Bobby Petrino? Isn't he a basketball coach? Or is that Rick Pitino? They can't be the same person, right? Probably not, as they spell and pronounce their names differently. Ha! I liked that episode of The Simpsons. Too bad that show ended up being so boring all the time and constantly just doing parodies of movies in which Bart loosely substitutes for Leonardo DiCaprio's character in The Departed. I wonder why that is, that animated shows so often just end up parodying movies and other shows. You don't see the great TV shows, like Three's Company, just doing that. Then again, I'm not sure whether maybe Three's Company didn't just parody big pop culture things from the 70s. I was only, like, 8, when it was on TV, so what would I have known?
And with that, I'd moved on to other sports stories like how UW basketball coach Bo Ryan was getting support from a local sports columnist after Bo held up a redshirt freshman's transfer to another school for a couple of days, then pleaded ignorance, saying that he was unfamiliar with transfers and that's why it took him so long to let the kid go, that it wasn't petulance or anything like that. Ryan told Mike & Mike, to ESPN radio broadcasters who feel like it's okay to electrocute puppies if you can give the Eagles a decent shot at the playoffs, that he wasn't as familiar with transfer rules as other coaches, so he called some other coaches who he didn't bother to name and nobody asked him, and asked what they would do, and then did it.
The first rule of journalism, as espoused primarily by Dan Savage, is that whenever a public figure says something about an anonymous group of people, you should immediately ask for names. Dan Savage says that about politicians who claim they have gay friends that support their gay-bashing policies: ask them to name one, Savage says, and he's right.
So when Bo Ryan says "I talked to these college coaches and they said block this kid from going to another school in the conference" which MARQUETTE IS NOT IN THE BIG TEN, Bo, did the other coaches mention that? reporters should immediately say "Which coach(es) said that, exactly?" and then call for confirmation.
But that would require journalism, and athletes know how to respond to journalism -- if they don't like what you're saying about them, they won't speak to you and they may block you on Twitter, as J.P. Arencibia, who is apparently a terrible baseball player, does to reporters who mention that he is a terrible baseball player.
(When I read that, I went and followed Arencibia on Twitter, with the intention of getting blocked. He hasn't blocked me yet.)
Without bothering to read any more of the articles than I had to, I can say that I (a) know Bo Ryan to only be kind of petulant, and not totally so, and (b) I don't believe for a moment that he was unsure how to handle a transfer or called other coaches.
I know Bo Ryan to be kind of petulant because I met him once, and asked him for an autograph on a basketball for my father-in-law, who is a big Badgers fan. Bo looked at me incredulously, and said "You've got to be kidding me," at which point I realized that I was wearing my North Carolina shirt and the Tarheels had just kicked the Badgers out of the NCAA -- as in it had happened only about a week before.
Worse yet, although I didn't tell Bo this, was that I'd won the shirt in a bet on that game. (I took the Tarheels.)
But he signed the basketball, after giving me some grief about it, which seems symbolic to me now that I look at it.
Bo's been a coach for a long time. He knows the rules for transfers like this college freshman asked for. And if he didn't, he could surely have asked someone at the UW Athletic Department to give him a heads-up on what he was required or allowed to do. Pleading ignorance and saying you turned to competitors for help strikes me as disingenuous, especially when Bo also makes a point of saying as much as possible that the freshman (who I am deliberately not naming because I don't want to help Kanye him to more fame than he deserves) didn't even bother to tell Bo that he wanted a transfer, not personally.
In other words: "You've got to be kidding me."
Despite that, a local sports columnist bravely leaped to the defense of his bread-and-butter, choosing not to really think much about who was right or who was wrong here and instead just blindly support athletic department of the local university because if he gets banned from covering that athletic department he's out of a job. The columnist, Tom Oates, declared all controversy over the decision to be over, "just like that," because that's what journalists do, right? They don't cover controversies, they simply declare that there is no controversy any more.
All's well that ends well, more or less declares Oates, in his column, and decides that the story of whether the local basketball coach, who Oates must have access to or he will lose his job, acted arbitrarily or petulantly is not a story at all, not a controversy, because, Oates notes, it's over and so there's nothing to investigate.
Remember: Bo Ryan at first blocked lots of schools for this freshman, then blocked only some schools, and offered varying explanations for why he did so. That's not worth investigating, Oates decides, possibly because Oates knows that if he asks tough questions of Bo Ryan, he will eventually not have access to Bo Ryan and therefore will lose his cushy job reporting on Wisconsin athletics.
Such is the power that athletes sometimes wield over columnists and reporters, power that waxes and wanes. Sterling Sharpe famously refused to talk to Wisconsin media -- and (possibly) as a result, Sterling is not really famous at all anymore. Arencibia tried not to talk to sports reporters, and got ridiculed by one site for it, but not by every site.
Oates' actions or lack thereof in covering Bo Ryan are instructive in that sense, because, remember, there's some reason to think that Bo wasn't acting forthrightly -- so one would expect a reporter to investigate and report on whether the local coach acted vindictively towards a player who'd changed his mind and wanted to go elsewhere.
But Oates doesn't cover that, at all -- he declares the controversy over because in the end the Coach changed his mind, kind of. "All's well that ends somewhat less arbitrarily than it started out," is Oates' message, an odd sort of conclusion for a reporter to make.
Imagine this: Suppose you tell your wife "I'm thinking about having an affair with this hot girl at the office."
And suppose your wife reacts badly and says that would be a horrible idea, and others around you hear about it and say that they, too, think it would be a bad idea.
And suppose you then get defensive and say "Look, I'm not going to have an affair with her at all, I'll just sort of ogle her from afar and imagine what it would be like to make out with her, and anyway, a bunch of guys at the office back me on the original plan."
But, in the end, you more or less didn't have the affair, right? CONTROVERSY OVER, as Tom Oates would say.
But Oates would go one step further and distract you from the controversy and also attack you a bit, as Oates did in his column defending Bo Ryan's ill-explained actions.
Oates begins with a suggestion that Ryan would have been justified, and the media criticism from everyone but Oates (who basically is on Ryan's payroll, when you think about it) is unjustified, because college players make commitments, you know?
Meanwhile, the holier-than-thou national media are patting themselves on the back for saving Uthoff from the evil Bo Ryan and for helping to free college athletes from the perils of having to honor a commitment.
YEAH! This guy committed to playing for UW! And UW therefore cannot possibly cancel his scholarships during his athletic career, and must play him a certain amount of time per game, and certainly Bo Ryan could not retire or leave the UW while this guy is there because DIVISION ONE SCHOOLS HONOR THEIR COMMITMENTS (in Tom Oates' mind). So because no D-1 coach or school ever in any way backed away from any commitments they'd made to an athlete, no athlete can ever rethink his end of the deal.
Nobody knows, by the way, what promises Ryan made to the freshman to get him to come here and whether they looked to be fulfilled after his redshirt year. Oates didn't ask.
Anyhow, that's not important because what's important is that Tom Oates doesn't need to ask Bo Ryan what's going on in his mind because Tom Oates is a telepath:
Most coaches block players from transferring within the conference (the Big East even has a rule preventing it). Others, including Michigan’s John Beilein, prevent them from going to schools that are on future schedules. Some also prevent players from going to schools they think may be guilty of tampering. All three of those appeared to factor into Ryan’s thinking on Uthoff.So. Um. You didn't ask him what was on his mind? NO NEED TO! Tom Oates has this one covered. He knows what Bo Ryan was thinking without even having to be told it.
But maybe Tom Oates didn't have to ask those questions, either, because there were bigger questions to ask, and answer, without asking anyone, questions like "Will this hurt the University?" (Oates says no) and "Could this have been worse?" (Oates isn't sure!) What IS certain is that this was really just a simple twist of fate:
What if Uthoff’s letter of appeal hadn’t sat unopened in the mailbox of associate athletic director Justin Doherty for days? That led Uthoff to go public to say he was left in the dark on his case.
What if Ryan hadn’t added the entire ACC to the list of schools Uthoff couldn’t talk to, a move that was seen as piling on? What if Ryan hadn’t gone on national radio and added fuel to the fire by giving what were widely viewed as evasive answers?
All those actions escalated the story to where it was the national topic of the day Thursday. Overnight, Ryan and UW had become the unsuspecting faces of a much larger issue — freedom of movement for athletes. The tidal wave of ridicule on the airwaves and the Internet unfairly cast Ryan as a villain.