Where Smart Picks Go to Die
Ok, I’ll admit it. I’m a little peeved with the sports media right now. I have a love/hate relationship with the journalists and networks that bring us 24/7/365 sports information and programming. On the one hand, I love being able to constantly read blogs, articles, lists, and so on. Moreover, we could be up to ESPN 12 and I would still want to have more sports programming on television.
Unfortunately, the same drive for ratings and page views that has produced such a large quantity of content has also vastly decreased the quality of said content.
Those who follow the show and the blog know that, despite my best intentions, it is impossible for me to be devoid of at least a slight bias towards the athletic dealings of Auburn University. You can certainly keep that in mind as you read the rest of this article, but at the same time – facts are facts.
Dating back to approximately October of 2010, the amount of time spent by reporters, journalists, and bloggers trying to dig up dirt on the Auburn football program has been staggering. It started with the Cam Newton saga. Many of my associates are still absolutely convinced that there was foul play involved with Cam Newton at Auburn. Then came the “HBO Four”, an HBO special with former Auburn players claiming they were paid for their services. Last year, we had the grade change scandal in Memphis involving an Auburn recruit – Jovon Robinson. More recently, articles implying a “win at all costs” mentality, and a drug abuse/drug testing problem have been published.
It’s a never-ending stream of negative media attention for Auburn athletics these days. What you may not be aware of is that absolutely zero penalties or sanctions (NCAA or otherwise) have resulted from any of these stories. NONE. ZERO. NOT EVEN ONE.
There’s actually a pretty well defined process at this point:
Two things frustrate me about the above process. ESPN in particular is viewed as an objective journalistic entity by many, when in fact that is far from the case. Their job is to promote ratings and readership. Process step #4 does not accomplish this goal, so they don’t do it. However, since people see ESPN as a journalistic entity, they believe what is said in process step #2, despite it being highly one-sided and agenda (money) driven. The second frustrating thing is that you won’t see this type of process for teams whose success makes ESPN money. Teams like Alabama, Notre Dame, USC, Texas, etc. It’s unfortunate, but money is certainly driving the actions here.
Alabama has had problems too, you know. Four players were arrested this past year, charged with robbery. Heck, two of Alabama’s last three national championships were won while the Tide were actually on probation for the textbook scandal (which was Alabama’s third probationary stint since 1995). How often do you hear about these items? Did anyone think that the Alabama program was crumbling at the time these stories came out?
A popular opinion with Auburn seems to be, “where there’s smoke, there must be fire.” A more accurate statement is, “where there’s smoke, there’s smoke.” The NCAA practically lived on Auburn’s campus during the 2010 title season. Not a shred of evidence was found to support any of the claims made by “investigative” reporters. The NCAA investigated the claims of the “HBO Four”. Again, not a shred of real evidence to support their claims. The article related to Mike McNeil and the other three former Auburn players by Selena Roberts has been completely discredited by all of the sources she talked to, other than McNeil himself. And, while the article states that McNeil would vigorously fight in court to prove his innocence, he pleaded guilty last week. Auburn University itself issued a detailed, fact-driven statement completely discrediting ESPN’s article about drug abuse and drug testing.
The facts simply don’t support any of the outlandish claims that have been made. It’s frustrating to all Auburn people that these stories are immediately accepted as fact – that media outlets go so far as to already claim that Auburn’s 2010 season is “tainted”. The sad truth is that truth doesn’t make money. Alabama being successful makes ESPN money. Auburn being controversial makes ESPN money. Those are the realities in the current college sports landscape.
Auburn fans should brace themselves. There is most certainly more to come. It won’t be factual or true, but it will make people money. All Auburn can do is respond on the field of play – because the rules off the field are most certainly not fair or equally applied.