Sunday, August 06, 2006

Off the Record, on the QT, and very...Hush-Hush | by Dylan

Today’s Los Angeles Times features a piece by the nearly unreadable, paragraphically-challenged (only six of sixty paragraphs contain more than one sentence, two of those second sentences being a single word) über-hack Bill Plaschke in which he dips the tiniest bit of his pinky toe into the torrent of sewage flowing out of the University of South Central. Is the honeymoon over? Is the supine L.A. sports media waking up? Plaschke blurts:

USC has not reached those depths yet. But it's sinking fast.

It's one bar fight from being mentioned in the same alcohol-tinged breath as Miami.

It's one gun charge from being lumped with the rowdy likes of Florida State.

It's one DUI from reaching the current rocky top inhabited by Tennessee.

In recent years, all three teams suffered from a national championship hangover that has made their reputations pale and queasy.

Since January, USC's head has been pounding.

One Heisman Trophy winner's parents apparently violate NCAA rules.

Another Heisman Trophy winner's father definitely violates NCAA rules.

The heir to the quarterback throne is exonerated of sexual assault suspicions that arise after a night of alleged fake ID use and underage drinking.

A former defensive lineman is charged with two misdemeanor counts of spousal battery and two counts of vandalism for an alleged incident that allegedly occurred while he was a Trojan.

A defensive back tests positive for steroids, immediately quitting the team and taking his twin brother with him.

Taken separately, none of these incidents are any different than the sort of stuff that happens with every football team.

Lumped together, they are the beginnings of a trend.
Reading that made me disoriented, like when Pokemon spurred an epidemic of seizures in Japanese kids.

In just about any other town of any size (Tuscaloosa notwithstanding), one could read those poorly constructed sentence-paragraphs and come away with the impression that the bloom was falling off the rose, that the scales were falling from some eyes, or (insert any other overused “blind man sees” metaphor here). Plaschke sets up the piece in the opening, describing an aggressive damage control regime now in place:
Feeling stalked and sucker-punched, the USC football team has returned to the ring this summer with a decidedly different stance.

It's not about fighting on.

It's about keeping your guard up.

"Rule #1" reads the cryptic message across the front of their new team T-shirt.

And what is Rule No. 1?

The same rule Pete Carroll has been selling since he arrived six years ago, only now he's screaming it.

Protect Your Team.

Protect it from embarrassment. Protect it from outsiders. Protect it from itself.
Is Plaschke taking up the mantle of the late Sid Hudgens? He seems to be setting up Don Poodlino for a cannoli run. Unfortunately, this is just a sad bit of legerdemain, for Plaschke doesn’t like what he sees and jams the plank back in his eye:
"The older guys around here who are used to doing things high class, we're now taking criticism for stuff that happens off the field, and we're tired of it," senior linebacker Oscar Lua said.

"We want the controversy to end. We want to see it handled just like Coach Carroll's handling it, with an iron fist."

The veteran players indeed want it stopped.

Prominent alumni who spoke to me this summer want it stopped.

The parents who want nothing to stain their children's unique experience under Coach Pete Carroll, they want it stopped.

And usually Carroll seems to be doing his best to stop it.

Last spring, he shouted and cursed at a roomful of agents, warning them to stay legal around his players.

Last week at his annual parents' meeting, Carroll and his staff spent nearly an hour talking about NCAA rules and regulations, asking each set of parents to sign a statement that they have read them.

In every locker room meeting, every day, Carroll talks as much integrity as strategy.

"We're cutting edge on this stuff, we're working it and working it," Carroll said.

"I'm disappointed we have to deal with these questions, but we're working hard to do this better than anyone's ever done it before."
What a bunch of crap. Setting aside the unprovable assertions about players and their parents "wanting it stopped" and ignoring the ridiculousness of Plaschke’s taking Carroll at face value on the cleanliness of the program, notice the dishonesty on display by the inclusion of the Dwayne Jarrett quote with no mention of his centrality in the Leinart-Jarrett-Leinart three-way and the lack of a metion of Rey Maualuga punching a guy. In Plaschke’s half-assed account, the renegade elements of SC’s program are in the past. Never mind the internal inconsistency of that thesis and the fact that “The older guys are used to doing things high class.”

This is the ultimate in almost-journalism and punch-pulling, a style that the usually vitriolic Plaschke apparently reserves for USC.

Is there a problem at USC?


Does Pete Carroll bear ultimate responsibility?


Does Bill Plaschke want to risk his access by saying so?