Thursday, April 9

On Suspensions, Expulsions, Dismissals, and Other Things That Involve Blowing It

A bit of background: in the last week, Tennessee's dismissed Demetrice Morley and Donald Langley from the team. Now, most people reading this haven't heard of either of them - truth be told, I hadn't heard of Langley until today. Morley, on the other hand, was a starter last year - his story is already summed up here. These things taken on their own don't mean a whole lot, but in concert I'm a bit concerned.

I don't know the entire story behind either dismissal, nor do I expect to. Are these moves good for the Tennessee football team? I'd imagine so; you want to foster a culture of the team being above the individual. Those who can't play by the rules get summarily taken care of. However, what happens to the now ex-player? They do have the freedom to transfer; if they transfer and pick up a scholarship somewhere else, then good for them. What concerns me is what happens if they don't transfer and can't afford to stay in school otherwise (let's be honest: almost none of these guys could pick up academic scholarships, and a fair amount of them can't foot the bill to attend school without the scholarship). In essence, a scholarship cut amounts to "good luck in life", and that's not a message I want to send. This is the price of having a burgeoning college football factory.

I'd also say this is the difference between Fulmer and Kiffin. With Fulmer, there was always the element of humanity. Fulmer was committed to fielding and developing the best football team he could, but it would be hard for someone to say that he didn't care about either his current or former players. Fulmer pretty clearly put his heart into coaching the kids to be the best players and people they could be (with a few exceptions - hi, Kelley Washington! How's that Future working out for you?). His problem was never the off-field component; the unwinding of Fulmer could probably be tied pretty directly to the fortunes of David Cutcliffe and the stagnation of the Tennessee offense in his absence. Fulmer's offensive philosophies could be summed up with "run, run, screen, punt", and he needed a guiding influence away from that.

Because of those on-field issues, Kiffin and the coaching crew were brought in to develop the best football program they could. What we don't know at this point is if they'll develop the best football team at the expense of developing the best people. They've already developed a pretty killer instinct with respect to getting talent in the door - and getting talent out the door. Of course, it's yet to be seen if the results show up on the field, but the talk is certainly there.

I'd be lying if I said I was completely comfortable with the shift; I'd love to have a relevant football team again, but the systematic purging of the football machine just feels a bit too impersonal. This churn makes sense at the professional level, but in the college ranks I don't know what to make of it yet. I'm reminded of the transition that Charlie Weis had to go through (god, I hate bringing him into this, but I need him here) when he went to Notre Dame: you can't yell at freshmen like you can rookies. I'm thinking the same rules apply here: you can't churn sophomores like you can two-year players. If you want to pull them off the team go for it, but be careful before leaving them to twist entirely in the breeze.

Rick Reilly and the Blog Counterpunch

I hate opening a post with a confession, but hey - can't win 'en all - so here you go: I listen to the BS Report at work. I read Bill Simmons too, while we're at it. Is he a writing influence? Probably, but that's largely immaterial right now. (Besides, my writing was - well, is - more influenced by the old-school TWoP than Simmons, and that's definitely not related. Those of you who figured that I kind of made it all up as I go can now be solidly refuted, ha!) His writing's entertaining, but I'd stop short of calling it insightful; aside from the overlap on baseball, we follow different sports for the most part. It's more mental popcorn to me.

Anyway, now that I've gotten totally off-track, I was listening to the Simmons / Rick Reilly podcast at work today, and Reilly hit on something that bugged me: he contended that some blogs function to get traffic primarily by slamming other (read: mainstream) stories. Furthermore, he seemed to think that people enjoy writing that basically says "zomg this guy is soooooo wrong he sucks". I'm going to have to take issue with that - which is admittedly ironic on my end, but again, can't win 'en all.

First off, I'm willing to admit that there are some people out there who probably do take glee from bringing people down for its own accord. I would contend those people need to be kept away from keyboards. They do the rest of us a grave disservice, and it grates on me that I could be lumped in with them.

As for the rest of us, we're smarter than that. When I take issue with an article or a statement, I take issue with the idea or assumption behind the article. For example (I'm going to the FJM well here, but bear with me), an article on David Eckstein being the piece that put the St. Louis Cardinals over the top misses a key point - namely, Albert Pujols is much much much better than Eckstein could ever hope to be. Writing that article isn't a bad story (I think the overloooking of just how good he is serves as one of the most interesting continual storylines in baseball), but it is boring. Anyone can figure that out. But: this isn't to say you can't write an article on how good Eckstein is. Instead of focusing on how he's short and can run (note: I'm paraphrasing here), put it in numbers. Show me he's made 7 plays outside of his zone and talk about that time you saw him range 40 feet to his left to pick up a ball that was going over the second base bag. I'm okay with that.

I know advanced / new stats can be difficult to grasp if you haven't seen them before; still, most writers should be smart and connected enough to be able to send an email to the guys developing the stat asking for a quick explanation. When the stat-creater sends you back a two-paragraph explanation, distill it down and put it in your article. It's okay to make people smarter. It's okay to think. I know that's harsh, and I know that's not the case, but sometimes it's tough to tell. That's what drives us - well, me, since I can't speak for everyone - insane. (That and the "I'm going to be contrary to this obvious idea because I'm going to be, nyah nyah" article, which ...again, probably not how it's done but that's how it reads.)

Anyway, I've gotten totally off-track. Again. Getting back to the point: part of the function of blogs - part of the reason I even have this damn thing - is because I want to express my opinion. That means I have an impetus and a need to generate original content. Now, I'd contend that my original content could be a discussion on someone else's original content and that's within my realm. I liken this to a writer telling a coach, player, or official that their contention was incorrect and here's why; I retain the right to have the same freedom for myself. The problem is that it's not just me, it's one million people. Now that one voice has become a cacophony. It's on me to make my voice unique among the crowd.

That means it's on me to generate original content and get my voice out there. It's not on anyone else, and if I have issue with someone else's statement then it's on me to explain what my problem is and why. If I do a bad job explaining my position, then again - it's on me. If I can't get traffic to my site by expressing original content then I'd join Twitter then I'm not doing my job. Those that think otherwise are fools.

On the plus side, it's not like he'll ever read this. So I've got that going for me.