what time they actually get to talk with the athletes they cover is closely-guarded, tightly-controlled and can be revoked at any time by a paranoid, Nazi-like media relations department.
Quick example: a few weeks ago, I attended a media luncheon announcing the start of UAB's spring football practice, where I'd hoped to meet up with a former player from our coverage area who's starting this fall as a senior cornerback. The player couldn't make it over -- his class schedule conflicted -- so after waiting a while, I announced I was leaving, saying, "I've got his cell number at the office (and I've talked to him on it before) so I'll just call him later tonight."
Well, the UAB folk didn't like that. More than one person cautioned me against calling, saying, "He's got your number -- we'll get him to call you later (he didn't, by the way, and when I tried him later that evening, he didn't answer)."
None of this is illegal, mind you, and football coaches are under no obligation to accomodate us while we try to do our jobs. Moreover, the media climate is changing -- no longer are beat reporters necessarily privy to "inside info" that the general public isn't. Read, for example, this column from 2006 by Bill Simmons:
... I'm wondering if a press pass does any good. Unlike the old days, basketball reporters rarely get extra access anymore -- it's just the same herd of writers hovering around the same people, day after day, writing down the same boring quotes from the same group of bored people who just want them to go away. Unlike the old days, we can watch every minute of every game on TV. We can watch the postgame press conferences. We can watch highlights and sound bites on ESPN. We can argue about the team with other fans on message boards and blogs. By the time most newspaper stories are published, the news always feels a little dated. I'm telling you from experience -- it's possible to follow a ... team without reading the local beat writers now. I do it every day.So beat reporters are trying to learn how to think differently than they have for the past 50 years, trying to figure out how to balance reporting and blogging (without talking incessantly about themselves, like Rapaport does), trying to figure out how to survive. And it's pretty hard to do when you have the overlords of the university monitoring your every move.
Another note: Caps makes it seems as though Saban and the daily press corps utterly hate each other, and he has clashed with some of them at least once. Truthfully, however, I've been able to talk to a number of those beat writers, and they almost uniformly prefer the Nicktator -- a jerk and a diva, to be sure, but an honest one who's consistently the same on a daily basis -- to his predecessor, who many of them regarded (and still regard) as a phony (Shula, like many NASCAR drivers, wanted to be a nice guy only as long as the television cameras were on). "With Saban," one writer told me, "as long as you're willing to sit through his rant about why you shouldn't have asked that question in the first place, you'll get your answer. It's really not so bad."
One other thing: Capstone's assessment of Alabama fans is, of course, spot-on. As we covered in a previous post, there's a segment of the fan base that will stay loyal to the current coach -- no matter who he is -- simply because he's the current coach (it's a first cousin of the segment of the American population that refuses to criticize the president -- no matter what you actually think of him -- because he's the president). And those fans tend to be a tad vitriolic towards anyone who would dare criticize that coach, no matter what happens. And stuff like the Estes thing, that sparked this whole thing, tends to make most writers play it close to the vest, lest they incur the wrath of those fans, and be shut out of the media rooms.
Back with some links later today.