Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Oklahoma State coach's rant shows that women are not equal

Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy makes a fool of all the rational coaches out there, which is most of them. Don't think this coach's spewing is normal, or acceptable. Gundy unfairly attacks the woman columnist for the Oklahoman in a three-plus minute tirade, saying the writer can't understand the issue because she does not have kids.

This rant was clearly spit out by someone who has no clue about journalism, modern media, or YouTube, where more than 200,000 people have watched his childish bombast. This is also someone who has no clue that kids get picked on, teased, and called names far worse than ''fat boy.'' Kids, and adults, get their hearts broken all the time. We've all been kicked when we were down. It's the getting back up that defines us.

Like athletes, student-journalists get their fair share of criticism. Just last week some egocentric, petty graduate students posted 'graded' copies of the staff editorial all over campus because they disagreed with the stance. Last spring, my students got throttled over another editorial -- on Greek life. On message boards, our editor in chief was called words far meaner than 'fatty.' Journalists understand criticism more than most people, coach.

Here's all Oklahoman columnist Jenni Carlson did:

1. She offered some observations about the player, the Cowboys' quarterback.

Bobby Reid stood near the team charters last Friday night, using his cell phone, eating his boxed meal.
It would've been normal post-game activity but for one thing.
His mother was feeding him chicken.

That scene in the parking lot last week had no bearing on the Cowboys changing quarterbacks, and yet, it said so much about Reid. A 21-year-old letting his mother feed him in public? Most college kids, much less college football players, would just as soon be seen running naked across campus.

And what of the scene television cameras captured earlier that evening of Reid on the sidelines laughing with assistant strength coach Trumain Carroll? The same cameras showed him throwing his cap in disgust after a missed play earlier, but to be laughing in the final minutes of an embarrassing loss is bad form.

2. She reported comments made by the player himself.

I get sweaty palms. I get the butterflies in my stomach. I sweat lot,” he said then. "I've been playing this game for 15 years. And I can honestly say every game I've played in, I've been nervous. It's not so much me being scared; I just get to a point where I start worrying about a lot of things I can't control.

3. She offered some fair commentary.

A lot of guys get nervous, some even puke before games. How you handle the nerves is important, though, and Reid hasn't always managed them well. He has gotten off to some extremely slow starts, putting the Cowboys in some holes. Some, they dug out of, with Reid often wielding the biggest shovel, and some, they couldn't.

Then, there have been the injuries. No doubt some of Reid's ailments have been severe, including an injured shoulder that required surgery and forced him to redshirt. Other times, though, Reid has been nicked in games and sat it out instead of gutting it out.

Injuries are tricky, of course. You don't want a guy to put himself in harm's way if he's really hurt, and yet, football is one of those sports in which everyone plays hurt. Aches and pains, bumps and bruises are part of the gig.
This infuriated Gundy. Like other coaches before him, Gundy played demagogue, playing on popular prejudices and making false claims to promote his main idea, that this player was unfairly picked one. Gundy said three-fourths of the article was fiction, but failed to point out a single instance, preferring, instead, to glare and pause between his exhaustive rant last Saturday. Two days later, he again declined to support his claims.

Gundy also unfairly attacks a woman journalist in this case. As Chicago Sun-Times columnist Carol Slezak points out, it is difficult to imagine Gundy calling out a man for not having kids:

I can't imagine Gundy screaming during a press conference about a male writer's lack of offspring. I can't imagine him substituting ''daddy'' for ''mommy'' in his rant. I also wonder, as one of the few -- or perhaps only -- women in that room, if Carlson didn't make for an easy target in Gundy's mind. Watching the video, I sensed a subcurrent that gave me an uneasy feeling. As if what Gundy was really thinking was, ''How dare that bitch criticize one of my players. She shouldn't be writing about football. She should be home making babies.' '

I'd have to agree with Slezak on this one. Like many other fathers of daughters, I'd be inclined to jump in and face off with anyone talking to my little girl in this rough manner, no matter her age. ("Do you have any daughters, Gundy!" Pause. Glare. "Have you ever had your daughters come home crying because some boy called her a 'Slut," or had some boss demean her skills because she is a female?) Unlike you, coach, I hope you never have to face those situations.

Gundy brings up another point, that college athletes are not professionals. That's true. But more and more these young athletes are treated like pros by sports information directors, local media, and broadcasters. In a way, they are being paid. Full tuition each year is a pretty good salary for slinging a football or knocking down some baskets. Still, we should not demean people on a personal level. On the other hand, we also should not be intimidated to write only fluffy, promotional pieces. (Even though, sadly, that's what some fans want.) More than 89 percent say that Gundy's rant was justified in one fan poll. Sadly, these fans are blinded by loyalty to a sports program. That's who Gundy pandered to last week.

Gundy is not the only coach who is out of touch, though. Colorado coach Dan Hawkins believes fan should not even boo his team's performances. (Clearly, he has never visited Philly.) "If you're not happy with what's going on, don't come to the game, or leave," Hawkins said. "It's like my grandmother used to tell me, 'If you can't say anything nice, don't say it at all.' But I understand those values are a little old fashion and people don't take those to the ballpark anymore."

Thank goodness for coaches like Bill Callahan of Nebraska who told Sports Illustrated: "People have their opinion and I respect that," Callahan said. "In America, people expect excellence. I don't think anybody likes to be booed. You've got to deal with it and don't let it get to you."

Sports journalists, like Carlson, work hard to explore reasons for actions. In this case, she set out to tell readers why Oklahoma State coaches decided to switch quarterbacks. And Gundy could not take it that a writer (a female sportswriter) tried to explain 'his' decision. Thus, came the ridiculous rant by someone who acted more like a pouting kid than a 40-year-old man.

That's all I have to say. Right now, Gundy makes me want to puke.



Anonymous said...

Dan Hawkins is the coach for the University of Colorado NOT Colorado State. Where does this writer get information?

InkStain said...

You didn't mention the parts of the column where she used rumors and unnamed sources to further her hatchet job.

If a journalist wants to cop out and use unnamed sources, she can't complain when she gets accused of inaccuracies and has no defense.

Not that the coach wasn't wrong to. But a little piece of journalistic credibility just died because another sportswriter took the lazy way out.

Paul C. said...

Good for Coach Gundy!

Where the hell does this columnist get off writing such a nasty piece about a STUDENT ATHLETE?

It isn't like this kid got in trouble with the law... he got BENCHED, and she made it sound like he was a castrated gelding.

Kevin said...

What I didn't like about the tirade was that he yelled about the unfair treatment for kids who do the right thing but don't play so well on Saturday. If he's so concerned about the inordinate attention the shady characters who make big plays get, why doesn't he cut some of them? Oh, that's right, because he'd lose and he wouldn't get that $850K salary.

Anonymous said...

I understand that journalists want to defend each other, but your backing the wrong pony on this one. You obviously don't know anything about Jenni Carlson, she is a hack. This is not the first time she has written some rag that has got her in trouble. It's just never been nation-wide before now. She is the token female sports reporter at horrible newspaper (The Oklahoman). If she had written that article as an "opinion" piece there would be no problem. But she does not know anything about sports so no one cares about her opinion!She "reported facts" that just happened to be wrong. So maybe YOU should do more background before you jump to Jenni's aid.

Anonymous said...

Two comments on yours about the Gundy rant:
1) most of Carlson's column was based on solid observation and reporting, although some of her points were based on unnamed sources.
2) when I first heard Gundy's rant, including the part about the reporter (I didn't know it was a column that got his goad) not being a "parent" (and I think that's thw term her used), it did not occur to me that the writer was a woman. One can argue whether he'd have said that to a man, but much of that's based personal perception.

3) Frankly, I don't see how the player's mother bringing him a pregame meal is an indicator of not being a tough guy. If he hugs a teammate, is he gay? If he has difference of opinion with his coach, is he disrespectful? I think the reference is more of an indicator of the columnist's lack of depth than the player's.
Robert Bohler

Prof. Roberts said...

Dear Mr. Gisondi,

I found your blog after talking with a colleague of yours who is at our campus consulting. While I agree that Coach Gundy was out of line, Jenni Carlson has to share some of the blame with this situation. I also advise students at a college newspaper and I used Carlson column as a perfect example of what not to do. I do think people need to calm down about this subject. Mistakes were made on both sides. It is a teachable moment for all.

Anonymous said...


I remember being called in a presser by Rick Samuels back when I was at EIU. Wrote a column after a lame EIU-Valpo game that watching a kid get gum out of his hair in the stands — I wasn't reporting that night — captivated more of the crowd I was around that the play on the floor.

Two nights later, EIU beats an Illinois-Chicago team that was undefeated in the league. I'm there covering the game and Samuels said, "O'Brien, I'm suprised you had the guts to show up here tonight." Then he drills me for a few minutes about not being positive about the team and how I need to be so in future articles.

I just sat back and listened. There's never any reason to take on a coach. You're never going to convince them of anything, especially when its a student journalist going against a pro.

I know Brian Nielsen got a good laugh out of it.

College athletes, especially those at the Big 12 level and even at the Ohio Valley Conference level, aren't amateurs. Those student-athletes get gobs of money in scholarships as well as other fringe benefits the common student doesn't get like their own tutors, learning centers, etc. Not to mention all of the free gear that Joe Student has to shell out money to wear.

They're fair game, but they should also be treated fairly. I'm not a huge fan of Carlson's column, but she wasn't malicious. I don't know how his mom feeding him chicken had anything to do with his ability to quarterback a football team.

This is a great learning experience for students and pros alike.

I just hope Carlson gets to write Gundy's career obit once the Cowboys go down the tubes in the Big 12 this season.

Good work on the blog.

Don O'Brien

Anonymous said...

"This is also someone who has no clue that kids get picked on, teased, and called names far worse than ''fat boy.'' Kids, and adults, get their hearts broken all the time. We've all been kicked when we were down. It's the getting back up that defines us."

Take a rhetoric class and repeat that.

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