Monday, September 23, 2013

Sanctimonious idiot Jeff Pearlman misses the point, spends 1500 words telling you that you missed the point

Are you up to speed on the whole Thayer Evans/Oklahoma State story thing?  Hopefully, because I don't really want to take the time to explain it.  (Have you already forgotten about it, because this post is about 10 days late?  Probably.)  The basics, in case you need them, are that Thayer Evans is a guy who is good at picking up on stories that people find interesting, but really shitty at adhering to basic standards of journalistic integrity as he crafts his reporting.  He's irresponsible and sensationalist.  He doesn't really do things like "verify his sources" or in some cases "have credible sources in the first place."  And please believe, I don't give a steaming pile of fuck about Oklahoma State, Auburn, LSU, the Honey Badger or Cam Newton.  But this is an indisputable fact at this point: Thayer Evans is a shitty journalist.  That should be the main takeaway from his Oklahoma State expose, because the fact that a major college football program doesn't follow NCAA rules and gives its players lots of benefits they shouldn't get is not news and thus not eligible to be a takeaway.


I don’t know Thayer Evans. We’ve never met, never spoken. In fact, before a couple of days ago I’m not sure I’d ever heard of the man. Is he a good reporter? 

Not at all.  That's well known at this point.

A shady reporter? 


Does he love Oklahoma and hate Oklahoma State? 

According to Jason Whitlock, yes, although that doesn't make his shitty reporting any more or less shitty.

Could he care less? I just don’t know—and, I’m quite certain, most other don’t know, either.

Everyone knows.  Use the Google machine.  Type in "Thayer Evans journalism ethics."  There's lots of smoke and plenty of fire.  Thayer Evans is an unethical journalist.

Here’s what I do know: Much of the criticism of his reporting methodology has been—on the surface—bunk. There’s this idea out there that, in order to properly and rightly report a story, one needs to interview a select group of people—generally the stars and head coach. If you don’t speak with them, the logic goes, you’re interviewing the wrong folk.

This is crap.

The criticism of Evans has little to nothing to do with his interviewee selections.  It has a lot more to do with his doing things like secretly recording conversations with interviewees who did not know they were going to become interviewees, not doing basic fact checking with regard to facts that could have easily been checked, and embellishing facts to spice up a story.  Jeff Pearlman is a dope, and in his quest to be OUTRAGED at another ho-hum NCAA scandal, is going to try to defend Thayer Evans.

Without fail, stars and head coaches are almost always the worst interviews/sources. Why? Multiple reasons: A. They’re the ones who benefited most from the team/program. The head coach of Oklahoma State was paid big money to guide a high-exposure program. He had endorsement deals, contractual perks, etc … etc. Unless he was ultimately screwed, there is, literally, zero reason for him to speak. Stars can be grouped in the same category. You’re Brandon Weeden. You were the starting quarterback at Oklahoma State; that ultimately led you to the NFL. What, exactly, are you going to complain about? Who are you going to rat out?

The job of a reporter (and it ain’t easy) is figuring out whose information is correct, and whose is not. 

See the fact checking link up there.  Apparently Evans isn't so good at "the job of a reporter."

It’s about feeling comfortable with sources; about having other people vouch for a source’s words and/or character. Ultimately, it’s a judgement call. 

That Thayer Evans has repeatedly demonstrated he sucks at making.

The thing that puzzles me—that has always puzzled me—is the brainless craziness that is college football. 

Crank up the Pearlman-o-matic 5000!  Here comes the sanctimony.

Whether Thayer Evans’ reporting was flawed 

It was.

or perfect, 

Not close.

clearly Oklahoma State did some very bad things. 


This is obvious, and a fact no one seems to be denying. And yet … why don’t school loyalists care? We’re talking about 19-, 20-, 21-, 22-year-old (so-called) student-athletes 


once again being treated as pieces of meat. They’re models for uniforms, dollar signs for endorsement deals, images to place on the cover of university literature … and, rarely, actually people.

Yes.  All correct.  But we don't need shady fucktards like Thayer Evans to show us these things.  1) We already know them 2) presenting them in the context of a JUICY SCANDAL does nothing but titillate for the sake of titillating, rather than actually generating interesting analysis (something much of the reporting on the Ed O'Bannon case has done).  It is no longer news that players took money or had access to sex and drugs.  Sorry.  And if you want to report on those topics without following the basic standards of ethical journalism, then fuck you and fuck the people that defend you because they think you've uncovered the next Watergate.

I hear college football die-hards speak of their teams as “we”—we need to run the ball better; we need to come out strong against Oregon. This, of course, is ludicrous. These are often kids with flimsy academic credentials, being asked to carry a full course load while also practicing X hours per day, flying X miles across the country, missing X class and X class and X class. 

Oh my God, what are we talking about?  Jeff, you are the worst ranter ever.  At the very very least, even if you're going to be the dope that we know you are, try to stay on topic.

They would struggle to maintain a 2.0 average if they were solely enrolled in school (minus sports)—

That's completely untrue, fucking insulting to thousands of kids, and possibly racist.

and yet, we pretend all is OK and groovy and grand. We dress them up in our school colors, roll out the balls and cheer away. Then, seven or eight years later, when we see X player living in his mother’s house, barely able to read, 44 credits shy of a college diploma, we shrug. Shit happens.

If you love Oklahoma State, shouldn’t you be furious? Not at the reporter or the magazine, but the school and the athletic department and the football program? 

Yes.  But you already knew about all those problems before private eye Thayer Evans arrived on the scene to build his own personal brand with a poorly-vetted story full of uninteresting crap.  You can hate the NCAA and the way it treats athletes, and you can also hate Thayer Evans.  They're not mutually exclusive possibilities.

Shouldn’t you be demanding a clean system; a desire for all-around excellence; a chance for your guys to wind up as successes in business, not just a meaningless game against Baylor? Shouldn’t you demand to hear the truth from your university? Aren’t there better questions to ask than, “Why does Thayer Evans hate us so much?”

I have no sympathy for OSU alums who feel victimized by Evans because he's apparently an OU fan.  Fuck both of those schools and fuck that whole state.  But more importantly, fuck Jeff Pearlman for taking this angle on the story.  As a, you know, journalist, you'd think he'd understand why it's important that journalists adhere to ethical standards of their profession.  Instead he's busy making sure we understand that college football is broken.  Thanks Jeff.  We got it.

I’m a Jason Whitlock fan. I truly am. I thought his commentary on the Don Imus-Rutgers stuff was outstanding. His gun stuff was equally top shelf. He’s written some wonderful stuff through the years; some columns that I’ve read more than once.

That said, this has not been a good week for the man.

Whitlock is an asshole.  Still, this was pretty awesome.

Whitlock clearly sees himself as some sort of media sheriff; a guy charged with keeping the rest of us in line. 

The lack of self-awareness is staggering.

He likes calling out individual writers, pointing out their flaws, explaining (in not these exact words) why they suck and he’s awesome.

Pot kettle etc.  And yes, of course, I realize that the pot/kettle thing goes one step further, to me and this blog.  Except that I don't think I'm awesome.  I just think that everyone sucks.

In regard to Thayer Evans, Whitlock told an Oklahoma radio station, “Having worked with Thayer Evans at Fox Sports …”

OK, to start here. I’m pretty sure Whitlock did not work with Evans. Back in the day, when people shared offices, they worked together. I’m in this cubicle, you’re in that cubicle—we work together. Whitlock never shared an office with Evans, never spent great time (if any time) with Evans. Literally, they were located in two different cities. 

And we know that they never collaborated on a project, or shared notes, or discussed their trade?  I don't want to make a big deal out of this small point, but again, in his effort to make sure we understand that the REAL STORY HERE is that some NCAA athletes don't graduate, Jeff is bending over backwards to defend Thayer Evans.  It's pathetic.

By Whitlock’s definition, I worked at Sports Illustrated with Gary Smith. Sure, he was in North Carolina and I was in New York. And sure, we literally were never in the same room at the same moment. But we worked together because our paychecks were signed by the same person. No.

I like that this is his first criticism of Whitlock's piece.  "Let's start with the important stuff--sure, Whitlock and Evans worked for the same company, but did they truly work 'together?'  OPEN YOUR EYES SHEEPLE, THEY TOTALLY DIDN'T"

Furthermore, Whitlock talks about Evans’ loyalties, calling him a “huge, enormous, gigantic Oklahoma homer.

Here's the best part.

However, Whitlock’s past desperation to work for Sports Illustrated was no great secret. His dream of being handed the back-page column. He, of course, was never offered a job by the magazine—and was, we can assume, angry about it. Does this not (by Whitlock-think) make him the wrong guy to go off on the magazine? Is he not as biased as Evans is presumed to be?


That's the greatest thing Pearlman has ever written, and we've definitely gone after him on this blog plenty of times over the years.  It's fucking priceless.  That might be the worst attempt at flipping the script on someone I've ever seen.

After slaying Evans, Whitlock noted, “I think the story is a cliché and bogus and suspect and just the wrong angle.”

You know what's fucking fantastic?  You want the full context of that comment?  To explain what Whitlock thinks is the right angle?  Here you go:

I have the obvious take (on the series) that I’m tired of these stories. We’ve been reading these stories for 30 years and I’m tired of people pointing out how corrupt participants are in a system that has been proven to be corrupt. The NCAA amateur system is corrupt, so we should not be surprised that there is corruption among the participants. I would like to see more of the focus on the NCAA and the system and fixing that, and then I’ll get upset about the corruption. I think the story is a cliché and bogus and suspect and just the wrong angle.

JEFF.  EARTH TO JEFF.  JEFF, GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS IMMEDIATELY.  Whitlock has the EXACT SAME PERSPECTIVE on this issue as you do.  It's just that he, while acknowledging how fucking up NCAA football is, ALSO wants someone like Evans to not be a huge shithead.  See how he can have it both ways?  You could too, if you weren't such a sanctimonious dope.  That's the world Jeff Pearlman lives in: if an unethical "journalist" writes an unethical piece, but the tone of the piece is something Pearlman agrees with, it's asking too much of him to get him to acknowledge the shittiness of the journalism.

He also admitted, and I’ll place this in capital letters, that HE NEVER READ THE ARTICLE. Never. Not once. Not a word. DID. NOT. READ. IT. Even if you think the writer is a fraud, how in God’s name can you rip a piece you never read … then have other credible news sources give those words weight.

Whitlock should have read the article(s), but it doesn't change the fact that it is well established that Thayer Evans is a piece of shit.

Again, I think Whitlock is a good writer, and I have no personal beef. But he pulled this same crap when I appeared on his podcast several years ago to promote Sweetness. Whitlock welcomed me on, wanted to talk Walter Payton … but admitted never having read the book, because he doesn’t read sports books.

Uh …

OK, again, that's Whitlock being an asshole, but leave it to Jeff to complain about the nice (if awkwardly lacking in execution) thing that someone else did to him to help him sell his book.

My favorite piece of the Whitlock diatribe comes here: “There are a brand of sports writers who love doing these investigative pieces. They are not hard to do these days in terms of so-and-so got this money under the table. We’re into this area where unnamed sources can say anything, any of these he-said, she-said stories. I don’t respect the entire brand of investigative journalism that is being done here.”

All of that seems very fair to me, if heavy-handed.  It's not that this brand of journalism deserves no respect; it's that it's been done before, many times, and people like Evans use it to make a name for themselves because it's scandalous.  And that's pretty dumb.

Jason Whitlock has the absolute easiest job in sports media—and he knows it. He opines. That’s it. He doesn’t report. He doesn’t dig. He doesn’t make calls or seek out information. He takes the reporting done by others, sits in front of his laptop and comes up with a take. That’s it. He’s a good writer. Is he one of the, oh, 200 most-talented sportswriters in America? Probably not. 

I don't like Whitlock, but actually, I'm pretty certain he cracks the top 200 in the country.

(For the record, I’m by no means placing myself on that list either) 

Geez, I certainly hope not.  (Just kidding, Jeff!  You might be in the top 200 too.  No sarcasm.  But fuck you both anyways.)

But—and this is the big part—he’s loud. And obnoxious. He presents himself as a tough guy unafraid to take a tough stand, and people buy it. They absorb his self-righteous diatribes, because—on the surface—it seems to be driven by a desire to seek out truth and justice.

If any of you have every spent any time on, you know the one thing you will definitely find there is a collection of self-righteous diatribes.

But, with men and women like Whitlock, truth and justice are often smokescreens for the parallel drugs plaguing the American media: Attention and fame. 

If you cannot see that those things are exactly what Thayer Evans is trying to obtain, you're fucking blind.

Whitlock seems all about attention and fame. Or, put differently,what sort of person states his own case for the Pulitzer Prize? What size ego must a man have to A. Think to himself, “I deserve the Pulitzer” and B. Write about it? I mean, between all the craziness of life and the highs and the lows and the ups and the downs, who even has time to ponder such a thing?

Whitlock is an asshole.  Pearlman is a dope.

For all I know, the Oklahoma State report is filled with holes,

It is.

and Sports Illustrated will have to apologize 

Oddly, they did not, although they should have.

and Thayer Evans will soon be selling insurance door to door in Ada. 

We can only hope!

I just don’t know.

As a journalist, however, I am deeply troubled by the blame-the-messenger mentality that has zoomed to the forefront.

As a journalist, what you should be troubled by is the state of journalism thanks to writers like Evans.  1% of the country is "blaming the messenger" in the sense that Jeff means it.  They are mouth-breathing OSU fans, and they want to discredit everything Evans wrote simply because they love their school.  The other 99% is blaming the messenger in the exact way everyone should be: by pointing out that Thayer Evans is a tabloid journalist who should be legally barred from ever going near a computer.

There is more here than just a reporter with a vendetta, and or a reporter who can’t report, or a magazine story.

It’s time we all try and see it.

Which is pretty much what Whitlock said, except with a lot more idiocy mixed in.


Anonymous said...

I sorta liked Whitlock's article, and he's right about Thayer Evans. Look up his articles and videos at Everything I've heard or read by him vis-a-vis Oklahoma State has been a total hatchet job. The guy is a fucking douchebag.

Anonymous said...

This, also, is hilarious.

Chris W said...

I think it's mildly relevant that Evans is an Oklahoma homer. I mean, a guy writes a bunch of journalism pieces calling a school "Choklahoma State" and then goes and does shoddy investigative journalism that shows them to be some paragon of corruptness? I think that's worth mentioning.

That said, I don't think Jeff's angle is quite what you put it down as here, Larrina. Frankly, if you go back and look at his spirited defense of Selena's non-sources for her Fish Filet-Rod book and her defense of her Duke Lacrosse behavior therein, it's clear that his torch carrying is more about "how dare anyone ever criticize a journalist's methods, especially one who works for SI."

Now maybe Whitlock's bitter cuz he never got to work for SI, but I do know someone else who has a vested interest in protecting the journalistic brand of SI's reporting methods. And it might be the guy who came under fire for his reporting methods on the John Rocker story while working for SI.

Which is...kind of lame. Selena Roberts is a piece of shit. Thayer Evans is a piece of shit. Their reporting was garbage. Pearlman's reporting on Rocker does not seem to be. I don't know why he wants to associate himself with these garbage writers, but there's something deep inside him that can't look at garbage reporters being called out for utter trash reporting and say "That's kind of like me." Not quite sure why but there it is.

Snarf said...

'Whether Thayer Evans’ reporting was flawed or perfect, clearly Oklahoma State did some very bad things."

This is such a lame thing to say. Whether we reported on this ethically and did our best to get the facts straight or we just made up a bunch of crap that makes the subject look bad, clearly the subject is in the wrong. How is that an acceptable thing for an alleged journalist to say?

Snarf said...

"I hear college football die-hards speak of their teams as “we”—we need to run the ball better; we need to come out strong against Oregon. This, of course, is ludicrous. These are often kids with flimsy academic credentials, being asked to carry a full course load while also practicing X hours per day, flying X miles across the country, missing X class and X class and X class."

Also, I know that this isn't really on-topic (as you point out), but this is such a stupid dig by Pearlman at college football fans. As someone who grew up in Maryland, attended the University of Maryland, currently donates (albeit not very much) to the school and participates in alumni events/associations, you bet your ass I'm going to say "we" when watching the Terps play.

Chris W said...

People say that about pro teams too. I don't think Pirates fans who say "I hope we beat the Cardinals" actually think they're going to be penciled into the lineup.

It's like...what sports fans do. Sometimes I wonder if Pearlman is a sports fan since he seems to mostly hate athletes and sports fans

Biggus Rickus said...

I think it's dumb to say "we", but I wouldn't work it into a column defending shitty reporting for no good reason.