I was skimming across my television channels this week, and all I could find, click after click, was reality TV. I found this weird, because I was only inhabiting the sports channels.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but the world of sports and low-budget melodrama have bound together in some great, high-decibel singularity. I wonder if we’ll ever be able to separate the two.
On a national level, nothing was more TruTV this week than the whole Greg Schiano fiasco. The University of Tennessee offered Schiano, known primarily for his head coaching stints at Rutgers and with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a similar position in Knoxville. But students and alumni went nuts, launching an impromptu social-media campaign to express their outrage.
It worked. The university rescinded its offer.
It reminded me of a show called “You the Jury” that my friend worked on in LA last year. Real court cases were “tried” by real attorneys in front of a studio audience. But instead of a Judge Judy unilaterally handing down determinations, the audience got to vote on the outcome, and its decisions were binding. Fox financed an entire season of episodes, but aired only two of them.
The Schiano affair was like a coaching search played out before the same audience. They voted, and he lost. The subsequent handwringing — is Schiano a creep who failed to report abuses by Jerry Sandusky at Penn State, or did mob rule claim a respected football coach? — only added to the drama, as has the Volunteers’ inability to find a backup candidate. (Also, if you are able to coach the Volunteers in 2018, please email the UT athletic department with experience and salary demands.)
Locally, the biggest story of the week involved a wide receiver who will miss a game for the Raiders. It wasn’t Amari Cooper, who is in the concussion protocol, because that would be drab. It was Michael Crabtree, who helped create a Bay Area version of Project Runway by starting a melee against the Denver Broncos last Sunday when opposing cornerback Aqib Talib ripped his gold necklace from his neck.
The University of Miami has a turnover chain. Michael Crabtree has a takeaway chain. He wears it, and Talib takes it away, at least once a year. The Raiders won, and desperately need to win again this week, but these details have been lost in the buzz over whether Crabtree would be suspended, and for how long. One game, as it turns out. He’ll be back for Episode 13.
If you’re looking for a return to normalcy, don’t count on the team coming to Oakland to play the Raiders on Sunday.
This week, the New York Giants benched their quarterback, Eli Manning, who took them to two Super Bowl victories and had started 210 consecutive games. Every high-profile athlete reaches the end of the line. Nothing new here. But this one played out like an episode of MTV’s Real World, with Manning fighting back tears in front of his locker and suggesting it was time to move out.
Down in Santa Clara, meanwhile, the 49ers have turned to Jimmy Garoppolo as their starting quarterback. Have you seen Garoppolo? He looks like he drove to team headquarters directly from the set of The Bachelor, or The Bachelorette, or The Bachelorino, or whatever permutation of the franchise is currently trending.