As the final seconds ticked off the clock Monday night, my heart grew heavy. It wasn’t just the overwhelming disappointment at having come so very close to winning the National Championship but letting it just slip away. It was also knowing college basketball season was over. After having had games available nearly every day of the week, suddenly we had none. Over two weeks remained until the UK Football Spring Game. What was the Big Blue Nation to do?
We speculated. Suddenly, everyone seemed to be an expert on which players would declare for the NBA draft and which ones would elect to spend another year in school. The speculation spread on to other elite players at other programs. Then we moved on to what impact these decisions will have on uncommitted recruits’ visits and eventual college choices. And we didn’t stop there, either. Guessing games had been ongoing for some time now as to Coach Orlando Antigua’s replacement. Now with rumors abounding that Strickland may be joining Coach O at USF, the coaching guessing game has reached new levels of enthusiasm.
But the speculation this season reached new heights, and not in a good way. It began on Monday night when, less than 2 hours before tip-off , Rex Chapman made a tweet that set the Big Blue Nation on red alert: Chapman had said his “sources” told him Calipari would be leaving Kentucky to coach the Los Angeles Lakers. It was a “done deal.” The content of Chapman’s tweet was less concerning to the BBN than the timing. Why make such an inflammatory tweet when the Cats were this close to playing for the title? Why draw the fans’ attention away from cheering for their players and instead, begin fretting over whether or not we would have a coach the following day? Of course, Rex didn’t provide satisfying answers to most of the fan base, but did acknowledge on a nationally syndicated radio talk show the following day that he had been incorrect with his “done deal” proclamation and felt Cal would be at UK for a long time.
This erroneous prediction was just a sign of things to come, however. By Wednesday, Jeff Goodman at ESPN broke the news that Julius Randle was declaring for the NBA draft. Within a short period of time, Julius Randle broke the news that he had made no decision regarding his future and was waiting to speak with his parents. Perhaps to prove he wasn’t picking on UK players, Goodman tweeted another breaking announcement on Thursday, this time, Michigan’s Nik Stauskas had declared for the draft. And, shortly thereafter, Nik Stauskas broke his own story that he had not yet made a decision either. There very well may have been other erroneous reports from other members of the media of which I am unaware, but the 3 cases I’ve noted do suggest a disturbing trend.
At some point, the media seemed to redefine their role. What used to be a job of reporting the news seemed to have morphed into the reporters becoming the news. The clear story on social media Monday night was not whether or not Calipari would go to the Lakers (this rumor was denied by both Cal and Lakers management). The story was Rex Chapman and why he chose the time he did to make his now-infamous tweet. The attention he garnered led many to speculate if this was all part of a grand master plan, designed to promote himself and/or his relatively new web site. Whether there was any merit to this claim may never be known for certain, but Chapman did gain an enormous amount of attention as he dealt with the aftermath of his inaccurate information he chose to tweet.
Ordinarily, the actions of Chapman and Goodman would mean little to me; it would perhaps elicit a chuckle as they tried to back peddle and defend their rush to report news without verified facts. But this time it made me angry. This week should have been all about the players. After enduring a season of having every move analyzed, every facial expression criticized, and just being scrutinized in general, the players had arrived at the unlikely spot of playing for the National Championship. Fans were excited for the players and for themselves. It was time for the BBN to bond and support our team that had worked so hard and grown so much. Was it really asking too much of the media to wait and let the players break their own stories?
It seems in this age of the internet and instant access to information, media members have gone into overdrive to be the first to “break” a story about players, coaches and programs. Unfortunately, in their rush to do this, information is not verified. There was a time when a journalist got a “tip,” the first thing he or she would do is seek out at least one other source that could confirm that tip. No more. The phrase “according to sources” has been used so many times in the past 2 weeks, it has made my head spin. It’s obvious that at least some of these so-called journalists have very unreliable sources, assuming they have any at all. For all we know, they are just speculating, like we in the BBN are doing, add the “according to sources” phrase and let it fly, consequences be damned.
So my plea to the real journalists out there, please maintain the standards set by your predecessors. Verify your facts, then verify them again before reporting. Try to remember when you release a story about someone, you are impacting a real, living breathing person. You are adding unnecessary turmoil to what should be a special time for them as they determine what choice they will make for their future. The page hits you may get today for your “rumor” will eventually result in a massive decline of regular site visitors as they realize your information is sketchy at best.
Above all else, remember your job is to report news. Leave the rumors to the tabloids and just let the players be. I promise, they will let you know when any decision has been made. And that’s exactly how it should be.