The Kinder Garden - 12/21/01

The number of topics around Mountaineer sports seem to run in cycles. For a few days, nothing. Then, an explosion of issues.

There are tons of things to write about this week, including the men's basketball team's struggles, recruiting (as always), the fast-rising wrestling program, and the new football co-defensive coordinators.

However, I'm going to focus on one issue in this column - the traditional media outlets and how they cover WVU sports.

The sparkplug, of course, was a recent column by a Morgantown sportswriter who ripped WVU freshman point guard Jonathan Hargett for poor play.

There is no denying that Hargett has not played well. I don't see any problem with saying so, or identifying Hargett by name. What I (and many others) do have a problem with is the tone, the nastiness, and the bitterness which oozed from the column in question.

Gibes about head coach Gale Catlett doing Hargett's laundry, comparisons to Jerry West (which Hargett, of course, has never made, but which were assigned to him by others), snide asides about his classroom performance, and intimations that he is being coddled all contributed to the overall aura of ugliness. An extraneous parting shot at departing quarterback Brad Lewis added an extra dose of venom.

It's not as if this is the first time a point guard has been left in a game while playing poorly. Tim Lyles had a nine turnover game last year, and Catlett left him in. Was Lyles being coddled?

Marcus Goree served a six minute penalty for being late to a practice during his senior season. Hargett served a ten minute penalty for the same infraction. Was Goree being treated with kid gloves?

Also, comparing Hargett's transgression with Garnett's, without knowing what prompted Garnett's suspension, isn't fair. How can you evaluate the sentences when you don't know what the crime was?

It's not just this one column, or that one individual. It's happening everywhere, and not just on the WVU beat. Writers and broadcasters, for whatever reason, apparently feel the need to be as outrageous and bombastic as possible. That doesn't make it right, though.

In the journalism school I graduated from, (that would be WVU, by the way, so yep, I'm a homer) I was lucky enough to be instructed by a star array of professors. They taught me to be fair and to report what happened. They also taught me that its difficult to remain objective, because we are human. That keeping your opinions out of your work is difficult. I understand that.

Those rules also extended to columns, which are, of course, opinion pieces. However, those opinions, which should have some basis of fact behind them, should not be an invitation to say anything you want, or in any fashion.

I know that's not the way many columnists treat them. Today, a column is the newspaper's version of talk radio. Say anything you want, then hide behind the "it's a column" defense.

Many media members also fall back on the tired "you only want good news" defense. That is, that Mountaineer (or any fans) only want to hear about what's right with the program.

In my admittedly less broad experience, that's just not true. We get lots of email and messages here wanting to know about both the good and the bad of WVU sports. We are accused, at times, of being too positive.

What we see is that Mountaineer fans want fair coverage. They don't want to see smart aleck comments, cute references or veiled innuendoes. They want solid content. They want crisp writing and sharp analysis, not personal attacks.

I'm sure this piece, if it's read at all, will be viewed by most as just another defense by a "shill" for WVU. That's not the case, but there's probably not a lot I can do to change that opinion. I am critical of WVU when they make errors, either on or off the playing fields. I just hope that I never sink to the point where the message I'm trying to convey gets lost in a sea of cheap shots.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blue & Gold News or

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