July 18, 2012; Hoover, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers head coach Gene Chizik during a press conference at the 2012 SEC media days event at the Wynfrey Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE
There are six days until Florida's September 1 opener with Bowling Green. There are 55 entries left in the 100 For 100 series. Stay positive.
There's an article on al.com (which is basically Alabama's secular Bible at this point) today by Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News, entitled "What kind of program is Gene Chizik running at Auburn?"
You and I, as Florida fans, are aware of the contours of writing like this: It begins with an outlining of problems, then cites the mounting pile of arrest reports as the reason it is now time to X-ray a program's soul, then calls it all a "disturbing trend" and finishes with a flourish and the phrase "out of control."
We read more than a few columns like this during the last two years of Urban Meyer's tenure, when lists of those arrests became worthwhile compilations and the questioning of Meyer's commitment to building character got loud enough to drown out the cheers for a team that wasn't giving fans quite as many reasons to roar.
We should not have had to deal with columns like those. No one should have to deal with them. And it's not because laws should be adhered to at all times.
Florida's situation then and Auburn's now are very different, and not only because Chizik is dealing with the aftermath of a fatal shooting that killed two young men who played for him. Auburn's fall from the national championship season of 2010 to its current state of confusion is made more stark by Alabama's perennial brilliance, and the Cam Newton recruitment has made journalists skeptical of Auburn's recruiting practices.
But the way these narrative arcs are constructed remains the same as it ever was, and both the assembly of the narratives and the final products are disgusting. Reporters and columnists who are unable or unequipped or disinclined to do anything but find a landing area for blame don't ask why crimes are committed, or suggest ways to prevent them, instead making it clear that coaches need to be punished for failing to prevent college-aged men from being arrested, further infantilizing adults who get dismissed as "kids" by fans, media members, and coaches alike, and generally skirting over the reasons why those arrests happened in the specific cases and happen in the aggregate.
That template, best dubbed the Coach Loses Control Arc (and brilliantly skewered by the Mark Richt Has Lost Control Of... retort), is genuinely one of the worst things about sports journalism. It requires those who specialize in black-and-white binary judgments and stories about "heroes" and "villains" to simplify an issues that rarely escape the deepest grays. It should be challenged and/or ignored whenever possible, with appeals made to journalists to get the fullest story from as many angles as possible instead of the juiciest take from a limited viewpoint.
But I sure am happy that Florida fans will be able to do more ignoring than challenging this year.