The Freedom of The (Sports) Press

In the previous story, I wrote about how Urban Meyer needed to be delicate with what he says about his future at Florida. I tried to make the case that Meyer's statement really does not change anything. The only thing that can or should make us secure in his future at Florida is a new contract that protects Florida, while giving Meyer buckets of money.

The story and the comments reflected the role of the press in Meyer's statement. It is more likely that Meyer finishes his career at Florida than leaves for Notre Dame. But, just as Steve Spurrier decided to coach South Carolina, Meyer eventually coaching Notre Dame is not out of the range of possibilities. Newspapers and blogs jump on this. Some make the assumption he is all but gone. I believe Meyer will retire as a Gator and go to the NFL. Beyond that, or the life of his contract, who knows. I think he realizes leaving Gainesville as a relatively young man for Notre Dame could be a huge mistake.

But Meyer cannot talk about his feelings or thinking like that. Anything he says would be used by the press or coaches (who pick it up from the press) against him. We celebrate our politicians when they speak directly to us and don't b.s. around the issues. When a coach does it, we vilify him.

Which brings us to this comment from Bammer, half speaking about Nick Saban's and Meyer's treatment regarding definative statements to the press.

Hey, there is no doubt he handled it wrong, but the media got what they wanted…and now they are blasting him for it….

I just wish the founding fathers would have rethought the whole, freedom of the press thingy..

It's not "freedom of the press" however. It's the actual press. They are businesses. As much as we hate hearing about Brett Favre on ESPN, we still watch and they make more money. With college sports, we feed the beast by either reading or listening to Finebaum, Swindle/Hall, or anyone else. Our appetite is ever growing.

Our obsession has created the massive amount of sports information available to us. When the Founding Fathers (Thomas Jefferson especially) advocated a free and independent press, they thought of Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" and "Federalist Papers" by Hamilton and Madison, neither of which were originally published under the authors names. Gee, widely read information, published under a pseudonym. Doesn't that sound like blogs?

What is amazing to me is that our political sophistication began with pamphleteers (like Paine) and then went mainstream. Now our political sophistication has gone back to that in the form of blogs and it has created a new era of political reporting. (Even though newspapers are dying, there is more information out there than ever. That can be good or bad, but the marketplace determines that.)

Our sports sophistication is growing too. We've gone from Henry Chadwick (the inventor of the box score), to mainstream sports writing, back to inventive writers (like SABR or Phil Steele) who again change how we watch the game. But mainstream sports hates this. That's why they have to build up controversies; so you keep reading them instead. The recent blow ups around Florida football started in mainstream press outlets. The most popular blog, Deadspin, was actually critical of the coverage on Florida's recent criminal troubles.

The mainstream press is still the first place to go for the daily locker room interactions, but in the offseason, they need you to keep reading. That's why things get blown up. It's also why Scout and Rivals do good year round. They know high school recruiting, the biggest crapshoot you can imagine, pulls in readers. Those sites build up kids beyond their skill levels, writing about them like they are free agents. Not high school kids trying to determine their future.If they wrote about it like that, no one would read them.

While we cringe when we see the Orlando Sentinel blow out Florida's arrests, we devour their stories when Florida does well. I can call college athletes and coaches mercenaries, yet write about Tim Tebow like he a cross between Jim Thorpe and Muhammad Ali.

Our Sporting Press does upset us from time to time and we only have ourselves to thank for that. The further we move into this age of sports journalism, the more likely we will see stories we don't like. That also means we will see stories dripping with so much goodness, your fingers get sticky. The thing to remember is that you can read what you want to read. You have the Freedom of the Press and the freedom to stay away from the press.

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