Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Jason Whitlock has words for ESPN - and I have a response

So Jason Whitlock (who I generally have no qualms) wrote a column taking on the World Wide Leader. Which is all fine and good and I think he has some pretty valid points. What he uses to illustrate his points is Ball State football and the lack of coverage. And he even goes so far to say that BSU's very fine quarterback Nate Davis deserves to be in the Heisman consideration. Ok.

But then there was this line:

"Here's what's more frustrating. Not one of the Big 12's quarterbacks is in the same physical ballpark as Ball State's Nate Davis. It's not close. They can't match his arm, instincts, touch, accuracy, presence, ability to move in the pocket, out of the pocket or make plays when things break down."

To which of course, is ridiculous, and I immediately thought, "I have to break this thing down FJM ( style" because there's so many things to grab, gnaw on a little and then just rip the sheen out of.

Believe it or not, before ESPN purchased the majority of relevant sports programming and seduced most of the creative, independent-thinking, connected sports writers to join its evil empire...

Believe it or not, they purchased you too before they fired you. Strange how getting canned will turn someone bitter.

...there was this magical time when substance and the little guy actually had a voice in the sports world.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. You don't think the little guy actually has a voice in the sports world? Did you watch Boise State's 2006 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma? I know I did. I was there. And I had to listen to the months of dialogue about the "little guy". Do you happen to watch that little tournament that rolls around in March where some team from Virginia Commonwealth wins a game and the country (including ESPN) flips their collective crap? I remember ESPN hooking up to "little guys" like Stephen Curry, Gonzaga, Rutgers and South Florida and Ian Johnson and riding them as far as they could.

There was a time when writers would champion guys such as Gordon Lockbaum (fifth in 1986 and third in 1988) and Joe Dudek (ninth in 1985) for the Heisman Trophy. It's difficult to believe now, but in 1982 the 10 top vote-getters were all actually really, really good college football players: Herschel Walker, John Elway, Eric Dickerson, Anthony Carter, David Rimington, Todd Blackledge, Tom Ramsey, Tony Eason, Dan Marino and Mike Rozier.

So wait. Because some sportswriters used to champion no name guys such as Gordon Lockbaum and Joe Dudek ESPN is messed up? Go ahead Jason - name me the the top five Heisman vote getters in 2002. Or 2003. Can't? Or did some writer not "champion" one so you can remember them?

Yes, back before one television enterprise monopolized the sports world, you actually could put together a serious run at the Heisman even if you weren't the starting quarterback of the top-ranked team Kirk Herbstreit and Brent Musberger just anointed.

Off that list he put up from 1982: Herschel Walker played at Georgia, John Elway at Stanford, Eric Dickerson at then powerhouse SMU, Anthony Carter at Michigan, Dave Rimington at Nebraska, Todd Blackledge at Penn State, Tom Ramsey at UCLA, Tony Eason at Illinois, Dan Marino at Pitt and Mike Rozier at Nebraska. Not exactly a group of guys from Ball State and Bowling Green. You honestly think those guys wouldn't get consideration today? And you act like Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow and Graham Harrell and Sam Bradford are having bad years - you do realize they're doing good, right?

Since 2000, here are your Heisman Trophy winners: Chris Weinke, Eric Crouch, Carson Palmer, Jason White, Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Troy Smith and Tim Tebow. Do the 10 guys I named from 1982 form a better group than the eight winners from the new millennium, and if so why?

What's your point here? Seriously, what is it? That some of those guys in 1982 turned out to have great NFL careers and some didn’t? That some of the recent Heisman winners were fantastic college players and either didn’t pan out in the NFL or haven’t really had a chance to because theier careers are just a few years old? Check out the full list of Heisman winners pre-WWL. Not everybody on there is a John Elway or Dan Marino either. Remember Charles Woodson? A DB for Michigan? He won it over pretty-boy quarterback Peyton Manning in 1997. And yes, ESPN was in full operation then.

The conversation about the Heisman Trophy and all things in sports has been dumbed down by the World Wide Leader. This year the network pretty much decided you had to play quarterback in the Big 12 to be in consideration for the Heisman Trophy. At different times throughout the season, Chase Daniel, Sam Bradford, Graham Harrell and Colt McCoy have been declared the leading candidates to win college sports' most prestigious individual award.

Did you know: Shonne Greene (Iowa), Javon Ringer (Michigan State) and even NATE DAVIS are in the top 10 on ESPN's Heisman Watch? Here's some other names on the Heisman list early on: Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Beanie Wells, Tim Tebow, Michael Crabtree, Dez Bryant, Knowshon Moreno. Those names have been tossed about too. The difference between Harrell, McCoy and Bradford - they've sustained great seasons. They lived up to the hype. They are three of the very best players in the country. And you expect ESPN to not talk about them because Nate Davis threw two touchdowns and a pick against Western Kentucky?

When Oklahoma embarrassed Texas Tech, Bradford shot past Harrell. Here's what's frustrating. I live in Big 12 country. I follow the league and have watched them all play regularly. Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree is the best football player in the Big 12.

I'm glad you said, "best FOOTBALL player in the Big 12." Otherwise, I wouldn't have known what we were talking about. And he's not. He's the best receiver, yes. But he's not the best player. It seems like you're trying to make the point that Crabtree isn't getting the nod because he's not a quarterback. Am I right there? And since you think he's the best FOOTBALL player, he should be leading? Well guess what - if we're talking FOOTBALL players in the Big 12, Brian Orakpo may actually be the best. Or maybe Duke Robinson from OU. Or heck, maybe even Colt McCoy or Sam Bradford. The Heisman Trophy is a skill position trophy. It's been that way since... forever.

Here's what's more frustrating. Not one of the Big 12's quarterbacks is in the same physical ballpark as Ball State's Nate Davis. It's not close. They can't match his arm, instincts, touch, accuracy, presence, ability to move in the pocket, out of the pocket or make plays when things break down.

Here's what's even MORE frustrating. Your retarded homer opinion. Really. Not one is in the same physical ballpark? It's not CLOSE? Let's step back and look again: You don't think Graham Harrell, Chase Daniel, Sam Bradford or Colt McCoy are even CLOSE to Nate Davis in ability or intangibles? What do I even have to say here? McCoy is about to shatter the record for completion percentage, Bradford might throw for 50 touchdowns in a balanced offense, Daniel had games where he threw only THREE incomplete passes and Harrell is approaching 4,500 yards. And those guys aren't even close to your boy, Nate Davis? You serious Clark?

They can't match his resume. Getting Ball State to 12-0 under the best circumstances is far more difficult than getting Oklahoma to 11-1. I know Ball State's schedule isn't as difficult as Oklahoma's. I also know Bradford is surrounded by far more talent than Davis.

This is my favorite part. Three things:

1. Here's your reasoning: Since Nate Davis has crappy teammates and Sam Bradford has really good ones, obviously it much be tougher to win (forget the fact of who each team has to play). Then you try and cover it by tossing in the little, "I know Ball State's schedule isn't as difficult as Oklahoma's" line. Darn right it’s not. Ball State's best win is over 3-9 Indiana. You really think it's that tough to go 12-0 against Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Insert Direction Michigan, Northeastern and Miami of Ohio? That's somehow tougher than going 11-1 against Big East champ Cincinnati, top 15 TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, Nebraska and Oklahoma State?

2. And since Nate Davis has poo-poo players around him, his season is somehow better than Bradford's? So if a Division III quarterback throws for 40 TDs and 4,000 yards, by your logic, is he like the bestest player ever? Or could it be, that we'd say, "Let's see him put up those numbers against real defenses and real athletes?”

3. Nate Davis: 67.3 % completions, 3,095 yards, 25 passing touchdowns, four rushing, six interceptions

Sam Bradford: 68.7 % completions, 4,080 yards, 46 passing touchdowns, five rushing, six interceptions

Who has the better resume? No commentary needed.

Look, if the sports world didn't operate under the control of a sports-media dictatorship, I wouldn't have to provide you the context. A powerful, unbiased, independent journalist would've traveled to Ball State during the summer and talked with the man who recruited Tom Brady to Michigan (Brady Hoke) and the man who coached Tom Brady at Michigan (Ball State offensive coordinator Stan Parrish).

Because ESPN didn’t send Ivan Maisel to Muncie last summer, they’re evil? Did Sports Illustrated? Did… Fox Sports send someone?

Now, ESPN2 has broadcast Ball State's last four games. The first game I believe Lou Holtz and Mark May provided the color commentary. It was their first real look at Davis, and they were appropriately complimentary and a bit guarded.


The second game was against Miami of Ohio and a non-descript B team called the game. The last two games were against Central Michigan and Western Michigan, two top-40-caliber squads who provided the Cardinals legitimate tests. Ray Bentley, an all-time great at CMU, a former NFL linebacker and a passionate follower of MAC football, was the color commentator. Unfortunately, ESPN did not require Bentley to leave his Central Michigan pom poms at home.

So ESPN has broadcast Ball State’s last four games on NATIONAL TELEVISION and because the announcers weren’t giving your favorite little player enough pub, you think ESPN is completely biased and destructive? Maybe you should have left your Ball State pom poms at home before you wrote this garbage.

Nor did the network force Bentley to disclose all pertinent information, such as the fact that his son is a walk-on member of the CMU football team and that the Ball State coaching staff declined to offer Bentley's kid a scholarship despite Bentley's request.

From now on, every person that is going to speak or write about sports has to preface whatever they are going to say or write with:

A. The school they graduated from. All the way down to kindergarten. If Brad Nessler went to elementary school in Mesquite, Texas, dammit, I need know.

Any past discussions with the coaching staff of the school they are going to talk about. If Lee Corso asked for a donut in Gainesville and he didn’t get it, I need to know this before I hear his obviously now completely biased opinion.

If their child has the desire to play sports at a university or if they currently are. It would be one thing if Ray Bentley’s kid was the starting tailback – but he was a walk-on. Come on. You know Craig James has a son playing for Texas Tech, right? Before he opens his mouth I need, "My kid plays at Texas Tech... but I'll tell you, right now Florida is playing the best football in the country."

If the viewers knew all the relevant information coloring Ray's commentary, then they probably would've understood why Bentley spent the entire Ball State-CMU broadcast pretending that CMU's outstanding MAC quarterback, Dan Lefevour, was on the same level as Ball State's once-in-a-lifetime passer.

And since we know all the relevant information coloring this column, then that's probably why we understand not to take you seriously. At all.

Dan Lefevour’s season stats: 3067 total yards, 19 passing TDs, six rushing, five INTs

Nate Davis’ season stats: 3336 total yards, 25 passing TDs, four rushing six INTs.

And did you know: Last season Lefevour passed for 3652 yards, ran for 1122, threw for 27 touchdowns and ran for 19 more. Maybe one of the greatest seasons ever for a college quarterback. So since Lefevour plays for little 'ol Central Michigan, he’s got to be like the greatest player ever – and judging by his 2007 campaign, better than Nate Davis (gasp!) and deserving to be, talked about when he’s playing.

As a journalist, it's important that I disclose to you that I love Ball State. When I have a bias, I let you know it in hopes that you will read my commentary in context.

Thanks for qualifying everything you wrote. You try to cover your rather large butt by giving us a "full disclosure" - that you’re a Ball State grad and you love your school. Like we're supposed to automatically think, "Oh! Well, he obviously won't display extreme, ridiculous homerism then! And if he does, it’s alright because he qualified it!" I'm an OU guy. I am about to get a diploma from there in two weeks. I love the school. Now I can write columns and say stuff like, "The Oklahoma football team could beat the 1985 Bears. Blake Griffin is the best basketball player ever - better than Jordan, Russell, Bird. And since ESPN doesn't say so, I hate them." Thanks for the journalism tip, Jason! I just have to qualify, and then I can say insanely absurd things.

ESPN is so financially tied to the organizations it covers and so devoid of basic journalistic ethics that it cannot properly analyze the sports world. ESPN just bought the BCS television package. It has a vested interest in promoting all things BCS.

Guess who has the current rights to the BCS? Wait for it… wait for it… FOX! So right now, ESPN is vested in promoting all things BCS… for FOX?

If you're going to televise multiple Big 12 games in primetime on ABC and ESPN, you have every reason to promote the myth that the majority of Heisman Trophy candidates play in the Big 12.

Ball State games televised in primetime by ABC/ESPN: four. OU games televised in primetime by ABC/ESPN: three.

I'm not someone who believes Ball State belongs in a BCS bowl game. Any team — not just a mid-major — needs a top-25 victory on its resume before you even begin the BCS argument. We don't have it. Right now, we've earned the right to be ranked — in my opinion — anywhere from No. 18 to 23. If we finish 14-0, I'll be satisfied with a ranking between No. 10 and 15.

Too bad Ball State blew the chance to do just that, you know, denying that opportunity to play top 10 Boise State in the Humanitarian Bowl. Didn’t want to actually play somebody and for goodness sakes, play them on the road. Otherwise, he-man Nate Davis might have a bad game and ruin this wonderful season!

Let me tell you what passes for courage and independent thinking at ESPN. Chris Fowler dropped Ball State out of his AP top-25 ballot last week after the Cardinals beat a then-9-2 Central Michigan team on the road.

What do you care about Chris Fowler? He’s one AP voter. He ranked Ball State No. 19 last week – exactly in the area you say you’d have them.

He has never been a professional journalist a day in his life. He's a TV personality. He knows what someone else has told him. I'm not 100 percent sure, but I'd suspect he hasn't worn a jock since junior high school.

And you OBVIOUSLY haven’t put one on since college. And I’m sure your jock is thankful for it. (The joke here is that Whitlock is fat and weighs like 400 pounds.) When you resort to the “Well you must not know anything because you didn’t play sports!” argument, you’re losing it. You know who else didn’t play college sports? Jim Murray, maybe he best sportswriter ever. Hunter S. Thompson, one of the most innovative. Rick Reilly, 11-time national sports writer of the year.

This is the combination that is killing the sports media. No journalism background, no real athletic experience and no backbone. No clue. Fowler wouldn't make a competent blogger.

You have a journalism degree from Ball State, your “real” athletic experience is that you played football at Ball State and your backbone is likely curved due to holding up your body. Fowler is a graduate of Colorado, and was the first recipient of the Alan Berg Memorial Journalism Scholarship, awarded by the Denver Press Club. And I don’t think he has to catch his breath when he stands up.

Ball State is the most disciplined, well-coached team in college football. Check the stats. The Cardinals almost never get penalized. We're the least flagged team in the nation. We're in the top 20 in the country in turnover margin.

Way to go.

Someone like Chris Fowler can't grasp how that helps you win football games.

Chris Fowler: “Wait, so you mean you’re not supposed to throw it to the other team? You’re NOT supposed to get penalties? Geez, I wonder how I’ve faked this GameDay thing to a national audience for 20 years.” And anyway, what does that have to do with Fowler dropping them? Ball State plays disciplined football. You think he doesn’t understand how that helps to win games. So. What.

No penalties, no turnovers and Nate Davis are how Ball State would beat the ACC or Big East champions, teams that will play in BCS bowl games.

I guess we’ll never get to find out, seeing as your precious school is composed of a bunch of babies that are afraid to play anyone.

Look, Nate Davis is a nice player. But the fact that you really and truly think that ESPN not touting him as a Heisman contender is the reason the WWL is evil and horrible, is just plain pathetic. Especially when you break all “journalism” rules and refer to Ball State as “we” for the last half of the column. From now on, I have reason to always root against Ball State for the rest of my life. So let me go ahead and qualify it so that it’s fair and journalistic-y. I hate Ball State and will forever hope they lose because of you. If I am an announcer for a game or I have to write a story about them, I’ll either talk about Ray Bentley’s kid or write about your unbelievably overworked jock. Get over yourself Whitlock. There's no agenda here, except your own.


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