FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Fifteen straight years in sports media are coming to a close. June 30 is the last day for SEC Country and its cousins across the Cox Media Group umbrella. When it leaves, so do I.
Not forever. Definitely for a while. Two young kids and another full-time job means I need a break from the madness of sportswriting. I’m fortunate that way. Many of my colleagues are not, so I shall not dwell on those circumstances.
For those 15 years, I have tried my absolute best to tell quality stories, report things the public needs to know, show complete and utter honesty in my work and columns, and, most importantly, keep the feet of those I cover to the fire. Most times it was fun. Yes, even covering football was fun. Sometimes. A little.
So here is a short look back on my nearly two years with SEC Country. A countdown of my favorite 10 pieces from the company. They span the range from serious and important to goofy and absurd.
Thanks for coming. Make sure the rest of the Arkansas media contingent does its job, will ya? Don’t let the university and its people snow you.
10. Austin Allen’s body wasn’t built for this
The downfall of Bret Bielema’s on-field tenure was his offensive line. Whether that was simply a misfire on the players or a poor hire in former offensive line coach Kurt Anderson, hard to say. But Arkansas didn’t stand a chance if its quarterback, Austin Allen, couldn’t stand upright.
9. Signing Day is stupid
It is. I have written a column like this every year since 2012. Still, we all continue under the guise that amateur sports are truly amateur, and we (all) are not taking advantage of high school students for our personal well-being.
8. Arkansas hockey made nationals
Hockey is the only sport I still actually enjoy as a consumer. It was fun to write a piece on the Razorbacks’ club team.
7. Somewhere along the line, sports became about us instead of them
Do not stick to sports, American college athletes. Randy Ramsey didn’t. Kudos.
6. If William Shakespeare watched football
Truth is, I’m not a terribly talented writer. But I do enjoy references. Pop culture ones or otherwise. When Arkansas lost to Missouri — the first game of the downfall of Bret Bielema — I crammed as many Shakespeare drops as I could into the piece that followed. Fortunately, I was able to do it again on my last game story for the company: the baseball National Championship Game on Thursday. I prefer this one, however.
5. Treat people better
Arguably the most important piece I wrote while covering Arkansas. The Malik Monk hatred was real and palpable. Hating, or hating on, people who do things you don’t like has to stop.
4. Predictions, predictions, predictions
Critics claim, as they do to all sportswriters they disagree with, that said sportswriter has no idea what he’s talking about. He or she doesn’t know sports. On the contrary, I was batting almost 1.000 in my predictions about the Razorbacks. Games are simple, really. You just have to be paying attention.
3. Write the pieces they don’t want written
We, reporters, should not cover teams we like. We also should not be friends with the people we cover. It skews perspective. Remember the old adage: Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.
2. The University of Arkansas will keep feeding on its supporters’ unwavering support
For a three-week period in late November and into December, Arkansas athletics was a shambles.
1. The best and most important piece I wrote at SEC Country.
It isn’t the best and most important piece because it’s about Bret Bielema. It’s the best and most important piece because it’s the most important piece. You, dear ladies and gentlemen, must not allow the University of Arkansas (or any other university) dictate its terms. If it does something wrong, it needs to be called out for that. If it treats someone badly, it needs to be called out for that.
Find a voice of reason wherever you are able in the media. Find someone who is willing to speak the truth, to blow the whistle, to tell things how they are. It’s more important now than ever, across the country.