Blog: Don’t shoot the Oklahoma State messenger

You should see some of the letters from readers that either cross a sports editor’s desk or make their way into his inbox.

They are bizarre, to say the least; accusations of bias are common, of incorrect quotes are head scratchers (interviews are almost always recorded), and of such poor writing that the author of a piece should be fired.

It’s happened to me whether it was during my few years at the Daily Illini – at a time where I was learning – in St. Petersburg working for Major League Baseball, or during my first real job in Port Charlotte, Fla., with a community daily.

The only thing that you could count on is that if you weren’t getting some “fan” mail, you probably weren’t doing your job.

As we saw over the last 10 days, that’s happened on a much larger scale to Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated, after the top-notch publication released five stories concerning the ethics of the Oklahoma State University football program.

I won’t get into many details, but stories concerned academic fraud and drug use by players and a student group giving sex to recruits when they visited campus.

The truth hurts, doesn’t it?

Then again, maybe not.

Instead of the self-realization the athletic program may have made – and I’m not saying that every bit of the series was 100 percent factual – that people at it may own up to their mistakes or that fans might start to ask questions of why their school was blatantly breaking the rules.

But whether it’s because of some strange distrust for all things media – thanks Fox News – many of the comments online were coming out attacking SI and Evans.

One of the earliest complains, brought forth from Jason Whitlock for no apparent reason, was that Evans was a big supporter of Cowboys rival Oklahoma Sooners. Normally that would raise a few eyebrows, but the fact is that good reporting with sources going on the record would put those concerns to rest.

Funny, that seemed to have happened.

Only a couple of times did the series refer to an unnamed source or not identify a player. OK, OK, OK, then we must go to those players that allegedly talked, they MUST have something to say.

Oh did they ever. Almost unanimously across the board did these players come out against the story. They alleged that the interview questions were of a different topic than what they agreed to, that they were never consulted at all.

All of this is a load of crap after they realized the Pandora’s Box they opened.

Not only did Evans thoroughly interview each of his subjects – on either film or a voice recorder – but senior writer George Dohrmann did the same. This isn’t just one player talking either, it’s many… saying essentially the same thing.

You had better believe that SI’s fact checkers wouldn’t have published one of those damning quotes without first hearing every last bit of those damning phrases, either. SI would simply have way too much to lose if it got something like that completely wrong.

But I guess that’s the society we live in now. We read what the person says, we see what the person says, but we wish to be like a monkey except that our evil speech is directed back towards the ones who gave us what we didn’t want to acknowledge in the first place.

I have another word for these types of people: ignoramuses. I’m not going to go ahead and say that these people are any more stupid than the 9/11 or Sandy Hook truthers out there, but if there’s one thing that we should be able to agree on is that these people contribute about as much to the discussion as Milton Bradley did to the Cubs.

We’re talking about kids being exploited here. They’re not getting the help they need because all the coaches worry about is winning and making seven figures. A player addicted to drugs needs counseling; another struggling in class needs a tutor who will teach and not just fill out assignments.

So the next time you’re filling out a letter to an editor, eager to blame what you can’t stand to here, take a moment to understand the implications of it. Will you either choose to be whiny, asking why a journalist would say such a mean thing? Or will you instead pen a well-thought response thanking the editor, accepting fault and thinking about how to actually fix a problem instead of faulting somebody else for it?

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