Journalists' envy and: the nail on the floor (UM)

Submitted by michelin on November 18th, 2009 at 4:06 PM

I was thinking this morning about why I’ve gotten upset watching games the past few years. It’s just a game. I'm a Cubs fan and I know how to lose. Besides, a bunch of 18-19 year-olds don’t owe me anything as an alum. They only owe it to themselves to be the best they can be.

Rather, I'm upset about the way these kids and their coaches have been treated in the media during the past 5 years . They’ve relentlessly attacked UM. Were they doing so because related parties would benefit, directly or indirectly, from their own self-promotion or from UM’s decline? Maybe so. But as I read the following passage, a more destructive force is reared its ugly head:

“while we may enjoy elevating some people [/coaches/players/institutions/programs] to great prominence, we love to tear them down even more. If someone has the audacity to rise above the 'average American', an army of journalists will search out and broadcast every fault or misstep to our sadistic delight. In America more than any other place, the nail that sticks up out of the floor is the one that get hammered down the hardest.

If this attitude was confined to the degenerates of Hollywood it wouldn't be so detrimental to our culture and society. But it is more than an insatiable desire for gossip that is behind this mentality. It is a deep seated sense of envy and insecurity that drives us to such behavior. Because of this, it is not just immoral actors and sleazy politicians who are the targets of our ire. After all, many of them don't deserve the adulation they receive and should be knocked down a few pegs. This malicious attitude, however, is directed against anyone we perceive as being 'above' us. “

In 2004, after the UM FB program acquired indisputably, the highest all-time winning percentage in NCAA football, it became once more a huge nail sticking up out of the floor. To the media, it was just begging to be hammered.

If not, then why did announcers trumpet UM’s loss to App State, even though it was not even in the top 10---no, not even in the top 100 upsets, probably, in terms of the point spread?

Why did they endlesslessly and falsely repeat that last year was the worse in UM history (yet not mention that is was far from that in terms of win pct or that teams like Fla not long ago went 0-11 twice in two years, that MSU, OSU, and ND not long ago all had 3 or 4 win seasons, sometimes multiple ones)?

Why did the media falsely insinuate in a vacuous, four-part expose that UM was guilty of academic violations? Why did they falsely accuse RR of destroying sensitive records? Why did they publicized accusations that he stole recruits, with little or no mention of the legalities and practices of other coaches? And now, they say he overworked his players and God forbid, did not catch clerical errors that do not involve NCAA regulations? Why is this all about UM and RR, when we all know that the problems of being student-athletes are nearly universal?

The media defend themselves, saying that, just because everybody else is acting wrongly does not excuse it. Moral absolutism from the media! Give me a break! If only this spate of media self-righteousness were occasionally focused in the mirror, it would reveal the misleading, hateful innuendos, the partial truths, the editorial malpractice in allowing people with public grudges to lead investigations of those they have sworn to destroy. It would show the abuse of trust—no, even the lies and false pretenses--in the interviews of naive freshman just arrived on campus. It would strip the cloak of anonymity from the grinning faces of accusers who will not face the accused or reveal their transparent grudges

If only the media would direct their unique moral expertise at the name-calling: calling RR a snake oil salesman (Tiller); or saying he’s like Hitler (Holtz). I applaud one brave soul, Craig James who was barely noticed calling this absurd theatrical fiction what it is: a “witch hunt”—a term once reserved for the hunt for uppity women in Salem but now a hunt for uppity …well….I can only guess what..enough said).

Right now, I just can’t wait for the next shoe to drop. Read all about it: RR forms a family corporation and, in a power struggle for control of the company, sends his grandmother to jail. Yes, it’s getting that insane.

Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way. So, if you’re a journalist and want to negbang the post into oblivion behind a cloak of anonymity, perhaps you won't get fight from anyone. As for me, I’ve said my piece and have more important things to do. Right now, I’ve got to turn on ESPN to hear the breaking news from Herbstreit about the next Michigan coach. Also, I’ve got a piece of fish wrapped in the Free Press and I’m afraid it will spoil if I don’t eat it.



November 18th, 2009 at 4:20 PM ^

I think it's also an easy way for a lazy, so-called "reporter" to get a story. Sadly, there is no shortage of lazy, so-called, "reporters" in the modern MSM.

Another factor I see is that this is the most disgruntled I have seen society as a whole since the early seventies. Now, though, the media is a lot more adroit at playing to this sense of alienation that so many feel and fueling their sense of unease, helping it "grow" into full-fledged hatred of anyone who doesn't think exactly as they do or perform exactly as they expect.

Sports used to be a positive outlet for people to escape daily life; thanks to the media, it has been downgraded to neutral at best and negative at worst. Thankfully, though, there is in inherent purity in athletic competition that can't be diluted or tainted by any outside influence. The outside factors may suck, but the games keep us in the moment. I guess that's all we can really hope for at this point.

The Bugle

November 18th, 2009 at 6:04 PM ^

Thanks for the thoughtful post. I think another reason the media is latching on to a lot of the stories is that for one reason or another Michigan seems to be held to a different standard than everyone else. That coupled with a disgruntled society comes the love of schadenfreude. I am amazed with how many fans seem to dislike Michigan. Everyone likes to see a disliked leader pulled through the muck.


November 18th, 2009 at 4:37 PM ^

If there's a program that deserves to win more than Michigan I'm all ears. I know there's not a program that needs to lose more than that directional school to the south.

The King of Belch

November 18th, 2009 at 5:20 PM ^

When Rich Rod was hired, I noticed a smarmy attitude of self-righteousness coming out of the Detroit media. First, it was Mitch Albom calling out Michigan for seemingly abandoning the old hiring process (bringing in the next warm body that had slaved away at UM for 500 years) for the modern hunt of a coach already under contract to another school and bringing him in such a way as that guy abandoned his team during bowl preparations, and all done under a cloak and dagger approach and BARF.

Then Rosenberg began to chirp in with his bullshit and others followed.

I couldn't believe this crap. What the hell was wrong with UM going out and hiring a coach the same goddamm way everyone else does it?

And the thing by Carty ZOMG what a piece of journalistic "How not to do" if you axe me. Carty, if you'll recall, was the first to use the old, "people who remain nameless because they fear Michigan will torture and kill them and their families" and he used it twice for crissakes. He had CURRENT UM profs and employees speaking out, giving their names--and two people feared an evil UM raction that could damage their careers? Give ME a fucking break.

Not to mention Carty using a prof who fucking was ADMITTEDLY disgruntled that the independent studies prof (can't remember his name now) had passed him over for promotion!!!!!! I'm all, "Hey, I'm not a journalist, but doesn't using a source who admits he's pissed off dent your credibility?" How's about a lawyer putting a guy on the stand and he says, "Well, I'm ticked because Larry kept all the money from the bank robbery, so I'm testifying against him"

And now all the rest of the shit, right down to practice logs that aren't mandated by the NCAA.

I may not be in Rich Rodriguez's AORTA or a member of TDoR, but holy shit does it rankle me to witness what is nothing more than a smear campaign, and seemingly with the blessing of some in UM's athletic department--which has, Mary Sue and Bill M notwithstanding, kind of hung Rodriguez out to dry.

Another thing that bugs me is one thing about the timing of this hire that I haven't seen touched on: The facility upgrades were all being finished up during Rodriguez's first year. The poor guy had to have his first "spring game" at fucking Saline High School!!! He's had to bring recruits onto campus at a time when (and there is nothing uglier) the place was a war zone of construction equipment.

Nothing better than trying to imress people and having them worry about an I-Beam falling on their heads or having them dance around those pesky "Pardon our appearance--we're GROWING again!" signs.

Rich Rodriguez has taken the job at a time when the program itself was eroding, and the eroded infrastructure was being remade, and at a time when the truly schizophrenic battle between academia/athletics, and old guard/new way fractiousness was unleased due to the passing not just of the one transcendental figure who could keep the wolves at bay, but the retirement of the guy who represented the last link to that figure.

And what's it done? Turned Rodriguez involuntarily into an extremely polarizing figure who, if fair judgment is to really be used, probably has been hogtied in terms of just being allowed to do his job. I know I've been critical of him--and yeah, I still think you can scrutinize the on-field product--but I'm kinda really leaning to wondering what it would be like to see him get two more years with the hope that a lot of the bullshit goes away to allow some elbow room.


November 18th, 2009 at 5:39 PM ^

Couldn't express it any better myself. Or even as well. RR needs to be evaluated on the basis of what he gets done on the field, and to assess that job fairly, he needs at least one, and in my opinion, two more years. If at the end of that time we're still struggling to get out of the lower reaches of the Big Ten, then the decision will be clear.

Screw "journalists." They can spew any amount of ludicrous crap they feel like, with no fear of repercussions, yet they continually mock bloggers as the individuals with no credibility.

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 18th, 2009 at 6:00 PM ^

Sorry, but a lot of this is self-important, conspiracy theory gibberish. The media is bringing Michigan down because of "envy"? No, the media is reporting on Michigan's troubles because a traditional power's fall from excellence is interesting to sports fans.

Some of the points in the original post are ridiculous.

In 2004, after the UM FB program acquired indisputably, the highest all-time winning percentage in NCAA football, it became once more a huge nail sticking up out of the floor. To the media, it was just begging to be hammered.

If you really believe that the media went after Michigan because it had to be "knocked down a peg" because of it's alltime win percentage, perhaps you should also be searching for Barack Obama's Kenyan birth certificate.

If not, then why did announcers trumpet UM’s loss to App State, even though it was not even in the top 10---no, not even in the top 100 upsets, probably, in terms of the point spread?

They trumpeted it because a team that almost played for a national title the previous year just lost at home to a fucking Division I-AA school! You think the same thing wouldn't have happened if Florida, USC, Ohio State, LSU, or any other number of teams lost to a I-AA school? No, it's just a conspiracy against Michigan. That's the only explanation.

Why did they endlesslessly and falsely repeat that last year was the worse in UM history (yet not mention that is was far from that in terms of win pct or that teams like Fla not long ago went 0-11 twice in two years, that MSU, OSU, and ND not long ago all had 3 or 4 win seasons, sometimes multiple ones)?

There are so many ridiculous things here I don't know where to start. Last year was a horrendous year. The media properly reported that we had a horrendous year. What, you think that the media should have noted in every article that we also went 1-7 in 1934 and 1936?

And what the fuck do you mean when you say Florida "not long ago went 0-11 twice in two years"? Florida went winless once, in 1979. 30 years ago is a pretty long time. Similarly, OSU last had a four win season in 1988, 20 years ago. Are you saying that every article about Michigan's season should have also noted "of course, Florida sucked worse in 1979, and OSU was almost as bad in 1988"? I hope to God that when USC has a bad year in 2039, not every article references Michigan's 2009 team.

There are certainly legitimate criticisms of the media, which craves controversy because it serves ratings. But the idea that they are somehow "out to get" Michigan because of envy, or that they somehow overstated how shitty last year was, is idiotic.


November 18th, 2009 at 6:08 PM ^

Just having heard this, PTI "experts" think that Michigan "has to be interested" in Harbaugh. That statement alone makes me almost hate the MSM for their laziness, ignorance, and stupidity.


November 18th, 2009 at 7:30 PM ^

I appreciate your post, Michelin.

Here's a response from a journalist.

In many ways, I feel like you do. I am sick of the way Michigan's program has been treated by certain local media.

Notice what I did there, though: "certain local media."

That's because "media" is a plural noun.

This is important, because "The Media" couldn't get together to decide the color of shit, let alone come up with a nefarious plot to 'clast' any particular icon.

There's a flip-side to that coin -- neither can we control what others in our profession do, nor what readers want. We can only do the best and most ethical job we can, for our own readers.

When opportunity presents itself, yes, we take each other to task. You see that here. MGoBlog is part of the same "Mass Media" that includes talk radio, newspapers, cable TV shows,, etc.

Mass Media is a very big thing. No one "message" can reach everybody, and you wouldn't want such a thing anyway. Rather, it is up to the reader/listener/viewer to decide what to consume.

There is a major market for Michigan hating in Metro Detroit. This city is filled with fans of teams we have beaten down for decades, particularly Michigan State. They will slurp up every negative rumor, every innuendo, every nasty thing to ever come out about the Wolverine Football Program.

There is also a major market for Rich Rod hating, even among Michigan fans. Not every "TRUE BLUE WOLVERINE" reads MGoBlog, or cares for any explanation. 3-9 and 5-5 has made people upset, and upset people don't exactly go running for the most considered opinion available to them every time.

That doesn't make, say, Mike Valenti, or Mike Rosenberg any more ethical for giving them what they want. I'd love to stop rumor mongers and dipshits too. I wish that when I was 18, and I wrote an extensive piece for the school newspaper on the State of Michigan extending the school year, and how teachers were meeting after classes to figure out how to reorganize what eventually became a radically different block scheduling program, that it got more interest than the guys who made the list of senior females who at that point had had sex.

I also wish that girl in 4th grade wouldn't have blurted out in the middle of Mrs. Query's class that I farted. Was it true? No -- I'm pretty sure I would know what came out of my ass. Did her audience find it interesting? You bet -- for those people, it was the scoop of the day, perhaps the semester!

Think of Drew Sharp et al. as a guy yelling "Michigan farted!" and playing to a crowd that absolutely loves fart jokes, and you begin to understand what you're really up against here. And also how much it really matters anyway.


November 18th, 2009 at 8:51 PM ^

The poster below who suggested that I offer a conspiracy theory demonstrates one of the main techniques of people who seek to distort facts (see link). It is to “Sidetrack … to associate opponents with unpopular titles such as 'conspiracy buffs', …This makes others shrink from support out of fear of gaining the same label, and you avoid dealing with issues.”
( In fact, other people later may use his label as the truth.

This is not an organized conspiracy, as you point out. But I am not saying that it is one. If you carefully read the quote in the article and think about it, you will see that I am trying to provide an explanation of why the media is pounding the nail--UM. Perhaps I was not clear.

I do hold responsible the media, but agree that their clients—you and me—actually share some of that responsibility. As you correctly point out, the journalists would not write irresponsibly if some of the public didn’t want to read what they’re writing. The media know that people have an appetite for seeing people or teams who excel get cut down.

I currently write books in the area of the neurosciences, and I could show you the regions of peoples’ brains that light up on fMRI when they "cut down" people who are doing well in games. The areas include pleasure centers also activated also by drugs, such as cocaine. So, if you want a metaphor to understand roughly my view of what’s happening, you might think of the people who read the gossip that seedy journalists offer as drug users, sometimes casual ones. Certain journalists are like the drug pushers. While most like you do not fall in this category, I do hold the real pushers responsible. In fact, I think they too even get a more than occasional snort of the drug: the pleasure of knocking people down.

These unethical journalists know what they’re doing. It’s like a cigarette company putting more nicotine in cigs to make them more addicting. So, for these unethical journalists to make moral proclamations is truly bizarre. It's about time that people started calling them out. I appreciate that you have done so here. But that’s rare.

I don’t buy that we are powerless to do anything about it. If their fellow journalists and commentators speak out, like Craig James did, that matters. On the other hand, if journalists are unwilling to criticize their peers but will stoop to anything to attack others, then that’s a double standard. Then, it’s time for people not only to say something but to exert pressures. For example, while I believe strongly in free speech, I do not think there is a constitutional obligation for people to buy ads or products advertised in media outlets that are engaged in spreading malicious and false gossip.


2. More detailed comments

a. You, like other people with intact auditory and visual capacities, seem to recognize that UM has been pounded relentlessly in the press for quite a while now. For the doubters below, we could actually do an objective content analysis of the news if we want to definitively proves what we already know.

b. I realized that some of the poor seasons of other teams cited by me were removed in time by some years, but my point is that the relative importance of an event can only be judged in the context of a broad look at the past. You cannot assess the success of a program by one data point (season) but have to look over a number of years. Consider this: if it is fair for the journalists to (incorrectly) report that UM had its worst season in its 100+ year history, then why is it unfair to look also at the history of other teams too?

And I didn’t even go back a hundred years. To provide a context, all I did was to look at the history of a few teams in modern post WWII era. In fact, FLA actually had 3 not 2 winless seasons, as I wrote, but I decided the number of games in one season was not worth reporting. One of the 3 winless seasons also included a tie, 0-10-1. Does that really matter? Isn’t 0-10-1 worse than 3-9?

My point remains. You do find outliers, as bad or worse than UM’s 2008 season in the records of even some current media darlings. I did not say that all of their poor seasons should be reported on every broadcast…only that it provides a context for deciding if a 3-9 season is as unusual and important as it is reported to be. It's not.

c. The critical poster below says that UM’s bad season was more recent. OK. I suppose that ND’s 3-win season was ages ago (like what, 2 years?) or that MSU didn’t have one or two pretty recent 4-win seasons. If temporal immediacy of a rotten year was the factor driving media coverage as that poster implies, then I find it odd that the 2008 3-9 season is mentioned so often--even now, a year later--reported as the lead-off item in broadcasts, as if it were the most important thing to mention about the 2009 team. In fact, I have seen ESPN broadcast games in which the broadcasters lead off with the past record, with unproven allegations vs. RR, then top it off with pictures of suffering Michigan economy. It’s beyond unfair. It’s outrageous.

How often are the past seasons of other teams mentioned as the lead off item in broadcasts when they were equally bad or worse? Do you hear them reporting the current state of the California economy when USC plays a game?

Again, for those who don't believe that UM has gotten a disproportionate share of the bad press--especially locally, as you point out--we could actually do an objective content analysis : a study that definitively proves the obvious.


November 18th, 2009 at 9:11 PM ^

No, but I postulate that we would see a correlated rise in the number of 3rd graders who become Michigan fans.


A kid yelled "Dukakis farted" when we did our school mock election, and the guy got like three votes in the whole class (which had 3 Jews and one Greek, all of whom swore years later that it wasn't them)


November 18th, 2009 at 9:30 PM ^

I remember Drew Sharp once being interviewed on national TV (?ABC), before an OSU game, talking about how Navarre performed in the previous OSU game. He said: "John Navarre peed in his pants."

It would be interesting to get Drew inside of an fMRI machine to understand how it gives him pleasure to say such things. But to do that, you would have to get his head into the machine. I think it's too big to fit.