Coaches, media like oil, water

Published 1:34 pm Saturday, July 26, 2008

There exists a fundamental rift between college football coaches and the writers that cover college football.

It’s obvious when you see a member from each of the two groups in the presence of the other.

The coaches are used to dealing with football players – big, tough straight-thinking sort of men. The writers are used to dealing with other writers – somewhat less athletic, more prone to flinch and more philosophical.

Before this column comes across as making fun of sports writers, just know that’s exactly what it was intended to do.

See, the writer thinks he understands the coach and what the coach’s job entails. This guy is offended by the coaches’ suggestion that, actually, the writer has no idea. The coach, meanwhile, can’t understand why anyone would choose to work in an air-conditioned office in front of a computer monitor with a Coke and fudge round always at hand. This guy fumes at the notion that a writer knows anything about football.

The truth of the matter is that writers don’t know as much about football as they think, but coaches usually don’t do much to improve their knowledge.

This rift is what makes an event like the Southeastern Conference’s Media Days so interesting. Coaches approach it in different ways. The two extremes can be found in this state. Alabama’s Nick Saban looks as comfortable around a reporter as he would around a rattlesnake. Auburn’s Tommy Tuberville, meanwhile, is a master of public relations. He spent all three days at the Wynfrey Hotel for no particular reason. Friday, Tuberville invited a group of writers into his room for a conversation.

The media, however, at least the print-oriented individuals in the room I was sitting, all tackle the event the same way – much the same way they would the prospect of running bleachers.

These drove hundreds of miles or flew many more to listen to the SEC’s coaches talk, and then what do they do? Sit around and browse the Internet on their laptops or converse in the lobby while the coaches talk. It almost seems a point of pride for the media guys: “See, my life doesn’t really hang on your every word. In fact, I’m much more concerned about checking this Web site for the 72nd time this morning.”

Then why were we there?