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University of Kentucky Basketball, Football, and Recruiting news brought to you in the most ridiculous manner possible.

Eric Crawford and the Old Media: Behind the Times

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When we first started this blog, one of our favorite things to do was to tweak those in the mainstream media for most of the drivel that is put out on a daily basis about UK sports. We occasionally went after folks like Alan Cutler and Jerry Tipton, not because we thought what they did was necessarily bad, but because they were behind the times. While Cutler has now embraced the internet (sometimes posting on the “Dynasty Defenders” website), Tipton and the rest of the mainstream media generally look at the internet world as something that is to be either ignored or openly mocked. I mean hey, they write in the newspaper and thus whatever they say must have importance and authority.

(1) But I have to say, there has been little I have seen in the mainstream media that seems more ridiculous to me than the last couple of columns by the Courier Journal’s Eric Crawford. At the beginning of the week, Crawford brought out his usual, and terribly unclever, “fan’s roundtable” where he mocks UK (and UL) fans by placing himself in their role during satirical “underground meetings” that have the benefit of being neither funny, nor informative. As part of this article, he wrote these paragraphs in the voices of the “Legion of Doom fans”…..

Mr. Chairman, while our hopes for this basketball season are dwindling, our membership, at least, is going up. We’re adding people faster than the Anna Nicole Smith paternity search. After three straight losses, our members are pushing new coaching candidates harder than ESPN is pushing NASCAR. We’ve had it, Mr. Chairman. After Saturday’s loss at Alabama, we actually had a player say that his “head wasn’t in the game” and that he didn’t know where it was. We know where it was.

Sit down. We don’t need gimmicks over here to build numbers. Why, when Sheray Thomas was announced as the starting forward yesterday, our membership jumped 25 percent. Mr. Chairman, we’re goaltending our own shots right out of the basket. Why is it we can stop our own guards from scoring on a drive, but not anyone else’s?

Do we have a monopoly on anything anymore? Thank goodness Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings gave us something to smile about. He played Ike to Joakim Noah’s Tina Saturday after Noah tried to grab a ball from him in Vandy’s upset. Sad thing is, Stallings was stronger with the ball than some of our forwards. Think we could get him to play the four spot?

Obviously the tenor of the piece was that Kentucky fans were upset, and likely rightly so, over the team’s recent play. And while the piece wasnt interesting or really major newspaper column worthy, it was an attempt to point out a voice that was out there…..the disgruntled UK fan.

(2) Fast forward to the day after the LSU game and Crawford writes another opinion piece, and includes these comments on UK’s performance:

True, it has always battled back. But these aren’t the Comeback Cats so much as the Fallback Cats. And with two of the next three against big-time opponents on the road, last night did little to signal any kind of change. And Smith doesn’t appear to be changing. What do they say? The first step is admitting you have a problem. “When you’re not making shots, that makes you look lethargic,” Smith said.
Perhaps. I just know that with LSU leading 28-12 last night, UK senior Bobby Perry said he looked at the scoreboard and thought, “What in the world is going on?”

You aren’t the only one asking, Bobby.

Crawford uses the relatively mediocre performance to question the strength of the coaching, question the decision-making of the staff and even bring about issues about the state of the program. All of these are fair statements to make…..as long of course as they are made by a newspaper columnist.

(3) Fast forward to today. Crawford writes this column about how the internet fans are hurting recruiting:

I think you could do it with a single e-mail. Shoot off a few links. Maybe include one to the borderline disturbing YouTube video from a so-called “Dynasty Defender” in which a fan clad in UK hat and shirt inserts a firecracker into a photograph of coach Tubby Smith, then lights it as a “victory cigar” and laughs as it explodes. Certainly, you could link the endless message board discussions of who the new coach should be, calls for resignations that seem to proliferate with each missed shot.

Still, this all feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Criticizing the coach for poor recruiting, then obstructing the recruiting efforts. (Strangely, some of Smith’s harshest critics on recruiting also are clamoring for him to play his four freshmen more).

The question that isn’t so ridiculous is whether the Wildcats’ fan base isn’t so divided that the program suffers because of it. How effective can a coach be with so much visible opposition? And who would want to try?

Crawford thus attacks the fan bases and internet world for (gasp) expressing their thoughts, opinions and critiques, and thus causing potential harm in recruiting. However there seems to be no mention or even acknowledgment of the fact that he had spent his last two columns doing the exact same thing. In fact, in his first column linked earlier, he had taken on the persona of “fan” making all the exact comments that a few days later he acknowledges cause harm in recruiting. However he blows it off with the “internet” is hurting recruitng, and of course takes no responsibility for his (and other media members) perpetuation of such problems through their newspaper columns from on high.

There are a couple of things upon which Crawford and I agree. Fan discontent does effect recruiting…..players are interested in coaches and when they think the coach might get fired, that effects their decision to come. On this, I think there can be no debate. It is one of the reasons that I think fans should lay off on the Tubby debates until the season is over. Plus I agree with Crawford that many of the videos and comments made on some other sites are extremely hateful and could more than turn off any young man looking at Kentucky.

But what I do find completely hypocritical from columns by folks like Crawford and other mainstream media members is that they do the EXACT SAME THING, but think they are somehow insulated due to their position on a major media outlet. Crawford can write a column in which he acts like a UK fan and says that a new coach is desired in the name of journalism, and yet when actual fans do this on message boards, they are to be blamed for UK failure. Look, you will very rarely see me agree with most Tubby bashers or Dynasty Defenders on anything. But Richard Cheeks and Eric Crawford have the same right to make their views heard….and just because Eric’s view is in a newspaper does not mean he can hypocritically make a point one day and then criticize another for making it the next day.

This is a new world of media and fan interaction and it is all brought upon by the internet. Sometimes this is good and sometimes it is bad. But whereas a few years ago, the Herald Leader and the Courier Journal had the monopoly on shaping fan viewpoints with their columnists on high, those days are now done. Websites like the Catspause, Kentucky Sports Report and Wildcat Nation are now THE PLACES for fans to communicate with each other about UK sports. If an individual wants news on recruiting, they come to those sites or look at the information provided here on Kentucky Sports Radio….and dont let them fool you….mainstream media members often get their news from the same sources…..as seen by the fact that virtually all recruiting stories break on one of these three sites. In that world, individuals as respected as Larry Vaught and Jeff Drummond have a voice that is important….but so do random goobers like me who start a blog and radio show and posters whose real names may not even be known such as TCCat, BackAgain and Deplion.

That is a world in which former arbitors of fan perception like Crawford seem to not be able to adjust. Unlike say Larry Vaught, who gives his opinion online every day in a respectful and thought-provoking manner, others choose to mock internet fans and their opinions…..all the while sharing those opinions and communicating the same opinions in the traditional forums. They believe this is acceptable because they are held to a different standard….a “journalistic one” that gives them license to have any opinion they want. But now its a different world. And what Rob Bromley says may end up with less importance than the newest gossip from TCCat. What Dick Gabriel pronounces on the radio may hold less credibility that what is common wisdom to those who are members at Rivals or Scout. And what Jerry Tipton gives as recruiting news has been broken on this blog days before. In that world, the voices are egalitarian and the truth rises to the top. Its a new day in the sports world…..and like it or not, in that world all opinions have merit….even if a newspaper doesnt pay one to give it.

Article written by Matt Jones