By T.J. Simers
I’ve been there, slinging questions at a coach who is under pressure to keep his job. I didn’t always show a lot of empathy, demanding answers to questions that could not be answered.
Maybe I felt empowered because I felt as if I was speaking on behalf of an unhappy fan base, or maybe I was just empowered to go for the jugular of a coach who had been arrogant and condescending, knowing now he could not do that.
If I was still on the job maybe I would be doing that now, riding Chip Kelly unmercifully as Times’ beat reporter Ben Bolch did in the newspaper Tuesday morning.
I didn’t cover UCLA with Kelly on the job, but reading the LA Times and the coverage offered by Ben Bolch, it read like Kelly was arrogant, distant and not a very pleasant guy to spend time around as a journalist.
Now it reads like a reporter gleefully leading a coach to the gallows, and that’s a black mark on journalism. I know Ben, and he’s always been a black and white reporter, eliminating the gray area to leave no doubt on what he is writing.
I’ve watched him ask questions and have watched him work himself into one of the best beat reporters at the LA Times. He didn’t have the gift of gab when I worked the same stories with him, but he would dig deep to try and get the best story for the newspaper.
Some folks, and mostly other journalists, are going to say it’s not right to criticize another reporter. Journalists say that all the time because they don’t want to be criticized. But why should they be immune from the same treatment they give to the people they are covering?
I don’t know Kelly. Never covered him except from a USC or UCLA perspective when he was coaching at Oregon. The facts suggest his UCLA record is disappointing, but I know he just played a game with his third- and fourth-string quarterbacks and lost, prompting a sudden emphatic firestorm to get rid of him.
Plaschke the columnist can offer his Chip must go commentary and isn’t Brandon Staley happy UCLA lost or it would have been a Brandon Staley must go column.
I wasn’t fired, but I was pushed out and I don’t care how arrogant or condescending one might be, it hurts. Millions of dollars in a payoff might cushion the fall, but a man doesn’t work as many hours in building such a skill level as Kelly with it not hurting.
Kevin Malone, the former Dodgers general manager, lost the job he loved. I helped make that happen by relentlessly asking the question why the Dodgers were so bad and documenting his often-silly answers and the mistakes made.
I was right, but wrong in my zeal to prove I was right at Malone’s expense. He’s doing wonderful things in life now, but I see the lack of empathy in Ben Bolch’s writing that i now see upon reflection in my own.
The same with Plaschke, who loves to write about the ailing, but doesn’t mind savaging those he thinks should be fired. If someone observed Plaschke’s mistakes this past year would it be surprising if they called for his firing?
I know it’s just sports and calling for someone’s head is good sport for the talking heads on TV and an easy column to write for some.
But I expect more from Ben Bolch and other beat reporters who shape the news. Bolch began his story likening Kelly’s situation to that of Jim Mora who was fired four days after sounding like Kelly.
Bolch is ratchetting up the expectations and pressure on Kelly to be fired because Plaschke’s column gave him the right to make a story out of the Kelly must go chatter.
Fans are quick to scream for a fresh start. It’s already started at USC with Lincoln Riley who was being touted as one of the best college coaches in the land after last season. How successful would he have been playing USC’s third- and fourth-string quarterbacks?
He had the Heisman winner, and Plaschke was handing another Heisman to Williams a few weeks ago.
Journalists have become extremists because their stories are now measured in Internet hits. Too few hits, and Tyler R. Tynes might want to think about writing fewer boxing stories, and there might be questions about someone’s productivity.
More readers will read about UCLA football is there is a coaching change. It’s exciting, the different names to ponder and all that.
Ben Bolch tells us a 33-33 record is “far worse” than a 46-30 record to hammer home the point Kelly should go. He asks Kelly if he heard the boos in the Rose Bowl last week, and I didn’t see the game, but I’d probably be booing an offense that can’t score with a third or fourth string quarterback as well.
“Did Kelly fear,”’ Ben Bolch asks, fear being the operative word that he might be coaching his last game this coming Saturday? The classic, “do you beat your wife?” question.
Ben Bolch tells us “Preparation was not among the Bruins’ strengths last weekend during a 17-7 loss,” and how prepared could someone make a third- and fourth-string quarterbacks? Add up the hits.
The Bruins were upset by an inferior team if the Bruins were playing at full strength. They lost, it happens every week in sports, and now Ben Bolch makes the point “Kelly was unwilling to reflect” on his record, which gives reporters a right to hint at his ouster.
Kelly said his job is to prepare UCLA for USC, but as Ben Bolch wrote, “A reporter’s final attempt to get Kelly to assess his performance,” failed.
Been there and done that, and I was wrong.