Journalist Demands Of Potential Source: More Message Discipline Now!


Earlier this week, I noted the firing of the president of Ohio State for making frank, funny comments in a private meeting relating to the big money business of college sports. The weird thing these days is not that big powerful institutions like Ohio State don`t like loose cannons, but that journalists have come to abhor insiders who speak their minds, too: More Message Discipline Now!

For example, here`s former financial reporter Joseph Nocera`s latest column in the New York Times. Nocera has been on a crusade against the National Collegiate Athletic Association, a perfectly reasonable target. Yet, instead of appreciating the Ohio State ex-president`s indiscretions about just how cut-throat the college sports racket is, Nocera is shocked, shocked by the insider`s leaked statements.

And, on Tuesday, E. Gordon Gee, the president of Ohio State, said he would be retiring on July 1 after some crass private remarks he made in December about other college teams were reported last week by The Associated Press. …

Let’s take Gee first. He has been a college president forever. A prodigious fund-raiser, he makes nearly $2 million a year and was named the country’s best college president by Time magazine in 2010. 

But whenever the subject is sports, Gee turns into a blithering idiot.

Huh? My impression is that Gee`s gaffes are among the best sources we have for how college sports really works. He`s like Captain Renault in Casablanca.

A few years ago, in the midst of an N.C.A.A. investigation, Gee was asked whether he was going to fire the football coach, Jim Tressel. “I just hope the coach doesn’t dismiss me,” he said.

That`s not idiotic, that`s hilariously cynical in how it reveals the power relationship at a big time football school. (Tressel had beaten archrival Michigan nine times in ten years.) Gee sounds like Captain Renault discussing his relationship with Major Strasser.

… In the most incendiary of his most recent remarks, he said that Notre Dame had never been invited to join Ohio State’s conference, the Big Ten, because “you just can’t trust those damned Catholics.” Gee has said plenty of, er, quirky things over the years, but it was his foolish comments about sports that got the headlines — and finally got him.

Gee told the Ohio State athletic council that “The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell the rest of the week.”

Is that true? It would be fun if it were.

According to a commenter, Notre Dame had once been invited to join the Big Ten, accepted, then overnight reversed its decision under pressure from big donors, leaving Big Ten presidents angry and distrustful. Is that true? I don`t know, but it would seem like a fun thing to ask Gee about now that he`s going to be unemployed.

But instead of buttering up Gee to spill more beans, Nocera is mad at him for spilling any.

In contrast to today`s establishmentarian journalists, here are some of Ben Hecht`s reminiscences of what Chicago newspaper reporters were like in 1910:

They sat, grown and abuzz, outside an adult civilization, intent on breaking windows. 

There was, I am sure, neither worldliness nor cunning enough among the lot of us to run a successful candy store. But we had a vantage point. We were not inside the routines of human greed or social pretenses. We were without politeness. There was a feast all around us. We attended it as scavengers.