June 7, 2013

Journalist demands of potential source: More Message Discipline Now!

Earlier this week, I noted the firing of the president of Ohio State for making frank, funny comments in a private meeting relating to the big money business of college sports. The weird thing these days is not that big powerful institutions like Ohio State don't like loose cannons, but that journalists have come to abhor insiders who speak their minds, too: More Message Discipline Now!

For example, here's former financial reporter Joseph Nocera's latest column in the New York Times. Nocera has been on a crusade against the National Collegiate Athletic Association, a perfectly reasonable target. Yet, instead of appreciating the Ohio State ex-president's indiscretions about just how cut-throat the college sports racket is, Nocera is shocked, shocked by the insider's leaked statements.
And, on Tuesday, E. Gordon Gee, the president of Ohio State, said he would be retiring on July 1 after some crass private remarks he made in December about other college teams were reported last week by The Associated Press. ...
Let’s take Gee first. He has been a college president forever. A prodigious fund-raiser, he makes nearly $2 million a year and was named the country’s best college president by Time magazine in 2010. 
But whenever the subject is sports, Gee turns into a blithering idiot.

Huh? My impression is that Gee's gaffes are among the best sources we have for how college sports really works. He's like Captain Renault in Casablanca.
A few years ago, in the midst of an N.C.A.A. investigation, Gee was asked whether he was going to fire the football coach, Jim Tressel. “I just hope the coach doesn’t dismiss me,” he said.

That's not idiotic, that's hilariously cynical in how it reveals the power relationship at a big time football school. (Tressel had beaten archrival Michigan nine times in ten years.) Gee sounds like Captain Renault discussing his relationship with Major Strasser.
... In the most incendiary of his most recent remarks, he said that Notre Dame had never been invited to join Ohio State’s conference, the Big Ten, because “you just can’t trust those damned Catholics.” Gee has said plenty of, er, quirky things over the years, but it was his foolish comments about sports that got the headlines — and finally got him.

Gee told the Ohio State athletic council that "The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell the rest of the week.”

Is that true? It would be fun if it were.

According to a commenter, Notre Dame had once been invited to join the Big Ten, accepted, then overnight reversed its decision under pressure from big donors, leaving Big Ten presidents angry and distrustful. Is that true? I don't know, but it would seem like a fun thing to ask Gee about now that he's going to be unemployed.

But instead of buttering up Gee to spill more beans, Nocera is mad at him for spilling any.

In contrast to today's establishmentarian journalists, here are some of Ben Hecht's reminiscences of what Chicago newspaper reporters were like in 1910:
They sat, grown and abuzz, outside an adult civilization, intent on breaking windows. 
There was, I am sure, neither worldliness nor cunning enough among the lot of us to run a successful candy store. But we had a vantage point. We were not inside the routines of human greed or social pretenses. We were without politeness. There was a feast all around us. We attended it as scavengers. 


Anonymous said...

The professionalization of the J-school priesthood has been much remarked on. The more immediate problem is that Nocera is, frankly, kind of dumb, even for someone from Rhode Island. He can't produce the kind of Waughian jaundiced I'm-so-clever prose you expect from everyone, Steve--either that capability was thrashed out of him by various Old Gray copy editors over the years, or he never was capable. Nocera's main point is a good one, he just doesn't know how to write an interesting column around it. So yeah, he settles for tut-tutting about Gee's indecoritude... Keep in mind both this guy's peers and readers consider Maureen Dowd really fresh and witty.

Steve Sailer said...

Regarding Nocera's obtuseness, perhaps a useful way of thinking about this is from the perspective that one way that political correctness makes everybody dumber is by sifting out the bright people. Think about Nocera's chosen topic of college football and basketball: the central conundrum is that the stars are mostly blacks with IQs too low to get into the colleges they star for, who are being ripped off by the colleges that only pay them under the table.

When you spell it out like that, however, it's pretty obvious that, wow, this is a giant hairball of many of the sore points of modern American society, and you'd have to be pretty brave and/or stupid to spell it out.

It's perhaps possible, however, that this insight has never occurred to Nocera, which is why he's blithely charging into the NCAA issue. Most of the people who are smart enough to figure out that the NCAA issue is a racial hot button are writing instead about stuff that won't get them in trouble, and only the dim (or pathologically fearless) are writing about the potentially interesting stuff.

Anonymous said...

Since the 1970s sportwriters have been some of the most Soviet of newspapermen. They have purged the ranks of most independent thinkers and gone back into history to demonize and canonize certain sports legends according to the party line. Some of these guys, when they retire, start blogging about other things like politics and you realize how brainwashed sports writers really are.

pat said...

We have some social institutions that have evolved but we have others that seem to have been the product of something very like genetic drift.

College sports is such an institution.

American business is interested in major league professional sports, For example the Giants paly at PacBell Park. Pacific Bell of course is the company that provides my phone calls to Eric Holder.

Why don't we have the second tier sports teams be associated with private businesses or labor unions rather than colleges.

As far as I can tell we just drifted into college football. It seems to be a major source of corruption in academia. I'm pretty sure that the Founding Fathers would not have supported it.

We drifted into our old system of employer provided health care too and look how much trouble fixing that has cost.


Portlander said...

I wonder if some of Nocera's miff isn't that guys like Gee go off message, but that guys like Gee don't give guys like Nocera the scoop.

On the other hand is the old saw about college professorships: the politics are so brutal because the stakes are so low. With internet bloggers pushing out paid journalism, the only journalists that are going to be able to keep their jobs are the ones that show themselves useful to the establishment.

Think about it. MSM has become an absolute propaganda organ for the status quo. The competition to be a paid propagandist has become so cut-throat it isn't enough to back-stab your co-workers, you have to have a few witch-burning on your resume as well.

astorian said...

Speaking as a conservative, practicing Catholic of Irish descent who has been part of Notre Dame's "Subway Alumni" a long time...

Normally, I'm quick to point out and denounce Catholic-bashing whenever I see it (which is often). But in this instance, I don't see Mr. Gee as an anti-Catholic bigot. Rather, I see him as a college sports insider who has had direct dealings with the people who run Notre Dame and knows first-hand that they play hardball.

When Gee said that the priests running Notre Dame seem like nice guys on Sunday, but that you have to watch out for them the rest of the week, I believe he was merely pointing out that Notre Dame's bosses try to milk their sports programs for every cent they can get.

Gee's Big Ten, and several other conferences, have tried to recruit Notre Dame. These conference's have found that Notre Dame's leaders guard their football revenues jealously and aren't looking to share any of it with other teams in a conference.

Gee was probably just saying, "Despite their saintly image, believe me, the priests running Notre Dame are cutthroat businessmen!"

Does even the most devout Catholic doubt the truth of that observation?

Dahinda said...

It is called "being a tool!"

ex-Texas Monthly said...

He hangs out with Scott Simon. Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

former financial reporter Joseph Nocera

This is an inside-newspaper put-down, isn't it? Kind of like calling him a sports reporter?

James Kabala said...

A more detailed critical column on Gee:


carol said...

Does even the most devout Catholic doubt the truth of that observation?

No...but we've been so trained to take offense at everything, we're taken for a chump if we don't. So media take anticipatory offense at remarks they don't care about, in order to goad those who usually do care into reacting...oh dammit I'm all confused now.

Portlander said...

Astorian, you're missing the point. Right, wrong, rational logic has nothing to do with it. It's an Orwellian display of power. Who's wearing the jackboots, and whose face can they stomp on next. Who, whom.

If they can take out a guy like Gee for something as banal as criticizing the priests that run ND (since when did the establishment care about the sensibilities of Catholics?) who can't they take out?

They do it half to send a message, and half for the fun of it.

Cail Corishev said...

Gee was probably just saying, "Despite their saintly image, believe me, the priests running Notre Dame are cutthroat businessmen!"

Does even the most devout Catholic doubt the truth of that observation?

Only the "priests running Notre Dame" part. The president is Rev. Jenkins, whom you may remember from when he bent the university over to honor the most pro-abortion president in history, while an 80-year-old priest peacefully protesting the debacle was hauled off to jail. Below him, the Fellows are six clergy and six lay people, but below them, the Trustees appear to be about 5% priests. Even leaving aside how many are probably CINOs, it's just not the church-run place people assume it is.

By the way, for anyone who's interested, here's some info on the Catholicity of Notre Dame from an alumnus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NLOd9cXMjo

rob said...

Did Gee actually mean Catholics, or do people in college football just call Notre Dame the Catholics? If someone were talking about, I dunno, Olympic handball, and he said Russians were sober, disciplined players who followed the rules and the spirit of the rules, no one would be dumb enough to think he was talking about all Russians.

Sports journalists ain't like serious journalists*. They don't go into the profession to uncover scandals or corruption, or to speak truth to power. They're jock sniffers who wanna sniff jocks. The 'sports journalists' are mostly free PR.

Yeah, I know regular journalists ain't too much like that neither.

Anonymous said...

Usually it's the head coaches that are supposed to talk shit and make jabs. Had Urban Meyer said the same thing as Gee (Meyer wouldn't since he's not known for that), he would have brought on survivable controversy. When those same things are said by presidents, it's a much bigger deal. Could you imagine many presidents saying the things that Spurrier, Leach, Kiffin, and Muschamp say?

What I hate about Gee is while he is talking shit about other programs, his own should be drowning in sanctions if the NCAA were consisent. The NCAA gave light sanctions to OSU for pervasive violations that involved several football players over several years. And Tressell lied. Usually the NCAA doesn't take liars lightly (ask Dez Bryant). What does OSU get? 1 year bowl ban and 9 scholarships lost over 3 years. Compare that to USC. They had just 1 incident (Reggie Bush) and are ordered to slash 30 scholarships as well as a 2 year bowl ban. What we should be asking ourselves is whether Gee has any right to be talking shit in the first place.

Drunk Idiot said...

Here's a Chicago Tribune article from 2010 that quotes Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey's bombshell/loose cannon admission that he'd been informed by his Athletic Director of the school's pending move to the Big Ten. Key quote:

"Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey said Thursday that during his fourth season in South Bend, the Irish were on the cusp on joining the Big Ten.

Brey recalled athletic director Kevin White telling him in November 2003 to get ready for the move.

'He told me to be prepared; we were going to the Big Ten,' Brey said during a conference call. 'Obviously, that decision changed in the 11th hour'."

In my previous comment on the Gordon Gee blog post, I'd dated Brey's admission as being about a year old.

Turns out, it's actually three and a half years old.*

Time flies.

*I did, however, get the year of Notre Dame's apparently aborted move to the Big Ten correct (as well as the context under which the comment was made [i.e., discussing the different styles of play in different conferences]).

Not Juan Williams said...

Nocera is not very smart nor does he write well, but about how many of the progressive media could one say either? The parade of media idiots is long.

Why? You are right about there being a process whereby smart people who embark on a journalism career because they want to write fearlessly eventually step on a PC landmine, or otherwise have an epiphany. If only David Horowitz's friend had not been killed by the Oakland Black Panthers, he might be another Cass Sunstein.

But also I don't think smart people go to Journalism school in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Gee

Rutgers fires their AD for shouting insults at his players and replaces him with someone who called her players lazy stupid alcoholics. Oh wait she did not call them gay.

Rutgers hired a coach who is taking classes to get the degree that Rutgers says he already has.

They are almost a big a joke as Bud Selig run Harvard.

Anonymous said...

wonder if some of Nocera's miff isn't that guys like Gee go off message, but that guys like Gee don't give guys like Nocera the scoop.

Joe Paterno survived the ousting of Sandusky by a few years?

The competition to be a paid propagandist has become so cut-throat it isn't enough to back-stab your co-workers, you have to have a few witch-burning on your resume as well.

Certanly worked for the extremely talented Selena Roberts.