Inside The Sausage Factory
7/25/2008 - Dienhart 1, MGoBlog 0 - Pwned
So I'm sitting in the "media workroom" here at Big Ten Media days after the two hour-period this morning when all the coaches and players sit at different tables and answer questions posted by print and radio media. Some guy in his late twenties with close-cropped hair sat at the next table, prompting the bearded old hand next to me to ask: "totally overwhelmed yet?"
"Not really," he responded.
"Just so much information" was the reply, and then the old hand lapsed into thoughtful silence.
These are the fruits of my labors, the sum total of information I have to bring to you based on my penetrating questions that I envisioned would stun the people I questioned into mute appreciation of my knowledge before offering clear, concise descriptions of exactly what I wanted to know:
"I'm not going to tell you."
"I'm not going to answer that question."
"We strive for balance."
Other people did manage to get off queries that were answered interestingly, but very few. For a prolonged period, I sat at the table Rich Rodriguez was condemned to and tried to get one of the above-mentioned Penetrating Questions in but was constantly cut off by two adversaries I began referring to in my head (and notes) as Enormous Forehead Guy and Smarmy Young Journo, who would leap in at the perfect moment with a question of incredible uselessness like "who do you think has more pressure on them, the players or the coaches?" and then nod sagely as Rodriguez spun out his answer. In this case: "it's equal" was followed by few meandering sentences that served to completely rebuke the very idea of the question in the politest way possible.
This did not occur to the adversaries. I am communing with football, Enormous Forehead appeared to think. This is great stuff. SYJ looked on very seriously indeed, as if Rodriguez's answer to this purposeless question was a papal edict on an ethical matter of exceeding complexity. The force at which my eyes rolled back into my head threatened whiplash; fortunately everyone was fixated on Rodriguez and my lack of professionalism went unremarked upon. (And what better way to get away with it than post it on your blog? Mooohahaha!)
It was at this point my tolerance snapped. I'd like to say I stood and gave a thunderous edict that completely changed journalism forever. I didn't. Instead I typed this into my notes:
"who has more pressure, the players or the coaches?" I WANT TO DIE. I AM SITTING TWO FEET FROM RICH RODRIGUEZ AND CAN'T GET A QUESTION IN AND MORONS OF MORONLAND ARE MORONING MY TIME AWAY FUUUUUUCK
I was stressed! I felt much better, though.
It was at this point that Tom Dienhart, who I've considered a dolt ever since he penned a really awful column that chastized an imaginary avatar of Michigan fandom he dubbed "Boy Blue" or "Blue Boy" or something like that, [turns out it was "Big Blue Boy" -- even worse -ed] asked a simple question about how Scott Shafer came to the attention of Rich Rodriguez. Rodriguez said "hey, Tom," shook Deinhart's hand, commented negatively upon his Spartan green Rivals.com polo, and spoke. Thus spake the pope (the following is a paraphrase, not a quote):
I first looked into Scott when he was at I was at West Virginia and we were playing Maryland; Shafer was at Northern Illinois when they beat Maryland and Alabama, which is a big accomplishment when you're Northern Illinois. It wasn't necessarily just the schemes but how hard and aggressive they played. Then I saw what he did at Stanford, beating USC. He's a good fit for what we want to do.
This is pretty interesting, and it led into an entertaining anecdote about Shafer talking to his wife Missy, who asked "you aren't going to be changing jobs again, are you?" (Shafer had, at this point, been at three schools in four years.) Shafer downplayed the idea, headed off to a coaching convention, and immediately got a phone call from Rich Rodriguez.
Meanwhile, I'm just sitting around fuming. My notes before the paraphrase above: "Scott Shafer. Dienhart just asks my question." I have been owned.
Why am I here? Have I gotten anything useful out of this at all, or would my time have been better spent in the Batcave (read: mother's basement) pounding out a preview of Minnesota or something? I have absolutely no better handle on how Michigan will do this year. I don't even have the barest smidge of news to bring you: the two pieces of actual news I've heard have been common knowledge on the internet for a month. I couldn't get anyone to say anything even remotely interesting. I'm pretty sure Travis Beckum thinks I have Down's Syndrome. A rousing success, this is not.
The one saving grace is going back to that Dienhart piece, though, which remains as putrescent as it was when I hammered it a couple years ago. It's really bad: shallow thinking, lame jokes, no justification for any of its premises. Theory: being a good beatwriter/interviewer-guy and being a good opinion merchant are not just unrelated skills but are somewhere near mutually exclusive. I spend my time combing the internet for any piece of novel information I can find, reviewing games and compiling stats, reasoning out things I think about football and compiling evidence to justify my beliefs.
Beatwriters try to eke out interesting responses from interview adversaries. They're believers in the holy grail of access, which necessitates thinking on an entirely different level. It's not real unless it comes from your access, so only things that people say are real. (And often they're deliberately not saying anything.) Take just about any newspaper article or radio piece or anything, really, reported in the objective style favored by the media these past 50 years:
- THING is controversial.
- "THING is great, I love thing" says person X.
- But group Y says THING has PROPERTY OR EFFECT that is negative.
- "I hate THING, think of the children" says person Z from Group Y.
- But person X of group W disagrees.
- "I disagree," says person X.
- Ain't it a funny old world?
This is just about the complete opposite of critical thinking. There is a skill in it; it is not my skill, and my skill is not theirs.
I did transcribe some stuff of debatable utility; that's coming up.
and I certainly didn't add any typos. But I question whether the "findarticles.com" version that I linked to is identical to the version that ran in the Sporting News.