Wednesday, August 04, 2010

You Need People Like me, so you Can Point your F***ing Finger and Say “That’s the Bad Guy.”

I expect hyperbole from the Bleacher Report.  I expect articles titled “Ten Reasons why Nick Saban is a Commi-Nazi.”  I don’t expect transparent attempts to drive hits from Sports Illustrated.  That publications seems more respectable.  So when I was scanning’s front page on Monday and saw an article by Stewart Mandel entitled "Masoli move latest proof Nutt is certifiably dirty coach", I assumed that this had to be an instance of a lowly headline writer at the web site taking liberties with the article.  Nope.  Mandel is really calling Nutt dirty.  In doing so, Mandel’s reasoning is horrendous on any one of a number of levels.  It’s the sort of petty moralizing that one expects on sports radio. 

First, Mandel’s definition of “dirty” is both misplaced and too broad.  Read these words and ask yourself if there is a coach to whom these words would not apply:

The definition of "dirty" seems to vary based on one's affiliation, but surely we can all agree on at least one designation: A dirty coach is willing to eschew his integrity if doing so might pay off in a couple more W's. He's not so much a winner as a survivalist. He's not even necessarily a rule-breaker because he creates his own loopholes.

Any coach who makes compromises to win games is dirty.  Really, Stewart?  If that is your definition, then every major college football coach is dirty.  Nick Saban consistently oversigns and then puts pressure on his existing players so he can fit his plus-sized recruiting classes under the 85-scholarship limit.  Urban Meyer famously told Jevan Snead that he was recruiting Tim Tebow as a linebacker.  Is Mandel writing columns about how Saban and Meyer are dirty?  No, because they are respected coaches at major programs.  Mandel doesn’t want to piss off titans, but he feels free to invade Granada by picking on Houston Nutt.

And then think about Mandel’s definition of “dirty.”  Wouldn’t a better definition of dirty be “a coach who breaks the rules that govern his profession?”  What’s dirtier: violating NCAA rules or accepting a transfer of a player who has been booted off of his team?  That’s what’s ludicrous about Mandel’s piece.  Within the first three paragraphs, Mandel has taken the position that Nutt is dirtier than Pete Carroll, who presided over a program that just got tagged with the harshest sanctions dealt out by the NCAA to a major football program in almost a decade, and Lane Kiffin, who made secondary violations his modus operandi in one season at Tennessee.  Call me crazy, but in the hierarchy of ethics, violating the rules that govern one’s profession is worse than welcoming a player whom Mandel’s own publication just published a mostly positive piece

Second, Mandel’s retelling of the Mitch Mustain/Gus Malzahn saga is just wrong.  Mandel points to this as the point at which Nutt lost his ethical bearings, but I fail to see what Nutt did wrong.  He hired Malzahn, possibly in part to secure Mustain’s letter of intent, but it’s not as if hiring Malzahn was unqualified (as subsequent events have demonstrated).  Then, during Mustain’s freshman season, Nutt figured out that the strength of his team was its two star running backs – Darren McFadden and Felix Jones – and tasked David Lee with figuring out the best way to get them the ball.  Thus, the Wildcat offense was born.  Arkansas won the SEC West and was Reggie Fish’s boner away from winning the conference.  Nutt did marginalize Malzahn, but the result speak for themselves.  Is getting McFadden and Jones on the field at the same time evidence of Nutt turning into Dr. Evil?  I’m going with no.

Third, Mandel cites the Jamar Hornsby episode to establish a pattern, as if a sample size of two is sufficient to conclude that Nutt will take any player.  Moreover, the Hornsby episode illustrates two additional points that bear mentioning.  First, Hornsby’s crime at Florida – using the credit card of a teammate’s dead girlfriend – was incredibly foul, but it was non-violent.  Masoli has been accused of several crimes and pled guilty to participating in the theft of a laptop, but his crimes are also non-violent.  There’s a distinction between Nutt bringing any old “questionable character” to Oxford and Nutt bringing someone who threatens the safety of the populace.  Nutt has done the former, but not the latter.  At least the players he brought to campus aren’t dragging their girlfriends by the hair down the stairs of apartment complexes like some legends.  (I’m eagerly looking forward to Mandel addressing the last four years of Tom Osborne’s coaching career under the standard that he has laid down for Nutt.  And I say this as someone who likes Osborne.)

Fourth, Mandel plays the “what about the children!?!” trope by asking how Nathan Stanley, Ole Miss’s current starter, feels about Nutt bringing in Masoli.  Leaving aside the fact that Nutt is bringing in a player with one year of eligibility (by Mandel’s standard, any coach who recruits a star freshman quarterback when he has an existing starter is dirty; I guess Lloyd Carr is a dirty jerk for recruiting Chad Henne when he already had Matt Gutierrez), isn’t football supposed to be about competition?  If Stanley is a competitor, then he’ll respond to Masoli coming to Oxford by saying to himself “I know this offense better than Masoli and I’m going to make him my back-up.”  If he’s a realist, he’ll say “gee, we only had two quarterbacks; what would happen if I got hurt?”  In Stewart’s world, Stanley should say “my coach wants to win games?  Burn him!” 

One final question to end this rant: should Masoli have been banished from football for his offenses at Oregon? 


Cojones said...

It seems that all the pundits don't have enough talent to write about these days so they retreat to the sleazy smears of others. Mandel has written some good articles in the past, but I'm with you, Michael; burn the sleaze and whomever is attached to it.

The phenomenon of selected civility is now leaving the political world to infect all calls of life, including sports. Take a few facts ,turn on the Fox News slather and gun down anything in sight if you disrespect your audience enough to think that no one catches onto your little propaganda scheme. You rightfully called him to task, but I consider that you did it in subdued tones instead of the rant you claim. Mandel (and anyone else) needs to have his character and nose rubbed into it just like what he threw to Nutt.

Rome did it verbally to Richt 2yrs ago when he referred to him as a pimp for lauding Stafford and Moreno. They all suddenly fall from great story writers and journalists to sleaze-bags of the first order when their egos dictate that they are immune from criticism and can judge unashamedly no matter the consequences on other lives. The more muck-raking, the better. Many clicks and all is fair in this post-news media honest-journalism world overshadowed by propaganda quips and "hang-the-integrity" bozos.

Houston Nutt is of fine character and a great coach who was manipulated onto the back-Arkansas burner by ignorant fans led by an ignorant mother of a football player. No one seems to be able to read at length about others and form opinions based upon their body of work in this world. Shame on the sleaze-bag writer(s) who have nothing to do except judge and convict good people under the aegis of keeping their jobs in this downsized good-journalists world.

You were right to defend Nutt and take on this demigod of the party of SI (as opposed to the party of NO). "Bad Guy", indeed.

Jesse said...

Typical Mandel is typical. Braves & Birds - the next

To answer your question though, I have to say no. We live in a sports culture of second (and sometimes third and fourth) chances. If Nutt feels that giving Masoli yet another chance to salvage his football career, then all the power to him and who are we to judge? His character and off-filed issues aside, there's clearly no denying the kid has a high level of talent on the field, so bringing him into the mix is an easy choice.

Plus, isn't it really a high reward/low risk situation? If Masoli perfoms as he did at Oregon, Nutt is a genius. If Masoli slips, he gets booted and the team is no worse off than they are now.

How Mandel fails to see the logic here really shouldn't be a surprise at this point considering the majority of his work over the last few years has devolved into such realms as this, yet I feel like this laspe is the worst I've read in a while.

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