Mandy Mitchell

The Clowney story: What's wrong with sports journalism

Posted October 8, 2013
Updated October 9, 2013

It is rare that I get as fired up about a sports story as I did Tuesday about Jadeveon Clowney.

Here's the story in case you missed it over the weekend: South Carolina's superstar defensive end didn't play against Kentucky due to a strained muscle near his ribcage. Head coach Steve Spurrier made some comments after the game that got people talking. In short, he said if Clowney didn't want to play he didn't have to.

On Sunday, a much more mellow Spurrier said he was just frustrated that the "proper protocol" wasn't followed and he didn't find out until right before the game that Clowney couldn't play.

By Tuesday, he all but apologized for what he said about Clowney saying they (the staff, everyone involved) handled it "poorly." He praised the kid, saying he's working hard trying to get ready for this week's game with Arkansas and said South Carolina owed a lot to Clowney for what he's done for the program over the last few years.

This all seems like a very simple story to understand. Clowney was hurt. Spurrier wasn't informed by the doctors. He was angry. He said some things he shouldn't have. Somehow, this story turned into a variation of "Clowney is sitting out to save himself for the NFL" and "Clowney is lazy and hates football."

Over the last few days I have heard and read things that are absolutely ridiculous.

Let's start with ESPN's Paul Finebaum. He called Clowney "the biggest joke in college football" and called his behavior "disgraceful." I'm pretty sure Finebaum didn't talk to Clowney about this. He simply heard what Spurrier said Saturday, didn't need any more facts and jumped to the conclusion that Clowney is probably "lazy" and waiting for his NFL money.

Speaking of disgraceful ...

On Tuesday, less than two hours after Spurrier spoke and defended Clowney, ESPN went on air with a segment airing Saturday's comments. It was another opportunity to bash the kid. The network could have updated the story with the fresh comments, but what kind of story would that make? Instead, they rehashed old news, asking analysts to talk about something the coach had already resolved.

To add to this, Clowney spoke for himself after Tuesday's practice, saying the entire thing was a "misunderstanding" and he didn't mind what Spurrier said Saturday because "he's just competitive." He assured everyone he planned on playing college football again. I'm not too sure where the idea started that he wouldn't.

This is a kid who has had his name drug through the mud for four days, and he takes the high road. Good for him. Shame on everyone else.

If you first became aware of Clowney when he made his now-famous hit against Michigan, realize he was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He had 23 tackles for loss last year. Does it occur to anyone that he may not be putting up those stats this year because he's the main focus of every coach's game-plan? If you watch the kid play, you will see effort.

What has happened this week is the best illustration of what is wrong with sports journalism right now. Everyone who heard Spurrier's comments read into them and went with whatever story they wanted. Why base things on actual facts? What if the kid REALLY was hurt? That didn't seem to be an option at all.

Keith Olbermann mentioned something during his first broadcast of his new show that I've been thinking about a lot. He said "it's your story (the journalist); it's his life (the person)."

I think it's good advice we should all follow. There are plenty of real stories that should be told. Why make stories up?

54 Comments

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  • Gunnstigator Oct 9, 7:30 a.m.

    I'm no fan of Spurrier, and he should have engaged his brain before opening his mouth. This isn't the first time Clowney's effort has been questioned, though. SC stomped the Heels, but there were times during the game that Clowney appeared gassed, and there was talk of his conditioning and effort. Whatever the case may be, thank you Mandy for pointing out that journalists should check their facts and get both sides of the story before reporting.

  • KT lols at mustangs Oct 9, 8:26 a.m.

    Great article Mandy.

  • Tizu Oct 9, 8:45 a.m.

    This article is exactly what I've been saying...not only about sports media, but media in general. They make accusations and assumptions before facts are actually brought forth. If Clowney wanted to, he could easily sue for defamation of character. This is ridiculous journalism, if you want to call it that.

    Good job Mandy for telling it like it is. That I respect.

  • Objective Scientist Oct 9, 9:32 a.m.

    There are some good "objective" journalists out there... but in general my observations over the past decade or so is that the "media" (for whom journalists work) sensationalizes anything and everything it can... because that inceases viewership, readers, etc. - which makes the financial bottom line better for both "media" and journalists. At times it seems the journalist(s) either are ignorant of the facts or they choose to ignore the facts.... be it politics or sports or anything in between. But... the media and journalists are not alone in deserving criticism. We - the viewer, readers, etc. - are at least equally to blame if we always buy into the hyperbole and sensationalism... and we never question what and how the journalist(s) are saying/doing. Additionally, the "media" - in general - "market" their journalists as "celebrities"... and since when do we regard celebrities as objective and unbiased reporters of anything? Watch any local and/or national news cast today... and their "promos" - commercials outside of the actual newscast each day that "market" themselves as "celebrities" - from the anchors to the weather people to the sportscasters! I'm old enough to recall Walter Cronkite signing off with "And that is the way it is the day's date." - and Walter typically reported the news objectively and without sensationalism... and I do not ever recall him being promoted/marketed in the same fashion as journalists are today.

    The "Clowney" situation - who knows what is really going on inside his head and/or Spurrier's or anyone? A college football player who is acknowledged as having clear "NFL" potential is likely playing at the collegiate level in order to "showcase" his talent - and further develop it - to increase his likelihood of the big payday in the "pros". Yet... he reaches a point at which he does not want to play collegiately anymore because of the risk of injury that could jeopardize his NFL big payday? Insane!

  • dmccall Oct 9, 9:44 a.m.

    "had his name drug through the mud for four day"

    *dragged

    The original problem with the Clowney situation is how the media made him THE story of the summer. All the guy has done is play pretty good football with one signature hit. It didn't warrant all of the attention, and perhaps raises unfair expectations of the player.

    I wish that the sports media would not talk AT ALL about football in the summer, and wait until 4 weeks of the regular season have been ACTUALLY PLAYED before ranking teams. Too much of football rests on completely baseless media activity in the summer.

  • BB5 part deux Oct 9, 9:49 a.m.

    "Does it occur to anyone that he may not be putting up those stats this year because he's the main focus of every coach's game-plan?" MM

    Very good point, MM. I've read articles about him, seen some of the comments the SC coaching staff has made, & it's easy to form an opinion based on what those close to him are saying. Fact is, when a player proves he is a cut above, opposing coaches/players prepare for that player differently. In addition, it's unrealistic for fans to keep expecting players to have "off the charts" seasons every year. Most of your good players will have good years most of the time, the occasional "off the charts" stuff, & it all works out in the end. In defense of Clowney, he has to be under tremendous pressure at this point, whether it's from his coaches, teammates, or SC fans. Finebaum is just another clueless critic.

  • BigfootBeliever Oct 9, 9:53 a.m.

    WORD

  • LUKECAGE Oct 9, 10:12 a.m.

    Best article I've read on this site in a loooonnngggg time!!!! Great job Mandy, keep up the outstanding work!!! Look forward to reading more of your columns!!!

  • GoHeels1969 Oct 9, 10:35 a.m.

    I find it hilarious that Mandy Mitchell is all upset about people criticizing Clowney when she works for a station that has dragged Carolina athletes through the mud (albeit for their poor decisions) over the past 3 years. Look in the mirror, Mandy.

  • nctaxguy Oct 9, 10:41 a.m.

    MM's husband still lives in Cola and her hubby hosts one of the main sports radio talk shows in that market (the home of one University of South Carolina). I wonder if she's biased? Hmmm.........

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