Angry former basketball coach Bobby Knight, now an ESPN color analyst, will not speak the name of those loathsome Kentucky Wildcats on air. Most everyone knows this by now, but no one has been able to get Knight on the record regarding his bratty behavior. So when The Big Lead's Jason McIntrye procured Knight's cell phone number, he decided to give the former coach a holler. It didn't go well, but some were actually taken aback by McIntyre's attempt to do honest-to-God journalism.
There've been some smart analyses to follow in its wake, but Mr. Sports Journo, Twitter's favorite anonymous sportswriter, launched into a intelligent, scathing critique tonight that felt like an impromptu Newswriting 101 seminar, but without the patronizing get-off-my-lawn subtext. I've copied the entire gaggle of tweets here into a continuous thought (with only some very light editing).
I'd kinda like to touch on something I saw from @TheBigLead the other day, with his phone call to Bobby Knight. (For those of you that don't know what I'm talking about, it's here: http://goo.gl/HeXWZ)
Now, I understand we're in a different era of journalism, reporting, and general news coverage than we were in my day. And I'm not here to look longingly back at the past I came up in, and pretend it was some "greater" generation. We honestly weren't. I think the biggest difference is the route people took, and the skills, abilities, and lessons you were force-fed along the way. And when I see people—@SebastianPruiti stood out but there were others—saying @TheBigLead's call and article look petty, I'm reminded that so many of the sportswriters that currently function in today's industry didn't have to work through other fields.
When you come up working the police or legal beats, for example, cold-calling was the business. Calling families, officers, DA's, prosecutors, witnesses, judges, and anybody else involved was the norm. Actually, we tracked them down, showed up at homes, work, etc. Keep in mind, I don't yearn for those days. They sucked unequivocally. But it was just something we had to do. And you took a beating for it. Families swore at me, those that were accused (sometimes wrongfully) threatened us. We were genuinely disliked.
Anybody who came up working some kind of paper beat remembers the looks you got from local politicians, or the cops, or whoever when arrived. And NOT TOO LONG AGO, you used to have to call the arena's information line, to get a coach's office number, before cellphones took over. Also ... Bobby Knight is a world class dickhead. Not too long, ago he was an equal-opportunity dickhead. But not anymore. He's a bully. So I don't see a call from @TheBigLead as some kind of gross violation. Sorry. It's just as easy to say "I have nothing to say, please don't call me again" as it is to demand where somebody got the number.
Now, to be fair, it was probably a foregone conclusion that Bobby Knight was going to scream at you when you called his cell phone. But hey, I think it's pretty outrageous that a guy who's put his hands on college kids won't say "Kentucky" because of his stupid grudge.
I don't know. I think it's great how easy it is for somebody to publish their thoughts now. Honest to God, the more writers the better. But if you've never had to do the dirty work of reporting, so much so that you don't even recognize it as a part of your industry, ease up. And for those asking, yes, I have reported truncated (loosely) conversations with witnesses/vics/families. Sometimes that's all you get.
Anyway, I saw the disconnect and it stuck with me for a day or so. Figured it was worth expanding on.
And that was all ... for five minutes, before the epic conclusion.
And f*ck Bobby Knight. And if Dick Schaap was in any shape to do it, he'd have slapped his eyebrows off.