Can A Hack Sportswriter Resuscitate A Failing Newspaper?

4 11 2021

  By Timothy D. Naegele[1] 

Some of us grew up in Los Angeles, and became fans of the UCLA football program at an early age.  From the home that my parents built a mile or so west of the university, we could hear the campus chimes when they played.  My friends and I would ride our Schwinn bikes into Westwood on Saturdays to watch movies at the Village or Bruin theaters. 

Years later I became a UCLA graduate; and even later, I had season tickets at the Rose Bowl on the 50 yard line, right below the press box. Growing up, my father had the Los Angeles Times delivered to our home; and the “classified ads” section alone was thicker than the newspapers in most large American cities.

Fast forward to today, and the Times is a mere shadow of its former self. The Chandler family that had owned it are long gone, and each edition is “paper thin.” Newspapers generally are dinosaurs, and became a dying breed when the Internet gained traction. Now one can read newspapers from around the world for free.[2]

With so many sources of news at our fingertips via our smartphones that are mini-computers, one wonders how or why the Times exists today, much less has the money to pay its reporters. For many years, UCLA football was covered by a fine writer, Bill Plaschke, who received national recognition.[3] Today, it is followed by a “Staff Writer” named Ben Bolch, who is crusading to get UCLA’s football coach Chip Kelly fired.

Bolch’s latest ad nauseam attack reads as follows:

Martin Jarmond constantly talks about being elite. The word reflects the ideals of a UCLA athletic department that uses excellence as a baseline for everything it does.

Then there’s what’s happening with Chip Kelly and the football program. Elite never enters the conversation.

Elite is not going 15-25, a .375 winning percentage that is the worst in school history for any coach who did not hold an interim tag.

Elite is not hoping to finish with a record above .500 for the first time in Year Four.

Elite is not keeping a failed defensive coordinator, at $700,000 per year, because of loyalty to a friend.

Elite is not losing three consecutive home games, failing to reward fans who show up before dawn for ESPN’s “College GameDay” because they’re desperate to support a winner.

Elite is not hoping to make the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl.

Elite is not touting how your team never gives up and intends to correct the same mistakes it makes week after week.

Elite is not talking about having a really good Wednesday when Saturdays are all that matter in college football.

Elite is not Chip Kelly.

Forty games into the most expensive experiment in UCLA football history, the evidence is incontrovertible. Kelly is guilty of fleecing the Bruins for $16.7 million since his arrival. You don’t need a degree from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management to know that this is not an acceptable return on investment.

The Bruins are eating lavishly, they are getting enough sleep and they are staying hydrated. That’s all great and admirable. They are not winning nearly enough games to justify another season of this madness.

UCLA’s 44-24 loss to Utah on Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium was the latest referendum on Kelly’s failures. The Bruins gave up touchdowns on each of the Utes’ first four possessions. They surrendered 290 rushing yards. They were undisciplined, snapping the ball before quarterback Ethan Garbers was ready and failing to even momentarily deter a Utah defender who surged into the backfield to smash Garbers into the turf for a safety.

Given a chance to take sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 South, UCLA (5-4, 3-3 ) instead fell into a tie with USC for third place during a season in which the Trojans are operating with an interim coach.

Kelly was crabbier than usual afterward, refusing to address the one constant stain on his time in Westwood: defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro. Kelly deflected a question about how he could justify keeping Azzinaro given the team’s ongoing defensive struggles.

“Yeah, well, I’ll just talk about tonight,” Kelly said. “We didn’t do a good job in the run game. We played — even this year — very well on the defensive side of the ball and I think our defense has improved. Our defense improved last year and when you look at some of the games we did early in the year, I thought we played really well.

“Tonight, we did not play well in the rush category to give up that many yards.”

Kelly was also unnecessarily difficult when addressing the status of injured quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, saying he wasn’t trying to evade questions while doing exactly that.

Reporter: “How close was Dorian to being able to go?”

Kelly: “He was unavailable.”

Reporter: “When did you find out he was unavailable?”

Kelly: “We talk about all the things and when the doctors and Dorian put their heads together in terms of where we are, made a decision today that he was unavailable.”

Reporter: “Was the decision made earlier today, after warmups?”

Kelly: “Just, we just talk it through as a group and they told me he was unavailable.”

Reporter: “The question is because we saw him warming up.”

Kelly: “You saw him practice this week too.”

Reporter: “Was it after warmups, before the game?

Kelly: “He was unavailable.”

Reporter: “Do you expect him back next game?”

Kelly: “I don’t expect anybody back. I don’t have any answers to the crystal ball, so we will see how the week goes and how our training session goes and then we’ll get ready.”

UCLA’s latest loss likely ended its bid to contend in the Pac-12 South and any hopes of extinguishing a 22-year Rose Bowl drought. It may not matter that the Bruins are about to hit a soft pocket in the schedule with games against Colorado, USC and California given their continued stumbles.

Kelly sounded almost defiant when asked if fighting hard and coming close was enough.

“We still got a lot of football to be played this season,” he said. “But I wouldn’t bet against that group in that room there, that group in that room there’s awesome and I love those kids. So we’ll be right back at it, those guys will get in on Monday for film and lifting, we’ll be back on the field on Wednesday and Friday next week and then get ready to go play our next game.”

Even with Jarmond’s heroic marketing efforts, the Bruins could play before a record-low crowd when they face Colorado at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 13. Karl Dorrell, the Buffaloes’ coach, might leave longtime UCLA fans wistful for the days when he guided the Bruins to a succession of Silicon Valley and Las Vegas bowls.

There will be those who point to Kelly’s $9-million buyout that expires Jan. 15. as a possible saving grace allowing him to finish out the final season of his contract in 2022. No way. If the amount can’t be negotiated to a negligible figure, if not abandoned altogether, Kelly can’t be allowed to further sully a decaying brand.

You want elite? It’s time to look elsewhere.[4]  

I have tried to watch each of Kelly’s post-game interviews online; and it is clear that Bolch has been “gunning” for Kelly, and there is antagonism between them. The other sportswriters who ask questions are respectful, but not Bolch. Presumably he views the article above as his “crowning achievement”: the ultimate “hit piece,” which is intended to get Kelly sacked, and have the University pay him a paltry sum, instead of what is owed under his employment contract. And by writing a flattering article about UCLA’s Athletic Director Martin Jarmond, who was a former basketball player at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Bolch is trying to achieve his goal of being a “giant killer.”

College and professional sports are brutal in terms of coaches’ longevity; and the fans often release their frustrations accordingly, even in “normal,” pre-Covid times. Ed Orgeron is a perfect example. Having been fired unceremoniously by the Bruins’ crosstown archrival USC, “Coach O”—as the Cajun with a gravely voice is affectionately known—went to LSU where he won a national championship in 2019, and his quarterback Joe Burrow won the Heisman Trophy.

Afterward, and predictably, many of Orgeron’s players left for lucrative deals in the NFL, and his coaches left for other opportunities. Hence, the school’s pathetic Athletic Director Scott Woodward pushed Orgeron out, albeit reaching a deal whereby he would be paid approximately $17 million pursuant to his contract with LSU, and he would coach through the end of this season.

Now the hack Bolch is appealing to Jarmond to fire Kelly and pay him “peanuts” instead of what is owed contractually. At USC, its football coach Clay Helton was fired earlier this season because the school’s alums and fans seek a return to its long-gone glory years, which Orgeron achieved almost overnight at LSU.

Americans have been living through stressful and horrendous times, as the Chinese-launched Coronavirus pandemic has killed or hurt so many: physically, psychologically and economically. Only now are sports fans attending stadium events as they did pre-Covid, with precautions such as masks and social distancing being lifted or ignored inside the stadiums, and proof of vaccinations being honored in the breach.

If the Times had any integrity at all, it would terminate Bolch now. But since it is struggling to survive, a hack like Bolch is retained to fan the flames of controversy, in the hopes of reviving its readership.  Bolch has never accomplished even a tiny fraction of what Chip Kelly has accomplished thus far in his life.  That much is crystal clear and undeniable.[5] And the word “elite” will never appear in a sentence describing Bolch, yet jealousy vis-a-vis Kelly may be eating him alive.

 

 

© 2021, Timothy D. Naegele

_____

 

[1]  Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass).  See, e.g., Timothy D. Naegele Resume-21-8-6  and https://naegeleknol.wordpress.com/accomplishments/  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal (see, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commendation_Medal#Joint_Service). Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/articles/ and https://naegeleknol.wordpress.com/articles/), and studied photography with Ansel Adams; and he can be contacted directly at tdnaegele.associates@gmail.com   

[2] See https://thehill.com/homenews/media/545004-la-times-san-diego-union-tribune-lose-north-of-50-million-in-2020-revenue (“LA Times, San Diego Union-Tribune lost ‘north of $50 million’ in 2020 revenue: report”); see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles_Times (“Los Angeles Times”)

[3] See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Plaschke (“Bill Plaschke”)

[4] See https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/story/2021-10-31/commentary-chip-kelly-is-nowhere-close-to-elite-and-ucla-can-do-much-better (“Chip Kelly is nowhere close to elite, and UCLA can do much better”)

[5] See, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chip_Kelly (“Chip Kelly”)


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4 responses

4 11 2021
Richard Schultz

Tim, As usual, well written. But I’m still not sure how you feel about kelly ? I had my own disappointment last Saturday when Michigan lost to second tier Michigan State by one point in the final minute of the game. As to newspapers, you must know that The Chicago Tribune has been sold and may fold? As to the Santa Barbara News Press, I can finish it between my driveway and the front door. More later. RCS

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4 11 2021
Timothy D. Naegele

The Great Schultz, this blogs needs another contribution from a gifted writer and scholar like you.

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/26/get-out-now/ (“Disasters In Montecito: Get Out Now!”)

I like Kelly, but as you know all too well, the life of a college or NFL football coach can and often is precarious.

UCLA kicked a last minute game-tying field goal against Oregon, but the refs missed it and the pathetic PAC-12 refused to review it.

And yes, newspapers have been a dying breed for years now; and history may record that the Coronavirus pandemic put the final nails into that coffin.

See, e.g., https://thehill.com/homenews/media/545004-la-times-san-diego-union-tribune-lose-north-of-50-million-in-2020-revenue (“LA Times, San Diego Union-Tribune lost ‘north of $50 million’ in 2020 revenue: report”)

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14 11 2021
Timothy D. Naegele

The writer of this tripe should be fired by the failing Los Angeles Times. He is jealous of Chip Kelly’s accomplishments in his excellent career.

“UCLA beats Colorado, is finally bowl eligible under Chip Kelly”

See https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/story/2021-11-13/ucla-defeats-colorado-bowl-eligible-chip-kelly-college-football

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15 11 2021
Timothy D. Naegele

See https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/story/2021-11-14/ucla-colorado-chip-kelly-takeaways-pac-12-college-football (“UCLA vs. Colorado: Four takeaways from Bruins’ 44-20 victory”)

If the PAC-12 was a halfway decent conference in football, its games wouldn’t be played on the PAC-12 Network that no one watches, especially just before midnight on the East Coast.

And to add insult to injury, its refs missed a game-tying UCLA field goal against Oregon, and the PAC-12 did not review it.

Normally, UCLA football games are covered by the totally-biased reporter for the failing Los Angeles Times, Ben Bolch, who has seldom if ever said anything positive about Chip Kelly — because the hack is jealous of what Kelly has accomplished.

See also https://247sports.com/Article/UCLA-football-Bruins-coach-Chip-Kelly-could-be-offered-extension-at-seasons-end-per-report-175206544/ (“UCLA football: Bruins coach Chip Kelly could be offered extension at season’s end, per report”)

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