I’ve long had a problem not with the concept but with the practice of sport columnery, where senior writers are given a finite space to fill on a typically predetermined, regular basis. Just like the problem with 24-7 news networks, where air needs to be exhaled whether there’s actual news or not, the columnist is forced to opine and feign outrage on often inferior issues undeserving of their platform. It’s a symptom of the concept of a daily newspaper.
So today, Sam Donnellon, whom I’m just assuming agreed with the likes of Reuben Frank and Mike Missanelli in their perhaps real outrage over Chip Kelly’s avoidance of the media, came out swinging at Kelly, not for his reclusiveness (because Kelly spoke to the media at length twice over the past two weeks!), but because of what he said when he did speak:
The question is, does anyone really care?
Does anyone care that Chip Kelly’s version of how Howie Roseman lost his dream job is incongruous to the version Jeffrey Lurie put forth at the NFL owners’ meetings this week? Or that the firing of Tom Gamble, which Lurie deemed “a long time coming,” was something Kelly said he knew nothing of and had nothing to do with.
And if the answer is no, which it seems to be to many, then the next question seems to be this:
Is there a place – or need – for honesty in professional sports these days?
Or is it just “Win, baby, Win?”
I’m pretty certain I know what Chip’s honest answer to that would be. Any reasonable person who has bothered to compare some of his answers on topics such as the ones above, or on the LeSean McCoy trade, with the ones offered by his owner is well aware Kelly has a little Col. Nathan Jessup in him when it comes to our right to the truth.
He has neither the time nor the inclination to explain himself to . . . well, you get the drift.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
It’d be one thing to call out Lurie and Kelly for the inconsistencies in their stories (that’s an actual story!), but Donnellon used the topic, and his contrived lede, to broach a tired subject that he himself acknowledged probably no one cares about. BREAKING: Sports fans more interested in winning than inside baseball during the smack-dab middle of the offseason. More at 11.
But then, the conditioned response of the ink-stained scriptual kicked in (I typically like Donnellon, so this isn’t meant to trash the guy– just this particular column) and Sammy reflexively took aim at fans – his readers and audience – who care little about whether the coach speaks and usually enjoy his messing with the media:
The producer/director, of course, is our beloved head coach, whose continued bemusement amid the frantic and often futile pursuit of truth has, if nasty comments at the end of our stories carry any weight, solidified an army of tweet-twitching followers. That prankster’s smile of his, that rapid-fire verbiage that ultimately offers about as much sustenance as a rice cake – it’s wonderfully entertaining.
Especially when the media are on the other end of the prank.
We’re the bad guys, the messengers, eating all that free food, being lazy all the time, not following the lessons of Journalism 101, a course that clearly about 1 billion people have taken. And Kelly, whose close circle of friends back in New Hampshire included members of the Fourth Estate, certainly knows this. He also knows that, as long as he can sell it as him against them, the public will allow him all the obfuscating his little heart desires.
As long as he Wins, baby, Wins.
Every bit of this, be it from Sam or Reuben or Mike or Les, is self-serving, whether they admit it or not. In truth, the Eagles’ drama has given them more to write about. Imagine how boring it would’ve been if DeSean was released last year because he had a troublesome shoulder injury that made his cap hit too risky? Boring! Or what if Howie Roseman took a job as a financial analyst so he could stop being the office nerd? Snoozefest! And yet, the disingenuousness of writing a column complaining about the so-called soap opera is completely lost on Donnellon.
Of course Jeff and Chip aren’t going to give the whole story. If they did, the headlines would be: Chip Throws Howie Under The Bus. McCoy’s Work Ethic A Little To Shady For Kelly. You know how this works. So does Chip. So does Sam. So, the Eagles do what. every. organization. does. when it parts ways with an executive or high-profile employee: We had a different vision and wish him well. This is why we collectively rolled our eyes when reporters, who, unfortunately for them lack both the physical appearance and charm of early-90s Tom Cruise, demanded that Chip take the stand and answer about the code red or however the fuck you want to crowbar the reference into your story.
And then we have the true disconnect between those who’ve spent a life in sports where press conferences and media scrums trump the actual games and experience of something as irrational and inconsequential as sports fandom. Accountability is good (so is greed, if we want to work in another classic VHS-era movie reference), and while we’d all love to hear Chip spill his guts about interoffice politics at One NovaCare Way, it’s never going to happen. Not on Chips’s watch. So instead, we sit back and enjoy as a man, seemingly grotesque and incomprehensible to those who cover him, who operates so far beyond the walls that the media professes to guard and uses words like “culture” and “philosophically” and pictures of Bart Simpson, toys with those who, deep down in places they don’t write about in hackneyed columns, want drama over which to feign outrage, need drama over which to feign outrage, about the man who has neither the time nor the inclination to explain himself to those whose feigned outrage depends on the drama that he provides and who question the manner in which he provides it! Does Chip Kelly disdain Howie Roseman? YOU’RE GODDAMN RIGHT HE DOES!
I should probably just call it a week.