November 15, 2006 12:52am CST
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – On Monday, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr stormed out of an interview session here with "ESPN on ABC," loudly uttering F-bombs and screaming about the direction interview questions had taken. According to the Ann Arbor News it was one wild scene with a flipped-out coach, a "no comment" producer and a tense, in-front-of-the-camera clash just days before the titanic No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Michigan matchup. Did you see the video on ESPN? Did you hear Lisa Salters report on the blowup on "SportsCenter"? Will the incident be debated ad nauseam on all of the network's afternoon rant-and-rave shows? Of course not. The whitewash, wall-to-wall coverage story of the day about an out-of-control college coach is once again one of ESPN's favorite whipping boys, Bob Knight, who Monday in an obscure game in Lubbock, Texas, knocked one his players, Michael Prince, on the chin because he wasn't paying attention to one of The General's legendary rants. Knight long ago should have known better than to lay a hand on a player. He should have learned to control his emotions. He and Texas Tech should have expected the ensuing firestorm because, right or wrong, it is what happens when he steps out of line. The point here isn't to defend him. This is to wonder why as ESPN's power continues to grow, its sense of perspective continues to wane. There is one standard for Knight, for Terrell Owens, for Maurice Clarett and a completely other one for everyone else. Back in December of 2003, Knight and Iowa coach Steve Alford did an offseason, side-by-side interview with ESPN's Fran Fraschilla. Knight bristled at one of Fraschilla's questions and yelled at him. The ESPN producer immediately shipped the film back to Bristol where the confrontation was played big on "SportsCenter" and became a staple of ESPN's always-at-the-ready "Knight's out of control" package. It was ridiculous. A coach getting angry at a reporter is not a news item. It is an every hour occurrence. Only because it was Knight was it a big deal. It is the same principle that caused ESPN to bury what is probably a pretty colorful scene courtesy of Carr in Ann Arbor. But therein lies the ridiculousness. If ESPN wants to broadcast one angry coach, then it should broadcast all of them. If ESPN wants to go 24/7 over one coach misbehaving, then it ought to go after all of them. Don't tell me that at this stage, in this week, with the Game of the Century on the line, Lloyd Carr's dealings with reporters isn't a bigger news story than Bob Knight in that 2003 interview or Knight in some scrub early-season mismatch. But ESPN is eating one of those tapes. Fraschilla, a former coach at three different Division I schools, ironically also called Tech's victory over Gardner-Webb on Monday. He said what Knight did is something that 100 coaches will do this season. I don't know about 100, but at least 20. I've seen that kind of tap all over the place. College coaches, particularly ones of Knight's generation, have long been hopelessly overemotional and out of control. What Knight did is what John Chaney has done and what Lou Holtz has done. It isn't far from the way Tom Izzo or Kelvin Sampson or Gary Williams or so many other guys still do it. But those incidents slip by with little mention. Just the way last summer Houston Astros manager Phil Garner tossed a chair onto a baseball field to protest an ejection and the world didn't end. Just the way video of Lloyd Carr blowing up – perhaps justifiably – will never surface. Yes, Knight should know better and should know the world has changed. But this act is hardly worth this kind of over-the-top coverage. Not when college athletics has serious problems – academic fraud, rampant cheating, widespread profiteering. For a while "SportsCenter" – the overwhelmingly most powerful force in sports media – lost its way with a silly parade of sorry would-be standup comics as anchors. Now it has backed off that slightly and gone straight tabloid. Daily coverage of Barry Bonds. Daily coverage of Terrell Owens. Daily coverage of whatever outrageous character it can drum up. "Up next on Cold Pizza, a clinical psychologist gives a diagnosis of Bob Knight." (No joke). One standard here, one there. Some get exposed, some get protected. No consistent news judgment. No sense of perspective. Just a toe-the-company-line ombudsman on its website. Yeah, Bob Knight is in the media grinder now, the full force of the World Wide Leader flipping out over a flipped chin. It's fine if ESPN thinks he deserves it. But if so, he sure isn't the only one. And that's what the network isn't telling you.
• United States
17 Nov 06
It is interesting that reporters can hound and hound people waiting for them to blow and when they do then the reporter has a story. If there is no story keep at it until you creat one. i agree the press picks out certain people and reports every little thing they do while the heros of the press can do no wrong. All you have to look at is a study of the recient elections to see that the media had 70%+ positive stories about the Democratics vs 12% positive for the Republicans. The same applies to sports figures and other public figures. If the press soesn't like you or your cause they will distort the news to make you look bad. During the Viet Nam war the North attacked in what became known as the Tet Offencive. They were beaten back in every encounter, yet the American press told us it was a major loss for the US and a victory of the North and Viet Cong. The people you mentioned are the whipping boys of the press and they could be model citizens and the press would find something wrong with them. If they win the coach is too tough on them if they lose the coach is not tough enought or he does not understand the players. He can't win in the eyes of the press.