At Thursday’s round of press conferences, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley was asked about the Tigers’ size advantage over the Oregon offensive line, and how it could be exploited in kind. Fairley responded: “Really, the size advantage is not a disadvantage for us. It is an advantage.”
And with that, the insanity that is media access to the Tostitos BCS National Championship game commenced. The great quote-gathering, story-making, angle-pursuing transcription-fest that leaves a couple hundred journalists grasping at straws and millions of interested fans swept along in its wake.
It could be argued, however, that the insanity began a day earlier with Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. Aliotti, one of the most tenured Oregon assistants and an occasionally emotional speaker, was asked if the national title game could be a high-scoring game.
Aliotti’s response: “I don’t think anything. I think that everybody is talking about it being a high scoring game so I might as well go with the status quo. What do I think? Here’s what I think: I think that there’s going to be a game on Jan. 10. Cam Newton is going to play for Auburn in a very high-powered offense. LaMichael James and Darron Thomas, et al., are going to play for Oregon in a high-powered offense. There are going to be two defenses that have to get on the field at some point in time. And the one that does the best job at stopping the other team’s offense is probably going to win. How that’s going to happen (long pause), I don’t know.”
The last minutes of Aliotti’s meeting with the media involved him getting dragged by his elbow out of the conference hall, yelling, “I’m hoping that I can talk to you after the game with a smile on myself. But I didn’t make a prediction.” The media has, perhaps, finally broken him.
Such is the case when reporters that cover Oregon football, Auburn football and (quite literally) everything in between come together to glean insight. Ducks center Jordan Holmes was asked this week, “You get to touch the ball every single play; is that kind of cool?” and “Is there something about being sort of the rough kind of outdoors guy that translates to being an offensive lineman?” (To the latter, Holmes diplomatically replied, “I’m sure there is some sort of correlation.”)
Holmes, an all-Pac-10 Conference selection, at least garners a measure of respect. Barrett Trotter is Auburn’s sophomore quarterback and Cam Newton’s backup; earlier this week he was asked if he wanted to play.
Arguably the biggest mistake reporters have made this week is interviewing Oregon defensive end Kenny Rowe.
Rowe is to verbosity as Glenn Beck is to liberalism. There is no confirmation to the rumor that Rowe’s favorite U.S. President is Calvin Coolidge, who was famously approached by a woman who had made a bet that she could get him to say three words. (Coolidge’s reply: “You lose.”) Rowe’s entire Wednesday press conference transcription checks in at a slim 214 words. Exactly 95 of those words were spoken by Kenny Rowe himself.
Friday’s media event was, literally and figuratively, more of the same. Several prominent players for each team were parceled onto different platforms, with fancy name placards and bottles of water. The featured player from each squad (Newton and LaMichael James) got a central stage, along with the two head coaches. The rest of the players sat in chairs facing the action, literally watching from the sidelines.
Reporters would approach the players, attempt to get their pertinent questions in, and leave. More popular players were surrounded by the ubiquitous semi-circle of interested journalists. Lather, rinse and repeat as often as needed.
“It’s a lot of people here,” Auburn running back Mario Fannin admitted. “I’m not sick of it, it’s more of just, sometimes they ask the same questions. It’s repetitive. But it’s not that bad.”
“You kind of getting into a routine of doing interviews and stuff like that,” Tigers offensive guard Mike Berry said. “We get a lot of media attention, but this … it’s like the most ever.”
Oregon head coach Chip Kelly did not want his players at the mercy of the media, wringing out precious remaining drops of touching story or humorous anecdote, during this week of practices. The Ducks have been off-limits but for specifically scheduled media events.
“They do a good job of just keeping us sheltered at the hotel,” Oregon defensive tackle Zac Clark said.
The media surrounding the national championship game has effectively taken all previous known information, repackaged it, retold it and cross-checked it for inconsistencies and points of potential weakness. The result is a lot of what has already been reported, just more so. And better.
Their job performance is, at least, appreciated in the eyes of one man.
“I think it’s awesome that we get to come in here and talk to the media and tell them how we feel about the game and stuff like that,” Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb said.
Good on you, Onterio. You understand the media’s unflinching commitment to its purpose of telling the stories we want to hear. That advantage is not a disadvantage, but most certainly an advantage.