Links of the day

I was looking at the categories I use on this humble little blog — and thank you, once more, for visiting it — and I realized I haven’t done a simple link post in a good long while. So let’s do that. Here are a few items that have been in my browser(s) today.

This story has been making the rounds today. And I bet it will for a few more days. A former co-worker of mine wrote it. The piece is inspired by this medical professional’s Facebook post. It’s one part sad and one part resigned and manages to suggest you take care of yourself, without sounding at all saying “cluck-cluck-cluck.” You can pretty much imagine from there. But if you can’t:

“A few days later when I call time of death,” continued Cobia on Facebook, “I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same.”

“They cry. And they tell me they didn’t know. They thought it was a hoax. They thought it was political. They thought because they had a certain blood type or a certain skin color they wouldn’t get as sick. They thought it was ‘just the flu’. But they were wrong. And they wish they could go back. But they can’t. So they thank me and they go get the vaccine. And I go back to my office, write their death note, and say a small prayer that this loss will save more lives.”

More than 11,400 Alabamians have died of COVID so far, but midway through 2021, caring for COVID patients is a different story than it was in the beginning. Cobia said it’s different mentally and emotionally to care for someone who could have prevented their disease but chose not to.

“You kind of go into it thinking, ‘Okay, I’m not going to feel bad for this person, because they make their own choice,'” Cobia said. “But then you actually see them, you see them face to face, and it really changes your whole perspective, because they’re still just a person that thinks that they made the best decision that they could with the information that they have, and all the misinformation that’s out there.”

All of those that allowed a global health crisis to be politicized, will have this as an everlasting shame. That we could not curtail, could not educate against and could not overcome disinformation, will be the shame that belongs to the rest of us.

Here’s a story out of Mississippi where Deion Jackson is cultivating his hard-nosed coach with a heart of gold identity. They’re doing media days at Jackson State and the second year man made waves insisting the media call him coach. And … there was another story, but it got drowned out by the nomenclature kerfuffle. This one almost did, too:

A Clarion Ledger reporter was barred from covering the Jackson State football team at Southwestern Athletic Conference Media Day on Tuesday, one day after his story was published on a domestic violence charge against the highest-ranked high school recruit in program history.

Rashad Milligan was blocked by two JSU officials from covering coach Deion Sanders’ program in Birmingham, Alabama.

Sanders did not want Milligan interviewing JSU players and coaches, JSU director of internal football operations LaToya Williams told Milligan.

The incident occurred one day after Milligan reported on a July 1 court filing stating that Quaydarius Davis, an incoming four-star wide receiver from Dallas, was expected to plead guilty on a charge of “assault causes bodily injury family violence,” a misdemeanor in Texas, stemming from an incident in March.


“A Clarion Ledger reporter was punished for simply doing his job,” Clarion Ledger Executive Editor Marlon A. Walker said. “The decision to interfere with a working journalist not only is disappointing but also intolerable.”

Walker is correct, but fighting uphill and, I suspect, he’s well aware of that.

I’ve been saying for more than a decade now, in newsrooms and classrooms and at academic conferences, that sports reporters are in a precarious position because athletic programs now understand how they control the information flow. A coach will defend a player, or coaching staff, or their own decisions. And if a beat reporter asks a question that’s too adversarial, the reporter just might get kicked out of practice, frozen out from interviews or outright banned.

Urban Meyer did it in 2010 at Florida, targeting a reporter who wrote copy about some players and the coach didn’t care for that. My alma mater, Auburn, did it as a direct fan appeal in response to some truly bad copy. Kentucky’s athletic department, famously blocked media for approaching athletes directly. (This is essentially an industry standard now among collegiate athletes. You go through the SIDs to talk to players.) Steve Spurrier did it, too, in 2011 at South Carolina, kicking out a reporter who questioned his general program tactics. Another time Spurrier gave grief to reporters who didn’t rise to the defense of their colleagues in the Meyer dispute.

All of these instances have some reasonable explanation. Spurrier, like Mike Gundy’s “I’m a man! I’m 40!” speech is a wag-the-dog moment. (Today that rant is almost 14 years old, by the way.) Do something outlandish enough and you can reset the agenda. Focus everyone on the coach, rather than a specific player. The Auburn instance I mention was to attempt to bat down some stories that were, let’s say, calculated. They were poorly sourced and badly executed hit pieces is what I’m saying. That particular writer limped away in disgrace. Meyer, meanwhile, was just being Meyer.

The thing they all have in common is the timing. These, and many other instances like them from across the sports landscape, took place just as programs were starting to realize they could leverage their own equipment, their own production values, their own corner of the Internet, their own social media and, crucially, their own fanbase, to tell their story. Why do you even need a sports media middle man?

Auburn is a wonderful exemplar. As media outlets began contracting, the university started hiring the sports beat reporters that used to cover them. Now you’ve got talented writers with both institutional history and, for fans, names with a bit of gravitas. Perhaps others have done the same.

Meantime, whatever beat reporters that get sent over to the sports media availability have to consider if what they wrote yesterday, what they’ve been working on for the last few weeks, or what they are planning on asking about today, gets them voted off the island. At some point, they have to file by deadline. It’s a symbiotic relationship, right up until the point that, say, a reporter files a story about a player’s past that doesn’t set well with a coach or, an athletic director. Now that reporter is no longer welcome. Now it’s a problem. But only for the reporter and his or her news outlet. Not the team. They’ve got cameras and writers and their fans know where to go to get their fandom.

Curiously, fans generally only want to read the good stuff about their program anyway. Anything else, to fans, is a feeble attempt at distraction or a story with an obvious agenda or bias. The only exception to that is when the fans are ready for a new coach. Then the troubling stories fit into satisfying layer of confirmation bias. “I always knew he was dirty, incompetent, morally uncouth and didn’t like his neighbor’s dogs.”

The programs control their own story because they have succeeded in controlling the access and the tools and fans and all of the rest came along to let them do something useful with it. It’s such an obvious concern that many people, even some sports scholars I’ve talked with about it, don’t really see it.

Of course, you could say, it’s just sports. Let the team play and let me cheer and tell me the final score. All well and true. Except, it isn’t always just sports, is it? Not always:

The highest-rated football commitment out of high school in Jackson State football history has a court hearing scheduled for Tuesday to charges that he hit a woman in March, according to documents obtained by the Clarion Ledger.

Quaydarius Davis, 18, is charged with “assault causes bodily injury family violence,” a misdemeanor in Texas, according to court filings.


A few months ago, Davis was headed to Kansas.

Then, on March 24, a friend of the woman made a now-deleted social media post with two photos of a woman in a hospital gown with a cut on her lip where one of her eyes appeared to be swollen shut, according to the Dallas Morning News.

On March 26, Kansas cut ties with Davis nearly a month after he signed his National Letter of Intent to play for the Jayhawks, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

“Based on the information we were able to gather KU football has terminated the recruitment of this individual and communicated to him that he will no longer be recruited to play football at the University of Kansas,” the spokesperson wrote, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. “While we do not know the full details of what occurred in this instance, we were able to learn enough information and decide that it is in the best interest of Kansas football that we separate from this individual. We condemn violence of any kind against women.

This is the part where a person that follows college sports a little bit says … “Kansas didn’t want him?”

It isn’t always about sports. But if you’re a beat writer and you know the coach you cover might be a vindictive sort, that gives you a bit of pause. It shouldn’t, and every good reporter worth their salt would tell you this would make them press a bit harder, but how do you do that without access?

The older I get the more I find it is actually less and less about the sport itself. There’s a poem in there somewhere.

Here’s some stuff I pulled together on the work podcast. Go listen to really smart people tell me about educating little people:

Be sure to come back tomorrow. There will be something of value here. And I have until tomorrow to figure out what that will be.

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