Thursday, November 22, 2007

Don't Let the Media Manipulate Your Thoughts

Never forget - a newspaper's goal is to sell more papers. Everything they do is to generate enough interest from customers to convince them to buy or subscribe a paper. In doing that in the era of 1800 channels of nothing on TV, 24/7 internet, gazillions of blogs, etc, the days of just "reporting the news" disappeared. Now you have to publish opinion pieces under the guise of editorialism. You need "talking heads". In the sports world, it's no different and maybe even worse.

However, these opinion pieces often times border on twisting the truth to fit a story or finding writing gimmicks to convince you of things that didn't happen............. all in the name of selling papers.

A perfect example of this was an editorial in the Atlanta Journal Constitution written by Jeff Schultz this week. It is titled "Gailey, Tech AD not using same playbook" and I suggest you read the article first, then come back and read my complete breakdown of how Jeff is trying to paint a picture that isn't there. The bottom-line is that a conflict between the head coach and the AD makes for good stories, so these guys are playing it to the max.

I wouldn't normally do something like this, but I was so dumbfounded by the idiocy of this article, I felt compelled to break it down. So here we go into the world of make-believe, selling newspapers and mind manipulation:

The article begins by painting a picture for you in a lunchroom:

This isn’t to suggest Dan Radakovich and Chan Gailey ever actually pondered a food fight in the Georgia Tech cafeteria. But it certainly looked like a symbolic snapshot on the state of Tech football when the athletics director and coach sat down for lunch Tuesday at adjacent tables at the same time — back to back, a foot apart, looking in opposite directions.

Gimmick #1. Schultz takes a scene in a likely innocent scene in a lunchroom and uses it as a writing gimmick to convince you about the nature of the relationship between Dan Radakovich and Chan Gailey. In fact, his first statement is cleverly worded to set the stage. He could have opened the article by writing "This isn't to suggest that Dan Radakovich and Chan Gailey don't get along, but it certainly looked.....". However, that would be much less effective and it would have been very clear that HE was just stirring up trouble.

By saying "This isn't to suggest that DR and CH ever actually pondered a food fight......... But it looked like a symbolic snapshot...." he is very subliminally convincing you that a bad relationship already exists and that at this point it just hasn't come to blows. That's his first attempt at manipulating your mind.

So let's move on to paragraph #2:

Then again, there’s really not a lot for them to talk about these days. Between Radakovich’s increasingly evasive, if not chilly, comments on Gailey’s future, and the Yellow Jackets’ increasingly suspect performances leading up to this week’s Georgia game, these aren’t great circumstances to bond at the salad bar.
Did you see Jeff do it again? Did you see him use one unrelated fact to convince you of another? The fact that Dan Radakovich has "increasing evasive, if not chilly comments on Gailey's future" only means that D-Rad is being tight-lipped to the media. However, Jeff has carefully worded his comment to try and use D-Rad's non-media-friendly comments to try and convince you that he is non-friendly with Chan Gailey. I get it Jeff - because D-Rad is evasive to the public media about a man's future, that must mean he doesn't get along with the man. Yeah, whatever.

Are you starting to see what I'm seeing? Jeff is trying to manipulate your mind because that is what will sell papers. A conflict between D-Rad and CG probably sells more papers. Since there is no evidence to support this claim, he just writes and "editorial" and uses some writing gimmicks to create his premise.

However, he's not done yet. Let's move to paragraph #3:
Radakovich is the boss. Gailey is the employee he inherited. It starts there. It always starts there.

Now Jeff is trying to use this fact to support his premise. The new AD comes in and inherits a football coach he didn't want. There's the conflict he wants you to buy into. He doesn't want you to buy into the premise that the AD wants to win and the coach wants to win. He wants you to buy into D-Rad's ego - that it is more important to D-Rad to win with HIS guy than just win period......... ".Gailey is the employee he inherited. It starts there. It always starts there.". For Jeff, he is definitely just getting started.

The only real kernel of truth in the article:
College athletics have changed significantly over the past few decades. There’s more television, more opportunities for revenue, increased recruiting pressures and a greater demand to win. Now.

Fact? Yes. Relevance to this story? I'm just not sure.

Now more support for his premise that D-Rad's ego trumps all:

The ripple effect: Because the lines between college and pro sports are blurred, athletics directors are more like owners or general managers. They want to put their own imprint on a program. They want to hire their own guy.
Ah, there it is......... Jeff is now flat out telling you that it is more important to D-Rad to hire his guy than to win with the guy that's there. Well, let me ask you something. If it is so damn important for D-Rad to hire "his own guy", then why hasn't he done it yet? Why has he extended the contract of EVERY single head coach of every program that has come up for negotiation since he became AD?

Why did D-Rad extend the contract THIS MONTH of softball head coach Sharon Perkins?

"Sharon Perkins is the coach to continue building our softball program," Radakovich
said. There is a solid foundation in place with the strong recruiting class that Sharon has assembled. Her continued drive towards excellence and winning championships has our student-athletes and administration excited about the program's future."

Why did D-Rad give lady hoops coach Michelle Joseph a new contract?

"MaChelle Joseph is the coach to continue building our women's basketball program," said Radakovich. "There is a solid foundation in place with the strong
recruiting classes that MaChelle has assembled. We are enthusiastic about the
future and the potential of the program."

Why did D-Rad give beesball head coach Danny Hall a contract extension?

"Danny Hall is one of the top baseball coaches in the country," said Radakovich.
"He did an outstanding job this season to take his team to the World Series despite some significant injuries. He wins consistently, and he does it with players who are good students and great representatives of Georgia Tech."

I think I made my point. If it is SSSSOOOO important for D-Rad to have "his guy" running every program, then why has he extended the contract of every head coach he inherited since he took the AD job? You know why? Because winning is probably MORE important to D-Rad that ego. I would put my premise up against Jeff Schultz's though, because 100% of the evidence supports my conclusion. Of course you don't need any "evidence" when you are writing editorial pieces. You don't even have to pick up the phone to make a stinkin' call. Just make stuff up.

Now comes more conflict building based on absolutely ZERO bit of evidence. A case made on a foundation of sand:

This doesn’t mean Radakovich is either shortsighted or an egomaniacal administrator (or both). But at the very least, he is like anybody else who runs a business: He wants employees who match his level of passion, his energy and his style.

An insurance salesman who rises at 5:30 a.m. tells himself, “Somebody is going to buy something today,” and is in the office by 7 — he will hire clones one day when he’s in charge.

Gailey and Radakovich couldn’t seem more different. One wants to win. The other makes it a mandate. One has desire. The other moves through the day like his hair is on fire.

More writing gimmicks to try and convince you that because D-Rad didn't hire Chan Gailey, he isn't the same type of guy as D-Rad. Jeff has just tried to convince you that D-Rad has a significantly higher level of passion for Georgia Tech football than Chan Gailey.

He also tried to do some contrast and comparison to try because part of developing a good story is having a good guy and a bad guy. The old protagonist / antogonist high school English bit. He doesn't say that Gailey is "bad", but he tries to convince you that D-Rad is this flaming workaholic while Chan Gailey is just lazy. Oh, he didn't say "lazy"............. but he did.

..... and I'm sorry, "one wants to win. One makes it a mandate". Uhhmm, that's the most idiotic thing I've ever heard. "I am Commander Radakovich and I DEMAND victory." Give me a break.


Both are good men. Both want the same thing. But when Radakovich rises at 5:30, and is sitting in his office at 7, and is trying to figure out how to get people excited about Georgia Tech football, do you really believe he is thinking about Gailey?

Radakovich came from LSU.

He worked with Nick Saban.

He liked Nick Saban.

Why? Because Saban charged into his job daily like Radakovich charged into his.

More work by Schultz to establish D-Rad at the protagonist and Chan as the antagonist. He starts of with this bit about both being good guys, but then he once again attempts to paint Coach Gailey as lazy and lacking passion. He once again subliminally tells you that D-Rad is at work at the crack of dawn while Chan Gailey is pushing the snooze button for the 10th time. Then Jeff Schultz decides to grace us with his personal knowledge of why D-Rad liked Nick Saban. His proof? None. No quotes. Just his own opinion presented as fact.

This is the South. Football’s kind of big. Maybe the success and the visibility of Tech football hasn’t always been there, but Radakovich isn’t going to accept that it can’t always be there. In his mind, things get better or he has failed. He wants the guy who lives in Midtown to walk down the street on a college football Saturday and buy a ticket. He doesn’t want empty seats. He doesn’t want seats filled by opposing fans (which will be a problem this week).

I'm sorry, but does anyone think Chan Gailey believes he has succeeded if he doesn't make the program better? Does anyone believe Gailey doesn't want to sell more tickets? Do you think Chan roots for empty seats? Do you think Chan wants opposing fans filling the seats?

Of course not, but this is more effort to paint D-Rad as the good guy here.

Now comes a serious attempt further drive the wedge:

Tech-Georgia hasn’t been competitive. The Bulldogs have won six straight meetings, the past five when it’s Gailey vs. Mark Richt.

The Bulldogs are coming off wins over Florida, Auburn and Kentucky, maintain hopes of an SEC title game and could be headed to the Sugar Bowl. The Jackets are coming off unimpressive performances against conference flotsam Duke and North Carolina and are looking at the Emerald Bowl. Not hard to guess which fan base is jacked up.

Hasn't been competitive? HASN'T BEEN COMPETITIVE? Are you idiot are just a complete a-hole? Look, I know that we have lost 6 in a row, but lordy, please don't sit there and try to convince me that the series hasn't been competitive.

  • In 2006 Georgie wins by 3 points on a freak fumble play for a TD and a game-winning drive with less than 2 minutes to go? That's not competitive?
  • In 2005 Tech lost by 7 points after DJ Shockley threw a TD with about 3 minutes to go to take the lead. Reggie Ball drove us downfield only to throw an INT at the goalline to end the game. That's not competitive???
  • In 2004 Tech loses by 6 points on the famous Reggie Ball / Patrick Nix "can you count to 4" game, where we miscounted downs and threw the ball OB to end the game on a potential game-winning drive.

Here's my point - these games have been nail-biters. Tech hasn't gotten the W's, but that does NOT mean the series isn't competitive. But again, Jeff's point is to drive the wedge between Gailey and D-Rad, so let's ONLY focus on the wins/losses.


Rivalry games define success. But when asked Tuesday about the impact of winning or losing such games, Gailey said: “I don’t know that I have the answer to that question.”

This one just plain ticked me off. Why? Because here's what Chan Gailey REALLY said:

"I don't know that I have the answer for that question. I think that rivalry games are huge games. They are big games, whether they are in-state or like Ohio State-Michigan or Texas-Oklahoma, they are huge games. Everybody puts a lot of weight on them and everyone takes a lot of pride in winning them, and it hurts when you lose them. When you don't win, it makes you feel bad and everyone around you feels bad. When you win them, everyone feels good about them. You live with it for 365 days and you have to go try again the next year."

When a writer manipulates the press quotes of a head coach in order to support his made-up premise, that just pisses me off. The spirit of what Chan Gailey said about that question was contained in the entire paragraph, not the first sentence. But of course that wouldn't work to his advantage, so he just used the parts that by themself made Gailey look bad.


Make no mistake: These losses have been huge. It’s one more thing for Radakovich to think about. It speaks to direction.

At this point you wonder if even an upset Saturday would sway Radakovich to conclude that Gailey is the guy he wants for this program. It wouldn’t seem there are many people on the fence about Gailey. Fans are pretty well entrenched on one side or the other.
What do you mean - these losses are one more thing for D-Rad to think about? Huuh?Jeff, they're the only thing driving this entire discussion. If we're winning more games, you're not writing this article. And you know what, I would be severely disappointed if this game ultimately makes the decision for D-Rad. It's another datapoint, not the end-all-be-all.


Now it’s up to Radakovich. Asked about being left hanging by his boss, Gailey said: “Hey, my job is to do the best I can to win football games, and do what’s right for the kids and right for the program. Anything else I can’t control.”

The coach sets the tone for his program.

The athletics director sets the tone for his coaches.

Right now, there’s little reason to think two-part harmony

The coup-de-gras and final stamp on this stinking pile of doo-doo.

In all this, I want to make one thing clear - my rant has nothing to do with supporting Chan Gailey. It is all about calling out the media, which has no accountability when it comes to stirring the pot.

Jeff Schultz wrote an editorial where he used trickery, falsehood and gimmicks to convince you that Dan Radakovich is a fire-breaking, Tech loving, all out winning, workaholic, upstanding leader of men. At the same time he tried to convince you that Chan Gailey is a lazy, low spirited, unmotivated coach who accepts mediocrity. He also tried to get you to believe that these two men do not get along, which formed the basis for his play.

Let's establish some facts

-Chan Gailey is not a lazy coach
-Jeff Schultz IS a lazy writer
-D-Rad wants to win
-Chan Gailey wants to win
-Jeff Schultz has no idea about the nature of the relationship between CG and DR.
-Very few people know the truth about their relationship

You know, maybe I'm giving Schultz too much credit for crafting an article to manipulate your mind. More likely he's just a lazy writer who has found a formula to get attention that requires very little real work. Dennis Dodd found his gimimck in his yearly "worst coaches" list. Tony Barnhardt shows us his gimmicks each week with his cheesy predictions and top 5 lists.

Here's my suggestion to fans when it comes to following Tech sports:
1. Read for the weekly press conference quotes from Coaches and players. The press releases here show quotes in their entirety and nothing but the quotes. Therefore YOU get to decide what it means and not have a writer with an agenda deciding what it means.
2. Only read Atlanta Journal Constitution stories if they fall into a couple of categories. One - player interest stories. Media people get slammed for writing negative stories on student-athletes, so if you see a story about one of our players, 99% chance it's a positive, human interest type story. Two - if it's a miscellaneous game notes article, you can learn some actual facts about the team - injury reports, etc.
3. Avoid "columns". These are editorial in nature. Mike Knobler, Mark Bradley, Jeff Schultz, T.Moore, F.Bisher, Matt Winklejohn. They'll occassionally write good ones, but more often than not they are taking pot-shots. However, they have on their personal agendas NOT to be viewed biased, so they will make conscious decisions to write some good, some bad stories.
4. When you read a story, make sure you filter every sentence against your personal BS filter. Don't get fooled into believing something is true because it is in print. Read carefully and use your head. Heck, that goes for this site and anything you read.
5. Contrary to what you might think, the AJC does a better job reporting Tech now than they've done in years. Just don't forget that their job is to sell papers, so they're going to stir up crap on a regular basis. It's a proven formula, so they'll keep doing it.

I will leave you with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Jeff, you are not the strong man.
You are not the doer of deeds.
You are not in the arena.
Your face is pristine.
You don't know victory nor defeat.

You my friend........... are the critic.