The news broke on Tuesday that Tim Brewster had communicated to KFAN that he, his coaches and his players were no longer permitted to go on the KFAN airwaves because of how he felt he and his team has been treated on said airwaves. It has since been classified as mis-communication and most of you who stop by here knew about this spat but after hearing the various hosts on the local sports radio station talk about this all week, I finally feel as though somebody needs to stick up for the Gopher football program a little bit.
First of all it really is absolutely clear that Tim Brewster handled this poorly and he created this mess. It reflects poorly on him and certainly opens him up to further criticism on more than just KFAN. I'm sure this could have handled differently.
On the other hand, it is becoming comical how up in arms the hosts on KFAN are over this. The Gopher football program is largely ignored, poorly covered and most Gopher fans feel it is very unfortunate how little coverage the team receives as the only Division 1 football program in the state. When the team is actually talked about by the show hosts it is the same cliched re-used talking points each and every time. To me it is much less about the general negative coverage as it is about the lack of coverage and usually lazy coverage.
The depth of coverage usually follows these talking points...
The Gophers play nobody in the preseason. This is the line used regardless of who is actually played and regardless of how talented the opponent actually is. Some schedules have been terrible, but the point is that this is used without spending any time looking at the teams on the schedule. This will be characterized as a terrible Syracuse team, a lowly non-BCD opponent, Cal who will obliterate us and then an FCS game that does nothing for us. Nevermind that this actually one of the toughest non-conference schedules among all the BCS schools this year.
The Gophers will not be ready for Big Ten play. This is usually stated without taking a real look at the talent of the Big Ten, the actual talent at each position on the Gopher roster and how we match up with these other Big Ten rosters. Once again it is just the easy route when we inevitably don't finish in the top 3.
Talk to me when they get to the Rose Bowl. This one bothers me and I'll get to this later. Talk to me when the Vikings win the Super Bowl, talk to me when the Timberwolves get to the NBA Championship. No the Fan will talk about them all day long even though they can't win a championship, but the Gophers are held to the championship standard. I get they haven't been to the Rose Bowl in a LONG time, but using that as a standard before you'll talk about them is just asinine. This team is putting pieces together, it is more talented and they have taken steps towards competitiveness over the last couple years. But few on the station will take the time to look at progress being made, instead, talk to them when we go to the Rose Bowl (unless we lose, then prepare for more ridicule about how this team caught some breaks and didn't actually belong there).
The Gophers have been terrible for decades. True, but the level of mediocrity over the last few decades has as much to do with the current season as our National Championships a couple generations ago. Once again it is MUCH easier to use this talking point than actually taking a look that team, looking at the level of talent on the roster and then trying to ascertain whether or not the season was (or will be) successful based on that, unless they go 9-3 or better and get to a great bowl they are largely ignored or ridiculed.
The lack of coverage and the lack of effort put into the minimal coverage is terrible and to then get bent out of shape when Brewster doesn't want to bend over to give them what they want is laughable. Some on the station are better than others, but overall if you are going to largely ignore the program then why do you care when the program wants to ignore you? There were many quotes about how they don't really care and this won't affect them, but it has been talked about all week and clearly they do care. The thin-skin is on both sides of this issue.
Let's take a look at some of the quotes from this week.
Paul Allen the morning he broke this story - "The first missile was launched this morning when we found out Tim Brewster will not allow coaches or players to come on this radio station because of the way he perceives he or the team has been treated. To which my response is, don't lose 55-0 to Iowa and you probably won't have problems."
PA actually repeated this line or similar line about thirteen-fourteen times during the first hour of his Tuesday program. He puts heavy emphasis that Brewster is "perceiving" some sort of negative coverage and then goes right to the don't lose 55-0 and this wouldn't be an issue. Nobody is perceiving anything. PA is proving the "perceived" negativity. Once again, though, it is less about calling out the embarrassing loss. What exactly does 55-0 have to do with the 2009 season? Clearly he is just taking a cheap-shot at the program, this is NOT uncommon and exactly why Brewster doesn't want to subject his program to KFAN.
PA - "Nothing from the commentary here, because we are professionals, nothing is going to change in the commentary because of this information. If the thing is good then the thing is good. If you beat Cal on a Monday after the Vikings go 2-0, I'll give you five minutes."
This was said slightly tongue in cheek, but we all know it is 100% true. The Vikings are going to start out 2-0 against two of the worst teams in the NFL and IF the Gophers were to upset the #7 team in the country they will get about 5-10 minutes of talk. I completely understand that this is a Vikings town and they have a very good team this season. I love the Vikings. And the station recognizes that this is a Viking's town so they get the bulk of the local coverage. But it highlights their lack of coverage and why should it really matter to them if players and coaches are not going to be on their airwaves? So then we get into more cheapshots and justification as to why they don't cover the Gophers.
Dan Cole - "Get to the Rose Bowl and then get back to me."
Dan Barreiro - "Win a fourth tier bowl first and then get back to me."
Cole's quote bothers me (probably more than it should) and Barreiro's is just a blatant cheap-shot (but nobody should be surprised). But seriously, is that the only way you will recognize this team? Especially when it comes to Minnesota sports if that is the threshold to get any effort by the hosts of KFAN then maybe that explains why we get to hear more about amateur golf, politics, legal advice and farting than we do Gopher football. The Timberwolves have accomplished nothing in their franchise history, does that mean they get no coverage on the Fan? The Vikings are notorious for never actually accomplishing anything but that isn't a good enough reason to not talk about them, nor should it be. I didn't go back to get direct quotes from either of their shows, but there were more insults and cheap-shots throughout as you can imagine.
The Gophers have been mediocre for a long, long time. But that should have nothing to do the price of a bushel of beans in 1994. Take some time to get to know the team, take some time to try and understand if 7-5 in 2008 was actually an improvement rather than just bring up 55-0 every chance you get. Spend some time to determine what would actually constitute a successful season in 2009. If Rose Bowl or bust is going to be your threshold for this team then don't ridicule the coach when he comes into town talking about that actually being a goal.
This isn't a station-wide rant. Some are better than others and I actually enjoy listening to most of the shows on KFAN. The morning show has Justin Conzemius who is a former Gopher, Corey Cove is an alum and Chris Hawkey is a season ticket holder. Thre coverage isn't all that detailed or extensive but it's as good as you'll see on the Fan.
Phil Mackey does some nice work covering the Gophers and probably puts more time into it than anybody else. As far as I could tell he was the only KFAN representative at the Air Force game last weekend. TV and newspaper people who we probably won't see in the press box again this season were there, but KFAN was represented by one, that speaks volumes in my opinion.
PA also makes an effort. The root of this whole kerfuffle is PA trying to get some ast coaches on his show, so there is at least an effort there. He does try but when this all went down a few days ago he over-reacted as thin-skinned as he was claiming Brewster had. It didn't take very long for cheap shots to flow out of his mouth as well. His tone quickly jumped from...
"We put in a fair amount of time trying to enhance the exposure of this football team going into this new stadium."
(which is kind of funny, but I digress) to
"don't lose 55-0 to Iowa and you probably won't have problems."
"Who in the hell does this guy think he is?"
He really only gives the program cursory coverage. Looking at just the Thur and Fri topics on his show he had seven Vikings segments, two Gophers, and I would bet it would be less than two if the opponent wasn't currently a top 10 team in the country. He does make an effort but it's not like he is the voice of Gopher athletics. And when things went sour he turned on the program pretty quick.
Every other program on the station ignores the Gopher football team and take cheap shots on a regular basis. That is fine, but then why are they surprised that Brewster wants very little to do with them? Or why do the care?
Ultimately I listen to KFAN on a regular basis and there are things I appreciate about every show on the air. When compared to many other media outlets in the area they are not as vindictive or outright pricks like say Mr. Ruesse. But they do ignore the program, are lazy in their coverage, take cheap shots and really shouldn't be all that surprised.
This whole issue is a two-sided problem. Brewster handled things poorly to start with and is likely being thin-skinned on the issue. But on the other side of this I'm disappointed that KFAN chose to take this one-sided conversation to the airwaves and do what they can to make the program look bad when they didn't get what they wanted. This will be fodder for ridicule in the future and you can expect the same kind of coverage you have in the past.