There's a reason Bob Stoops hates the media. And a pretty good reason too. What just happened with the media in Miami is Exhibit A for “Why Bob Stoops is colder to reporters than my wife’s toes are to my leg at 6 AM.”
Coach Stoops spoke to a class I took at OU a couple years ago. It was a class on sports journalism and the first thing Stoops said was, “Speaking with the media on a daily basis is my least favorite thing about my job.” And the situation with Dominique Franks and supposed “bulletin board” material sums Stoops’ sentiment up pretty nicely.
In case you're boycotting all things ESPN, here's what Franks said:
"If you look at the three best quarterbacks in the country, they came from the Big 12. The three best receivers in the country came from the Big 12. The three best tight ends came from the Big 12. So we've faced some great offenses, and a lot of people don't understand that other conferences don't have what we face … Going into a game and knowing a quarterback's going to throw the ball 40 times a game versus coming into a game and knowing he's probably only going to throw it about 15 or 20. ... It makes it a lot harder to prepare for those [Big 12] guys.”
Total bulletin board material. Pin it up there. Put it right next to, "We respect Florida a lot. They're a great team and they play in a great conference," and "We just want to go out and play our game regardless of what Florida does." Because if the Gators can somehow use those quotes to motivate them, then they can use Franks' too. Because what he said wasn't over-the-line. Heck, it wasn't even close to toeing it. But when you slap headlines like "Franks not impressed by Tebow" on it, then yeah, that could be bulletin board material. Except for the fact Dom never said that or NEVER implied that he's not impressed by Tebow. The bulletin board material isn't coming from Franks. It's coming from the moronic writers and editors writing and reporting the story.
This is what the media does. While some of it may not be intentional, this is what happens. They stir the you know what. It's what pays their salary. How long can ESPN broadcast Jesse Palmer and Mark May spend breaking down the X's and O's of the National Title Game and seeing who can out-do the other by saying "FOOTBALL" in every sentence? Because after three weeks of it already, if I hear Jesse Palmer say, "In this FOOTBALL game, Florida really needs to run the FOOTBALL. But the Gator defense also has to be able to get off the FOOTBALL field and take the FOOTBALL away from OU. FOOTBALL." I swear, he said it five times in a single sentence last week. So instead of making us all want to grab a FOOTBALL and throw it as Jesse Palmer's face, they stir the poo. They ask questions like "Who's going to win this game?" What purpose does that question serve other than to get next morning's headline? "McCoy predicts Sooner victory!" It's a completely loaded question with only one usable answer in the eyes of the reporter. If he predicts win, I've got something. If he says, "I don't know... it'll be a good game," then I immediately discard that one. Anyone see how ridiculous that is?
Here's how it goes down:
Reporter A walks up to an OU player. Doesn't matter what player. It could be Dominique Franks. It could be Quentin Chaney. Heck, it could be Derek Freaking Gove. Doesn't matter. He's going to get the same answer.
Reporter A: Hey Dominique. Got a little more time?
Reporter A: That Florida offense sure has to be tough to prepare for, right? All the moving before the ball is snapped and all the weapons.
Franks: Sure, sure. You know, they got a lot of talent. They move around and make it tough on you. But we'll be ready.
Reporter A: What makes preparing for Florida different than preparing for one of the Big 12's great offenses -- say Texas Tech, Oklahoma State or Texas?
Franks: Going into a game and knowing a quarterback's going to throw the ball 40 times a game versus coming into a game and knowing he's probably only going to throw it about 15 or 20. ... It makes it a lot harder to prepare for those [Big 12] guys.
See what the reporter did there? Totally innocent question. Equally innocent answer. You asked, he answered. But regurgitate that answer in a news story under the headline of "OU cornerback provides some fodder for Gator offense" and you've got something.
Reporter A: Your defense has been criticized all year long for giving up lots of points and yardage. Is that fair considering the opponents you’ve had to face?
Franks: If you look at the three best quarterbacks in the country, they came from the Big 12. The three best receivers in the country came from the Big 12. The three best tight ends came from the Big 12. So we've faced some great offenses, and a lot of people don't understand that other conferences don't have what we face.
Then the reporter runs off, hammers out a no-brainer story and sends it in. The next day all the stooges sit there in front of Tebow and Urban Meyer and get to ask, "Hey Tim, one OU player says you'd be the fourth best quarterback in the Big 12. Did you hear that?" “Hey Coach Meyer, an OU player says he’ll know your offense better than you when the game starts. What do YOU think about that?” When in fact, Franks said NOTHING out of bounds. He just said things that were completely truthful. The three top quarterbacks in the country are from the Big 12. The three top receivers are from the Big 12. The three top tight ends are from the Big 12. Look it up. It’s academic.
Again, what was Franks supposed to say? "No Comment"? Or, "Uh, Tebow would probably be No. 1 quarterback in our conference. He's so good. I hope he doesn't pass for 2,000 yards against us. Sam ain't even close to him in ability. Or character. Did you see that piece with him going to the Philippines or whatever? Sam never did that. Sam's just some Indian. Tebow is out there saving lives with sutures and circumcisions and whatnot."
Buried in that story or not even mentioned is all the trash the Gators have talked. The line Brandon Spikes tossed out saying Big 12 defenses are slow. Tebow saying he’d love to play against Big 12 defenses. And all the other junk that’s been said.
I've been there. I've been part of this media horde. These sick hyenas that prey around the locker room with their little press badge around their neck, their extra 200 pounds, their Ray Ratto mustaches and their little recorder in one hand always pretending to be messing with it so that it doesn't look like they're not doing anything. They stand there, look around the room, see a player not talking to anyone and approach him. Ask a few questions, shake the player's hand, thank them for their time and smile like they're best buds. Then they leave and walk to their laptop and grind out a 300-word story with the lead being "BULLETIN BOARD MATERIAL -- FRANKS TOSSES FIRST BLOW."
It’s no wonder Bob Stoops hates these guys. It's why when I was around him, I was always wearing diapers because I was partly terrified and partly going, "Holy crap! It's Bob Stoops! Right here! Right in front of me!" That may be why in my three-year career as a student journalist I asked Coach Stoops precisely three questions. Another reason is because all the idiots standing around me were already taking care of all the stupid ones and pissing Stoops off. It's like kicking a friendly Pit Bull in the face over and over again. At first, he'll be nice and try and brush you off. Then he'll get a little testy. And finally, he'll freak out on you and tear your face off. I never wanted to be the last guy that got his face torn off.
Why should Stoops be nice? I used to wonder why he wasn’t. Now I wonder why he is at all. Some days, he’s a joy. He’ll crack jokes, he’ll smile and he’ll show off his extremely sharp wit. But some days, asking him a question is like messing with Sasquatch. And most times, those days happen after an episode like this or after someone (I’ll withhold names) ask the completely brain-busting question like, “How good is this football team?” and the always thoughtful, “What are you seeing out of (insert opponent) that concerns you?”
I know these questions are necessary. Because that’s what sports journalism is all about. It’s about getting the quote, writing down the quote and plugging it into a story. For some reason, people accept “It’s not as good as it can be” to the question “How good is this football team?” It’s mindless regurgitation of clichés and one-liners, but we’re all ok with it. And why wouldn’t you just spit those little one-liners out all the time if you were in their spot? Especially when some overweight, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing, mustached weirdo is dangling a recorder three inches from your face and asking you baited questions.
But Stoops said it perfectly at media day. Reporters lead these young athletes down a path, manipulating them for a story. They bait them for the bulletin board. Franks sat there with some guy he's never met and the guy asked him questions. And Dom answered. It's not like the guy asked, "Where do you think Tim Tebow would be as a passer in the Big 12?" and Franks responded with, "He sucks. He'd be behind Stephen McGee. We're going to hit Tebow so hard he'll cry. We're going to dominate Florida. He didn't deserve the Heisman last year and didn't deserve to be in the same ballpark as Sam this year." But with the way the media is reporting this thing, you’d think Franks had said he was going to kill Tebow’s future baby.
Reporters and the media are part of this whole process. But sometimes, when you take a step back and don’t just read the story, you can see there’s maybe more to it. If OU loses January 8th, then is it Dominique Franks’ fault? Did he give Tim Tebow extra motivation? If Tim Tebow needs extra motivation for the biggest game of his life, then maybe he needs to stay in the Philippines sewing up wounds. The fact is, Franks was asked a question and he answered. Add in the little things like, “But Franks didn’t stop there…” and “Tebow historically plays better after BEING CALLED OUT by an opponent," and boy, you've got a real zinger.
Once it’s settled January 8th, one side can talk all it wants. Until then, you better shut up or some reporter might bite you.
By Royce Young