Our regular contributor Howard E. has. A Florida State grad, as well as fan and booster for four decades, Howard has had it up to here with his hometown newspaper's orange & blue bias. Take it, Howie...
Gator Football Team On Steroids?
That got your attention, I’ll bet.
It’s probably not a true statement, although until somebody proves it to be incorrect, it has the potential of triggering countless lines of newsprint and large blocks of broadcast coverage. If that headline did actually appear in print, here’s how the story might have been reported:
Gainesville--Rumors are circulating that an undetermined number of players on the University of Florida football team have been injecting themselves with anabolic steroids. The rumors were tied to reports by a former trainer who has since left the program. Head coach Urban Meyer denied that any member of the team has engaged in the practice. And although the rumor has been reported by several leading newspapers in the state, University president J. Bernard Machen has refused to initiate an investigation of the charges by the “rogue trainer,” the term Machen used to describe the individual at the center of the potential scandal.
Officials of the National Collegiate Athletic Association when contacted by this publication said it was looking into the matter and would consider steroid use a major infraction of NCAA rules that could lead to sanctions including loss of scholarships and forfeiture of bowl opportunities.
Although the “story” above is contrived and has no basis in fact, it’s one you could have read over your fried eggs and orange juice this morning. And while it could have been about any team, it probably wouldn’t have been about the Gators for reasons I’ll get to in a minute. The subject might have been about sex in the locker room, gambling on games, or a head coach planning to leave his job to take a better one coaching the cross-town rivals.
Whatever happened to reporting verifiable facts? Are rumors enough to impugn the integrity of an individual or, as in the case above, an entire athletic program and school?
I for one am sick and tired of reading articles in my hometown newspaper, The Tampa Tribune, that are built on nothing more than rumors, with no attribution listed. In a single day last week, I learned from the Tribune that Jimbo Fisher was considering leaving FSU to take the head coaching job at West Virginia University; that the NCAA might take away some of the Seminoles’ wins this season which could drop Bobby Bowden behind Joe Paterno as the winningest NCAA Division 1-A college football coach; that scholarship losses could be imposed next year on the FSU football program; that high school players previously committed to the Noles are reconsidering their decisions, blah blah blah.
None of these stories had any more hard facts associated with them than the Gator Steroids example. And at least one of them has already proven false. But there the sensationalized stories were with their bold headlines in the Tampa Tribune nonetheless. And in the one story I read that did have some substance, The Tribune couldn’t resist interpreting for us remarks made by T.K. Wetherell, insinuating that he was hiding something, again based on nothing more than the writer’s impression or worse yet, his bias.
The Tampa Tribune is not the only offender, however. Consider this headline I read on Forbes.com: "Thirty-six Seminoles Caught in Cheating Scandal." Is that a fact? Well if you bother to read beyond the headline, you would be told that the thirty-six players referred to are those who “won’t be going to the December 31st Music City Bowl because of an academic cheating scandal, other violations of team rules or injuries.” I guess being injured is now considered cheating. It’s obvious Forbes.com couldn’t resist inaccurately boosting the number to make the story look even worse than it is.
Is it merely shoddy reporting, or is this a case of an axe being ground? Probably a little of both. I think it’s interesting that the University of Florida, that school where the team is reportedly all on steroids, (rumor) has a large journalism school (fact) and that there are sheep skins in the desk drawers of a lot of sports writers around the state suggesting they may be biased Gators in sheep’s clothing. (Fact).