Recently, University of Florida football coach Urban Meyer angrily scolded Orlando Sentinel reporter Jeremy Fowler. Fowler apparently quoted player Deonte Thompson, who compared former Gator quarterback Tim Tebow and current quarterback John Brantley. An edited version of the quote left the impression that Thompson held Tebow in low esteem. This outraged a very protective Meyer, who expressed his anger towards Fowler. Here's how the story unfolded:
"You never know with Tim," Fowler quoted Thompson on his blog. "You'll think he's running, but then he'll just come up and pass it to you. You just have to be ready at all times. With Brantley, everything's with rhythm, time. Like, you know what I mean, a real quarterback . . . ."Meyer let Fowler know how he felt. It was not a diplomatic moment. And, in my opinion, Meyer definitely needed to calm down. See the video footage below.
Then, two things happened: A truncated version of the quote appeared on various sports blogs, and it spread quickly. Ripped out of context, it sounded as if Thompson were using "real quarterback" against Tebow, the way my wife might contrast me with Sean Connery, who she thinks is a "real man."
A friend and admirer of Tebow, Thompson was mortified when he came under real criticism from some real Gators fans and real devout Tim worshippers who did not get his intended meaning.
Yet, based on this single incident -- and the video only shows a brief moment of interaction between Meyer and Fowler -- journalism professor Roy Peter Clark has morphed into a mental health expert and deemed Meyer unfit for coaching. Writing for ESPN, Clark argues:
University of Florida head football coach Urban Meyer has proved himself to be a bully and a hypocrite. His threats against an Orlando Sentinel reporter, Jeremy Fowler, on Wednesday confirm the coach's emotional instability, a sign that he may have been allowed to return way too early from his medical leave of absence.Oh, Clark -- give us all a break! It is one thing to argue that Meyer was over the top. It is another thing to diagnose him with a mental illness, especially when you lack the credentials to make such a decision.
Clark's remedy for this situation is even more ridiculous than his criticism. He wants Meyer to apologize to Fowler and exalt journalists with a phony speech:
The dean of the journalism school should ask the president of the university to call Meyer on the carpet and make him apologize to Fowler in front of the other reporters. Meyer, if he had the guts, would then march over to the J-school and make this promise:
"Journalism students and teachers: I believe in good journalism and the First Amendment. I and my team have benefited from it. I believe that graduates of the journalism school are just as important as graduates of the football program. We're going to work with the players on their media skills so they can become successful professionals. The coverage you provide them, good or bad, will make them stronger. When we think you got it wrong, we'll tell you. We may even shout. But we'll never threaten or bully you. Our players are not children. They are men. We want them to learn how to be responsible for their words and actions, even as we hold journalists responsible for theirs."Then they could all kiss and make up -- right? Clark seems desperate to make a serious controversy where only a minor one (possibly) exists. He is slinging baseless allegations of mental unfitness and constitutional violations, for what seems to be an uncharacteristic moment of extreme anger by Meyer. Yet, he is condemning the coach for a lack of professionalism. Clark's over-the-top analysis of the situation, however, is even more exaggerated and melodramatic than Meyer's response to Fowler. Maybe Clark is the real hypocrite.
Here's the video:
UPDATE: Clark's argument -- that Meyer is mentally unfit and needs to apologize -- is spreading like wild fires. See, e.g., UGA: The Junkyard Blawg. Fittingly, this website offers the only dissenting perspective.
Correction: Earlier, this article mistakenly identified Chris Low, not Roy Peter Clark, as the author of the ESPN article. Thanks to a reader for pointing out this error.