Monday, September 29, 2014

Crash Davis and the Art of a Brady Hoke Presser

Crash Davis: It's time to work on your interviews. 
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: My interviews? What do I gotta do? 
Crash Davis: You're gonna have to learn your clichés. You're gonna have to study them, you're gonna have to know them. They're your friends. Write this down: "We gotta play it one day at a time." 
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Got to play... it's pretty boring. 
Crash Davis: 'Course it's boring, that's the point. Write it down.

I can't listen to a Brady Hoke press conference without this scene from the baseball movie Bull Durham running through my mind. I guess if this was a good season, where we were winning games and seeing the light in an improving Michigan program, I would hardly notice a Hoke presser. The light, however, is actually a dumpster fire and Brady Hoke and his boss, AD David Brandon, have definitely learned their clichés.

Cases in point, the Michigan/Minnesota post-game interview and today's regular meeting with the press. There was plenty to discuss and it warranted serious candor. The team was reeling from a sound thumping by Minnesota. The AD has been absorbed in controversy over lagging ticket sales, shady promotions, and the alienation of season ticket holders and students. And Hoke and his staff were being accused of negligence in not removing QB Shane Morris from the game after a violent late hit by a Minnesota DE left him visibly shaken and struggling to stand. Sports and news outlets across the country made this story spread like wildfire. Those covering the program regularly said a typical, less-than-forthcoming interview would hurt Hoke more than help. It was a time for honesty, explanations, and taking responsibility. No clichés.

And then this happened. The post-game interview was bloated with more meaningless babble, delusion, and improbability than a profile filled with the love of cuddly kittens and long walks at sunset. Hoke ticked off the checklist. Execute better (check). Work as a team (check). Fans have to understand how hard these kids work (check). They're good kids (check), like 115 sons to him (check). The goals are still there (check). They can still win the B1G title (check). WAIT! What? This is the exact moment my head exploded. When I knew I was no longer able to sustain even my waning support of this coach. It's important to think positively but when the butterflies and singing bluebirds flying around your head start to cloud your judgment, it's time to stop and think hard about your next comments. You just failed to defend the Little Brown Jug. You've amassed three losses before October, a first for the program which began when Rutherford B. Hayes was President. At worst, without providing evidence to the contrary, the nation thinks you put a concussed player back in the game. People wanted honest answers about what went wrong with the game plan and how the Morris situation unfolded. They wanted accountability. They got Ebby LaLoosh. "Gotta play 'em one day at a time..." 

Then Monday when everyone was expecting the final word on the Shane Morris questions, Hoke supplied little more than evasive, senseless quips while noting his entire focus now was getting ready for Rutgers. He was the perfect Hogan's Heroes Sergeant Schultz. "I know noooothing! I see nooooothing!"  He said a team of Michigan medical experts would release a report soon to explain it all, even though the report was not released until 1:00 am the next day by Brandon, not medical experts. The most laughable assertion of the presser was that Dave Brandon and Hoke had not once discussed the Shane Morris incident or any coaching performance issues in 48 hours or more since the game. The hands-on "You know I played here for Bo" Brandon who is on the sidelines during games and breaks down game film with coaches on Sunday had nothing to say to his coach about a growing PR nightmare? Not even to get their stories straight?  Ebby says "I'm just happy to be here and hope I can help the ball club. I just want to give it my best shot..." MGoGirl says BS!

This is a declining situation that hasn't seen the bottom yet. It will affect the program's future. For instance, Twitter reported a top recruit decommitted earlier on Monday. It would be surprising if others don't follow suit. Brandon and Hoke must end the PR debacle and get this team moving forward as those players and fans deserve. I hope that cool heads prevail and that the fix, if it involves firing and hiring processes, is implemented with a lot more thought than it has been in the past.  Ebby Calvin LaLoosh gets the last word "...and good Lord willing... things'll work out."

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