Mark Richt (along with Head Athletic Trainer Ron Courson) now releases daily injury reports to the media at UGA before every practice. This includes players names, injured body part, extent of the injury, and how long they will be out/if they will be practicing that day.
Yesterday we used the case of Jeff Driskel’s sore/broken/bruised/destroyed/nicked shoulder to remind everyone — fans and media alike — that the current means of new dissemination has gone full-on wonky. Turns out, all those reports that leaned toward a serious injury for the Florida quarterback were way off-base. At least according to Florida officials. And Driskel’s mom. All of which just goes to prove that the ready-fire-aim, Twitterification of news is a bad, bad thing.
Ditto coaches’ ridiculous attempts to cut off any information they can from the media and, by default, their own teams’ fans.
In Driskel’s case, Twitter exploded yesterday with news of an injury to his non-throwing shoulder. Reports varied from a small injury to a broken scapula. Here’s a sampling:
The Palm Beach Post quoted a release from UF stating that “Jeff Driskel was a practice today and will be taking reps at practice on Wednesday.” No biggie.
The Gainesville Sun reported: “Although a source close to the Florida football program told The Sun that quarterback Jeff Driskel has sustained a ‘significant’ shoulder injury, UF released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying Driskel will practice with the team Wednesday.” The paper’s source claimed Driskel injured his shoulder Sunday, did not realize it until Monday, and the “unspecified injury” was discovered after that.
The Orlando Sentinel wrote that Driskel “was injured during practice Sunday, but he is expected to return to workouts this week.”
InsideTheGators.com — the Rivals site covering Florida — reported behind a paywall that the injury was “minor” and that Driskel “seems fine,” according to a source.
Meanwhile, USA Today went straight to the horse’s (mother’s) mouth. According to Mary Driskel, her son “told her he injured his left, non-throwing shoulder in drills on Sunday and woke up sore on Monday. She said Driskel did not practice Monday or Tuesday. He is expected to return on Wednesday.”
All that after the rampant speculation on Twitter had hyped the boo-boo into a major injury.
There are three reasons stories like this get blown out of proportion:
1. Paranoid coaches close off as much info as possible… and fans actually applaud them for it. Most NFL teams don’t close practice. Pete Carroll didn’t close practice at Southern Cal. Writers are simply expected to keep certain things quiet and when they don’t, they get booted. But the media is allowed to see who’s at practice and how healthy those persons happen to be. That hasn’t hurt NFL squads and it sure didn’t hurt Carroll at USC. Coaches who don’t like stories like Driskel’s being blown out or proportion have themselves to blame.
2. Fans — the same ones who cheer their coaches for fighting off the big, bad media — will scour the earth for every nugget, tidbit, or rumor that they can find regarding their favorite teams. Credibility doesn’t matter nearly as much as speed. “Gimme, gimme, gimme… but don’t give it to the media,” seems to be the mantra. Better to get bad info fast from a messageboard or Twitter than get good info a hair slower from trained professionals.
3. Media members know the score on all that. Twenty years ago, the goal was to research a piece and get more details than the other guys in town. Now, if you want credit, you tweet what you know when you know it. Whether you actually know it or not. That’s a bad system and a recipe for trouble and even good journalists fall victim to it. Gotta get eyeballs.
We’re all to blame, people. You, me and that coach who’s shutting his doors to journalists and the fans to whom they report.
It’s a ridiculous situation. And it’s only going to get worse and worse.