Monday, August 31, 2009

weekend review

I don't know what the weather's been like in your neck of the woods, but up here in New England today, it was kinda cloudy. The humidity's all gone too. Cloudy, breezy, and cooler; and if that doesn't sound like September and the beginning of football season, then we can do nothing more for you here. Time to slide into the football routine with a weekend review. Today's agenda:

- very cursory recruiting board update
- catching up with our recruits' senior (and junior!) seasons
- soccer!
- and finally, some extra credit reading on the ethics of journalism

So, recruiting board. I told you it would be cursory: the only major change is the removal of OT Gifford Timothy, who selected Clemson. This returns our O-line status to Robby Havenstein and Khamrone Kolb. I'm extremely confident one of them will commit to UVA. Our major competition for them is Penn State, and the thing is this: Penn State has openly told them they have room for one more, and then the door shuts. They've mentioned such in interviews. And they don't get recruited in a bubble; each surely knows about the other. If either one was really damn sure Penn State was the place for them, they'd call Paterno yesterday and beat the other to the punch. They haven't. They're both very much alike and I don't prefer one or the other, but if you held a gun to my head and made me pick I'd hope Havenstein committed to Penn State for the simple reason that Kolb's list is smaller, he's sent off slightly more favorable vibes, and would probably drop very soon for us shortly after the door closed at Penn State. Havenstein has laid out more options besides just us than Kolb has. But as for talent, ratings, offers, the stuff you evaluate recruits with? There's so little difference it's pointless.

OK, senior season stuff. Here's how our guys been doin':

TYLER BROSIUS: Much better game than last week. 265 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception on a half-ending Hail Mary. Game ended in a tie, and I'm a little annoyed on principle that Brosius's coach would have an ACC-caliber quarterback on his team and not take any chances with the ball and 1:55 to go. "'The last thing I wanted there at the end was for (Drummond) to get an interception and run it back,' Kiefer said." C'mon, man, show some faith in your quarterback.

ADRIAN GAMBLE: His Independence team won 56-12, but Gamble didn't score.

KEVIN PARKS: Tacked on three more touchdowns to his impressive total in a 33-6 win.

Soccer! The exhibition season went like tthhbbpppttt for the "other" football team, which I dunno, is that worrisome? I say probably not. Gelnovatch can afford to experiment in the exhibition season and experiment he did. Fans have been fretting about the absence of Chris Agorsor, but Jeff White calmed fears earlier this month and put them to rest entirely today. Agorsor is good to go on all fronts, though as White notes, he'll miss the trip to Oregon, not having practiced or played any lately.

There'll still be a planned hole in the lineup though. Brian Ownby will be off to Egypt later this month to compete in the U-20 World Cup. That'll cause him to miss six games, including three conference games - the Cup lasts til October 16, and the Tech game is the day after, so don't expect like he's gonna fly back in from the other hemisphere and play that one either.

All right now. This is where the rant begins. As you know, I'm the only one writing in this space, and that means I get to do what I want. Sometimes that means going off the reservation. As you also know, I'm a Michigan fan, and this was a much better weekend for every other 119 I-A football clubs than it was for Michigan. If foul language and non-Virginia content offend you, it's cool, this is your offramp. Nobody's gonna think any less of you. If you don't like the print media, the following paragraphs may be especially interesting.

As you know unless you went to Afghanistan for the weekend, Michigan got slammed - sucker-punched, you might say - with a laundry list of accusations and allegations regarding mandatory practice time by the Detroit Free Press, and it got picked up by ESPN, Yahoo, Rivals, and probably Us Weekly and TMZ the way things go around Rich Rodriguez these days. I'm not gonna usurp the excellent U-M blog coverage of this stuff, it'd take friggin' days and it's not going to interest you to sit there and have me pick it all apart. Which by the way is eminently doable, because the whole piece reads like something out of the Weekly World News.

So why am I going on about this? What I'm about to put down absolutely fucking disgusts me. It irritated me the first time I read the article and I got angrier and angrier the more I thought about it and realized what happened. By today, as reactions were coming in from all over, I was livid. Furious. Completely revolted. And I have a soapbox and damn if I'm not gonna use it.

At the risk of giving hits to the website, the offending article is here. It is written by Michael Rosenberg and Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press. The article sources quite a few players (mostly former, I'd guess) and parents. As the article mentions,

The players and parents agreed to talk only if they were not identified because they said they feared repercussions from the coaching staff.
Every source that speaks directly about Rodriguez's program is anonymous. Except for two.

At the school’s news media day, the Free Press asked freshman Brandin Hawthorne what winter conditioning was like. Hawthorne, a linebacker from Pahokee, Fla., enrolled in January.

“It’s crazy,” said Hawthorne, who was not complaining about his coaches and was apparently unaware of the time-limit rules. “I work out at 8. We’ll work out from, like, 8 to 10:30. We come back later, have one-on-ones, seven-on-sevens, a little passing. Then I’ll go watch a little film.”

The Free Press also asked freshman receiver Je’Ron Stokes about Michigan’s off-season program. Stokes, from Philadelphia, arrived at the Ann Arbor campus in June.

“Hooooo!” Stokes said. “A typical week is working from 8 a.m. in the morning to 6 or 7 at night, Monday through Saturday.”

And that was starting in June?

“Yes, sir,” Stokes said. “We do the weight room at least three times a week, and seven-on-sevens and one-on-ones. Speed and agility on the other days. Every day we have something new to get ready for the season. The coaches have done a great job of stressing the importance of getting us ready for the big season that we’re about to have.”

Stokes was not complaining. Like Hawthorne, he apparently was unaware of the rules.

Placing the article in further context, which would start to get pretty bulky so you'll just have to read it, will reveal that passage to be one of the highlights of the entire argument. It's one of the two crucial pieces to the whole thing, that being We Work Really Long Days. (The other one being They Were Mandatory And They Shouldn't Have Been. Take either leg out of the argument and there is nothing to talk about.)

Je'Ron Stokes and Brandin Hawthorne were interviewed, as it says, at media day for the team, and were asked innocuous questions about their workout regimen. Pretty obviously, they were never told what article they were interviewing for. Now they are the star witnesses in an exposé that was considered so damaging, all the other sources would only agree to speak anonymously to protect them from "repercussions." And the Free Press agreed to give everyone their anonymity - except for the most vulnerable of the sources, the 18-year-old kids who are potentially in the most direct line of fire for repercussions.

They answered these questions respectfully and honestly. And their reward? Shoved under the bus with the rest of the program. Disgusting.

And I'm not the only one angry about it. Stokes's dad's not too pleased either. The senior editor of the New Republic thinks Rosenberg should be fired, in part for:

(filling) his article with quotes from Michigan players describing how hard they work. It's meaningless. It's as if he set out to expose an epidemic of rape, and came back with an article mainly describing the conjugal relations of happily married couples.
Journalists and aspiring journalists, if you ever write a piece like that and treat your sources that way, you are an ethics-devoid scum-sucking piece of shit. Period. Fortunately, there's a happy ending as Rodriguez sticks up for his blindsided players:

When I have two young freshmen that come into my office yesterday upset, saying, "Coach, what did I do? What did we do? We just said we worked hard, and it was harder than it was in high school and we were committed to helping win a championship." I said, "You didn't do nothing wrong. You did nothing wrong."
Bravo, coach.

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