Great Moments in Press Conference History: OSU Head Coach Mike Gundy
The national sports media always has the most powerful outlet possible to express their feelings on games, teams, players, and coaches. Columnists have the power of the pen- or more specifically, the keyboard- and editors are the gatekeepers to their thoughts. This relationship is mostly one that results in solid reporting or strong opinion-based arguments. But sometimes, the wrong column is allowed to see the light of day. There are often times when columnists use their power to judge players’ character based on speculation, and sometimes because of a handful of unrelated incidents. That is precisely the case with Oklahoman reporter Jenni Carlson, who published this column in September of 2007 about then-Oklahoma State quarterback Bobby Reid. The article prompted a fiery tirade from OSU head coach Mike Gundy that immediately found its place very high on the list of most intense blow-ups in the history of press conferences.
The main point of the article- published on a Saturday, the same day as OSU’s 49-45 win over Texas Tech, with a front-page headline- was to examine and note Reid’s personal attitude as the reason that he had been replaced the previous week as starting QB by Zac Robinson. She notes in the opening paragraphs that while Reid was waiting by the team charter, he was being fed chicken from his mother. Apparently, this was the most important part of her piece and the basis of her argument, because she mentions it again in one of the closing paragraphs. She convinced herself that she had discovered the true reason behind Reid’s replacement.
She makes judgments on Reid’s performance in recent games and makes loose ties to his spotty injury history and comments about his nerves before games. She calls his toughness into question, assuming he could have played through certain injuries. She characterizes Reid as someone longing to be “coddled.” The article would make one think she is writing about a member of the Dallas Cowboys. But no, this is about one of the Oklahoma State University Cowboys.
As someone who has minimal access to the OSU locker room, never had a child of her own, and probably had never been in such a pressure-packed situation as Reid, she seems unaware of how unjust it was of her to make such judgments over a loose collection of facts. She is making her own connection between these unrelated threads.
Even if Reid was replaced because of his inability to handle pressure situations or lack of maturity, nobody confirmed it. So is this chicken thing any reason to follow through with a largely baseless argument against him? Apparently not, as Coach Gundy was furious and wanted to puke over the whole story.
To have run this column on game day was a big, unnecessary distraction for Reid, Gundy and the rest of the OSU team. The headline (“QB Change: All About Attitude”) stated Reid’s opinion as if it was a reported fact, when in reality it was a conjecture formed off the basis of a collection of moments and hear-say. The Oklahoman must have never gotten the memo about reporting based on facts and quotes, not rumors.
Although college players just happen to have a bigger profile in sports than players below their level, it doesn’t make them viable targets for ridicule of their character over no serious wrongdoing. Reid didn’t commit a crime here. He didn’t get caught using steroids or illegal drugs. He didn’t beat his girlfriend or get a DUI. He ate chicken…How exactly does this moment trigger in a writer’s head that this is the defining moment of Reid’s character? And for the editor, that it’s worth embarrassing the kid on the front page of your sports section?
The Cowboys won a wild game that day on a 4th-quarter touchdown pass from Robinson, but once the press had their time for post-game questions, Gundy had other things on his mind. Reid’s mother had passed the article on to him earlier that day, and he made sure his voice was heard.
With the way Gundy shifts the volume of his voice in his explosive diatribe directed at Reid, it’s almost like he’s cutting a promo for WWE. But he has very strong and real things to say about Reid and the media in general. In my opinion, he made a mistake to generalize all newspapers as “garbage” over this one single article. But he had every right in the world to defend his player and quell any false judgments made by Reid in her column. I’m sure Reid took a long, hard look at her own character after being called out in such a hard, direct, and public manner.
The applause for Gundy at the end indicates that the rest of the media members in the room gave him a mulligan for vilifying all newspapers, so I will do the same. In the heat of such moments, when emotions are running high, extreme generalizations can be made. But Gundy stood by his statements in follow-up interviews, and had no reason to apologize to Reid or explain himself.
Gundy may not understand that this kind of stuff happens more often in bigger media markets, but he still had a right to be upset. The extreme level of anger and intensity from Gundy only further proves the invalidity of Carlson’s judgments of Reid. He may have been being fed chicken from his mother, but who is she to judge his entire character based on that one moment? And furthermore, to use that one moment as the main component of her speculations?
I feel the Oklahoman also did the right thing in standing by Reid and her journalistic integrity. This article is by no means something over which someone needs to be suspended or fired. But Gundy’s reaction at the press conference is where the truth of this matter rings the loudest.
I think I’ve riffed enough on this one. Check out the classic press conference moment in this video:
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