I shouldn’t even write this because it’s contributing another piece of writing to #drunkgate or the Ballad of Cutty Sark or as I’m calling it, the most overblown story in history. The story that’s proof media relations training doesn’t matter, because the media will make mountains of molehills no matter what. And molehills of the sand that’s in your shoes after a day at the beach.
Make no mistake, the kind of sports coverage we get is indicative of the newspaper game’s impending downfall. It was a business created to provide news and commentary in a time when your best source was an environmentally unconscious daily tree murder dropped on your door by dancing broadway kids, one of whom should probably be Future Batman:
Within a couple days, TMZ became a source for real papers like the LA Times and then other papers that take the Pareto principle leftovers from the LA Times (yikes, hope those folks have been investing in their 401ks).
So let’s be clear what happened. Factually. And then let’s look at how our top newspaper covered #drunkgate (sorry LA Times, you aren’t the only offender, but you are the only nationally known paper in town, so you have to play cadaver here, but no one told you to die, so it’s for #science).
Steve Sarkisian allegedly took a combination of prescription meds and some quantity of alcohol together, or he simply drank too much.
Steve Sarkisian swore, spoke ill of opponents and generally came off intoxicated at a private booster event.
Steve Sarkisian was pulled off the stage by Pat Haden who condemned the display.
Steve Sarkisian apologized and said he’d pursue treatment to find out if he had a drinking problem.
Steve Sarkisian went back to coaching football without further punishment.
So that’s what happened. Check out what the LA Times headlines painted this as:
OK. That’s accurate sounding. This is typically where the story could end. But no. We have to sell dead trees in a drought.
There’s Plaschke’s genius piece. I know he’s a columnist so he can say what he wants, but this is like me saying “If Plaschke’s Downtrend From Writer of Feel Good Sports Stories to Writer of Speculative Click Bait Continues, He’ll End Up at Buzzfeed Showing America 25 Animated Gifs of Football Mascots You Have to See to Believe!”
Bill is better than that.
But what are we saying when we say “if an isolated incident becomes a destructive behavior, that’s bad”?
We’re saying “if this kitchen fire burns uncontrollably and eventually destroys all of California, that’s something to worry about.”
We’re saying “if forgetting things turns into Alzheimer’s, that could be catastrophic for your memory.”
There’s causal and there’s corollary. Could there be a corollary between being drunk in public and having a problem later? Sure. Is it for sure causal? Nope. Does it sell more papers than a corollary about people who apologize and take full responsibility having a greater chance of bringing a team together? Absolutely.
If you’ve ever driven your car after more than two drinks, ever said something nasty to a friend or lover after one too many, you are Sark. Only the media wouldn’t cover that. Does that come with the territory? Sure it does. Being the USC football coach is a big deal and people care. But they don’t care much as evidenced by this web 1.0 style poll intended to generate clicks that one day will grow up to be loose corollaries to advertisers to sell media.
At the time of writing this, there were just over 4800 people who participated. That’s on a poll about football from a paper with a circulation of a little over a million on a Sunday (as far as I could tell, but the LA Times is currently being accused of padding their circulation which may or may not be a corollary to their impending demise, but don’t mind me, I’m just acting like an LA Times columnist).
I think if we’re playing corollary (and I love to), you can see the overwhelming favorite in their participation-light poll is “They should fire him.” We could say this is because the LA Times has more Bruin readers. We could say this is because it has older readers who find Sark deplorable because they missed the whole YOLO thing and didn’t care he was totes taking Uber home. Safe, bro.
If I were to guess though, we see 42.57% percent of this poll being negative towards Sark because a traditional media outlet trying to dabble in online publishing is going to follow their analytics. So when the angry masses give you marketable metrics to advertisers like CLICKS, you feed them right? But it comes at a cost. You get coverage that tries every hat on and then sticks with the one that looks the worst because it causes the biggest reaction.
This is why it’s painful to watch someone like the LA Times try to be Vice. They won’t. I’m writing this post (which will surely be read more than their poll was participated in when it’s all said and done) and I’m not doing it for money. I’m doing it because I feel like it and I’m giving it away for free. That’s a crap landscape for papers. That’s why we get click bate. Playboy went from being a pretty rockin’ blend of tips on how to be a dude who can make cocktails, anecdotes about politics and culture and also, well, pictures of naked women. Check out their social feed now. Yesterday it was something like 25 animated gifs of Jessica Alba. The worst part isn’t that we can’t say “I read it for the articles” anymore. It’s that we all actually want to click that link of Jessica Alba.
So since there was smoke, the Times had to look for fire.
I assure you, these weren’t important. I didn’t even read the article. It might not have even been about this current press conference. But hey, it was right next to a link farm of other #drunkgate articles. Like this:
Ok. And like this.
Now, if you listened to the pep rally, Sarkisian wasn’t even saying he needed treatment or he had a drinking problem. He may on both counts, but the tenor of his speech was that he was open to having a real evaluation to find out. This headline sounds like he’s going to rehab, this is why he got divorced and THE SEASON IS RUINED.
Only it isn’t as evidenced by this article…
And what follows is a fairly sane article about Cody Kessler and his leadership ability. About how he seemed pleased when he punished Sark with up/downs. About how the team is fine. I watched the interview. He was half-laughing. Because he’s a college student and he’s used to people being drunk and making mistakes. And then they go to class the next day and live their lives.
So the net of this #drunkgate flurry was:
Coach Sark is a wild drunk spiraling towards dooming a season
But Cody Kessler can lead this team
Even though it was under Sark’s new offense he had his breakout season
And the team isn’t as mad as the media
But the media says the team is somber.
Sorry for the different photo format. I got hit by the LA Times pay wall because I tried to read five articles in a month. Said no one ever.
Newsflash. Clear your cache. But they aren’t worth the time to do that or the 99 cents for ten more days. Unlimited access to back and forth froth about USC football? Perfect. I’ll just search #cuttysark on twitter.
But to be fair to the LA Times, like I mentioned earlier, this is EVERYONE. 24 hour media has us searching for smoke and not fire. Check out this Daily News article.
Yeah. #19 is sitting there thinking, “how can I regain normalcy” – or maybe he’s just trying to read PASS or RUN. The Oregonian relished this as well because anything that slows USC’s obvious return to actual normalcy (Rose Bowls and top ten recruiting classes) is welcomed:
Of course they are just citing the Seattle Times who is pissed he left despite what they will tell you about 7-win-Sark who won nine with half a team of scholarship players last year (and our fan base was still pissed). I love this article though. A business reimbursed their employees for a staff outing where alcohol was consumed?
GUYS IT’S CALLED HAPPY HOUR. Even UW is saying these were legitimate expenses.
If you’ve ever been to a bachelor party, a group of 8 dudes can can crush a 1000 dollar bar tab. One of these was with spouses. I love that they make the specificity a big deal, that it was straight tequila. Except, they went to a Mexican restaurant. Should they have had fernet like a bunch of Cal alums in the Marina?
They literally posted the bar tab like it’s a map of cell towers from Serial.
So, 16 coaches and their wives had 60 drinks? And it cost an athletic department 800 dollars. That’s probably less than half of what two season tickets to UW cost. If this was supposed to tell me they are wild, it didn’t. For all the diagrams and charts, no one did any dividing. At the second event, the 16 coaches consumed 3.5 drinks each. At a team outing. In March. In the offseason.
Pump the brakes, media.
No one condones the behavior at Salute to Troy. But can we at least report the tenor at practice? Can we act like we’re not phoning it in? We deserve better as fans. And you papers need to do better if you want to get us to pay for your content. I’m giving mine away for free.
Either be Buzzfeed and stop calling it journalism in any way, or just be a premium product. Right now you’re a hybrid of the worst parts of both.
Just one man’s opinion. A part-time blogger. Who is drinking bourbon in his header image. And footer. Because who cares already.