Holy shit! You guys gotta read this column by Sports Illustrated writer Michael Rosenberg about University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh getting suspended by the Big 10 Conference for the rest of the season after a member of his staff was allegedly caught spying on other colleges’ teams to gain an unfair advantage against them, just a day before Michigan was going to face Penn State. Rosenberg says “The process that led to Harbaugh’s three-game suspension was a clumsy execution of mob justice, and it is by no means over,” and “Michigan should be angry. [Big 10 Conference Commissioner Tony] Petitti… got suckered into thinking he is standing up for the integrity of the game, when he is really just revealing how little he knows about college football.”
Rosenberg goes on and on with a whole host of convincing-sounding reasons about why Harbaugh shouldn’t have been suspended, like “There is no public evidence that the Wolverines benefited more from the scheme than they would have from stealing signs legally. Maybe it exists, but where is it?” and “Within the Big Ten, there is a widespread perception that two of the programs that have expressed the most outrage are Ohio State and Penn State. In related news, the two coaches who have to explain to their fan bases why they have been losing to Michigan lately are Ohio State’s Ryan Day and Penn State’s James Franklin.” That is pretty freaking damning isn’t it?
Like even if you don’t know shit about college football that’s an absolute outrage, right? Nobody who believes in common virtues of decency or fairness likes to see interested parties weaponize the rules against their opponents to gain an advantage against them and Rosenberg’s piece does a spectacular job of bringing that home to those unfamiliar with the politics of NCAA football.
They were caught cheating, in a systematic multiyear scheme that gave them an advantage. They feel they’ve been wronged by a lack of process. Poor me. What about the feelings of the teams they’ve wronged?
If there answer to being caught is to leave, then good riddance.
— Rob (@robmdpa) November 11, 2023
Not sure how I came across the piece on Twitter last night, my guess is one of the many journalists I follow retweeted it or replied to it or whatever. I was was still reading it when I started to perceive something was awry, that maybe, just maybe this Rosenberg fellow might not be, shall we say, a disinterested party when it comes to this controversy. Something at least prompted me to tab back to Twitter and look at the replies before I was finished reading the actual column, spotting plenty like the one above. Then I did a little bit of “my own research” – as in I clicked on the link for Rosenberg’s name on Sports Illustrated’s website and saw that he was with the Detroit News for a while before he joined their staff in 2012. Then I was like “Huh, so he worked for a major newspaper based in Michigan, which is the same state whose coach he claims is being denied due process.”
Which then got me thinking that maybe he might still live in Michigan. So I found Rosenberg’s LinkedIn profile which says he’s based in Ann Arbor and – this is crazy – that’s the city where the University of Michigan is located. And then even further down this shallow rabbit hole was another pretty damning connection: Rosenberg is an alum who was editor in chief of the school’s newspaper.
Truth be told I didn’t give a fuck either way before I read Rosenberg’s piece and I still don’t now. I was only dimly aware of the burgeoning scandal (or “scandal”) because I had commented on, without actually bothering to read, one or two recent articles on Mediaite about it.
Now I couldn’t tell you shit about the NFL these days, but I used to watch it religiously and know the game, if not the current players, pretty well. I can’t say the same about NCAA Football as I didn’t grow up in a college town nor did I go to a school with any team, much less a shitty Division III one. The byzantine layout of the conferences, the circlejerky politics around the programs, the lack of any schedule and playoff framework familiar or even intuitive to more casual fans of professional sports all made it not really worth the investment of my personal leisure time, especially these days.
Again, I don’t give a shit that “Nobody has shown that Harbaugh knew staffer Connor Stalions was using illegal means (videotaping opponent’s signs in person in other stadiums) to get information; Harbaugh explicitly denied it; and, though some fans are convinced that Harbaugh orchestrated the scheme, other coaches have said privately that they highly doubt he knew anything about it,” as he wrote. It’s that I started to, for about a minute, feel a strong affinity for his outrage before I checked myself and realized there was something about the tone of his jeremiad that seemed awfully familiar.
We are waiting to see if there will be new evidence that directly supports criminal charges against Trump. It is notable that Rep. Cheney began the discussion of evidence by focusing on Trump's delay in calling supporters to leave the Hill…
— Jonathan Turley (@JonathanTurley) December 19, 2022
…It is important for the Committee to share evidence of action rather than inaction showing criminal acts by Trump. Most of us viewed this as a disgraceful attack on our constitutional process, but criminal charges require proof of intent and other elements.
— Jonathan Turley (@JonathanTurley) December 19, 2022
Turley may not be the best real-world political analogue to Rosenberg. It’s not like Rosenberg was in a fiery rage like that little freak Mark Levin though he certainly seems more “impassioned” than Turley, if only by a notch or two. In fact it’s that “passion” with the articulate language appealing to the reader’s sense of justice that hit me like a bottle rocket to the face.
It reminded me of how I felt the first time I picked up a book by Bill O’Reilly when I was 17 or 18 years old. I can’t even remember what kind of hateful shit he was saying, all I know is that I agreed with it almost immediately because it made sense to me the same way Rosenberg’s homerism bullshit no doubt immediately makes sense to the aggrieved Michigan fan – and maybe the Detroit Lions fan who never cared about Wolverines football until his buddy told him Harbaugh got screwed.
We hear all day every day about how right wing media is designed first and foremost to brainwash the apolitical among us into their racial and cultural pathologies. It’s about as interesting of a point to make as it is to say Republicans politicians tend to be inconsistent on certain issues.
But to experience it in a non-Red vs Blue partisan (though very much political) context and then quickly realize I was being worked was something else. Actually kind of frightening when I think about it. Like I said, it’s the same language of fairness and grievance being applied to some guy who I remember that he coached against his twin brother in that one Super Bowl when the lights went out in the second half. I don’t care about Michigan or the Big 10 or any of that shit.
I do care that there are plenty of people out there who are as unfamiliar with politics as I am with NCAA Football that every day see the same cries of a certain someone being “persecuted” by his rivals and ending up sympathizing with them. Everyone loves the underdog, right? What easier way to express virtue than to identify with the team that has the deck stacked against them?
“Forget that it’s entirely possible that Penn State and Ohio aren’t wrong about the scam even if they do have something to gain by getting that Tony Petwatti guy to suspend Harbaugh. The Big 10 establishment is trying to screw Michigan and their fans so you should be outraged too!” is more or less what Rosenberg would have you believe. He wants to make his pain yours and he’s good at it.
Why Jim Harbaugh's suspension is insane. (Yes, I'm biased. But I'm right). https://t.co/nIhGt4aseC
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) November 11, 2023
Or at least better than this bonehead being all upfront about his biases.