The two-minute, 29-second piece above is the exact sort of "essay" we get from ESPN on subjects of note every so often: The narration, from ESPN columnist/essayist Gene Wojciechowski, is low and firm; many of the pictures are fuzzed and blurred to make the subject at its center, here Florida coach Will Muschamp, seem like the eye of a storm; it's really just being used to lead into a discussion on a panel show, in this case College GameDay.
It's compelling, sure. On two somewhat important facts, though, it's weirdly wrong.
1. "He's lost four out of five to rivals Florida State and Georgia."
Muschamp is 1-2 against Florida State and 0-3 against Georgia. He 1-4 in his last five games against FSU and Georgia, yes, but he's also 1-5 in his last six, which is both a) a more descriptive version of the same stat and b) a description of his full Florida career. Why would a writer opt for the way Wojciechowski wrote it, if that writer had done his full research?
2. This is Max Garcia, not Michael Taylor.
.@CollegeGameDay This is Max Garcia. #sidproblems pic.twitter.com/GJqwuIR30S— Denver Parler (@denverparler) November 1, 2014
Both Garcia and Taylor defended Muschamp in comments to media this week, but they don't even really look alike, and confusing one for the other would be impossible for anyone on the Florida beat. Perhaps this was just a clerical
And a third fact error didn't make the video, but happened during a GameDay segment: Wojciechowski said Ron Zook was fired by Florida ... in 2010.
On a few other points, Wojciechowski speaks for Florida fans as a cohesive whole in a way that irks me. Some fans do, yes, believe Florida's loss to Georgia Southern was the most embarrassing in Florida history; some of us disagree. It's fair to say Muschamp has "lost Gator Nation," but he hasn't lost everyone in it; even some of us who think he must be fired still wish that weren't how it has to be!
And, finally, the conceit Wojciehowski's whole piece is based on — that there's only one day in which a coach gets the benefit of the doubt in college football — ignores the idea that Muschamp has had a stretch as good as this stretch has been bad. From Florida's bowl victory in 2011 to its season opener in 2013, the Gators won 13 of 15 games.
Painting Muschamp as a failure requires either ignoring or explaining away the 2012 season, in my mind, and Wojo took the former route — which is easier, sure, and maybe better for the form here, but does his conclusion no favors.
I used #KeepSleeping for the misidentification of Garcia on Twitter — which I think merits a public correction from GameDay, if not also an apology, but which is probably the fault of a production assistant, not Wojciechowski — and I have explained it before as a catch-all term for both perceived slights and poor coverage of Florida.
But, truth be told, slights get eyerolls from me, more often than not. Errors get side-eye, the kind that makes me wonder if I can trust the big-picture journalism of the industry leaders in sports media. When many little things are wrong in a piece of journalism, why should I trust anything in that piece to be right? This essay undermines ESPN's credibility.
It's not hard to tell a honest, complete, and fully accurate piece on the arc of Will Muschamp's career at Florida, and to do it in an attractive, compelling manner. ESPN, and Wojciechowski, failed in that respect.
And in journalism, failing to nail the little things is the first big mistake.