by John Walters

Starting Five

Goodbye, Columbus?*

*The judges will also accept “Urban Blight” and “B1G Trouble,” but not “Fire Meyer!”

Here’s the problem with being sanctimonious (take it from a Notre Dame alum, we’re familiar with the syndrome): As soon as you stub your toe, the world is happy to tackle you.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who fired wide receivers coach Zach Smith last week after unemployed college football reporter Brett McMurphy released some texts from Smith’s ex-wife, Courtney, about physical abuse, could have fallen on his sword and noted that he was too lax in taking action. Instead, he stood up at Big Ten media days and said, ““I got a text late last night that something happened in 2015. There was nothing. Unless… Once again, there’s nothing. Once again, I don’t know who creates a story like that.”


This was even worse than not using Ezekiel Elliott against Michigan State in 2015.

As soon as Meyer said that, he set himself up for yesterday’s avalanche. McMurphy releases a meticulously detailed and utterly convincing story—on Facebook!—with texts between Smith (who is not the same Courtney Smith as the one from Melrose Place, in case you were wondering) and Urban’s wife, Shelley Meyer, among others, dating back three years.

So now it’s either the coach’s wife knew and never told him (she’s a nurse with Ohio State, so this would make it a fireable offense for her) or, more plausibly, she did tell him and he did nothing. That’s before we even get into the tale of Urban’s hatchet man/lawyer Hiram de Fries persuading Smith not to press charges against her hubby six years earlier when all were at the University of Florida.

For us, this clip from 2009 or ’10 provided an illuminating window into Meyer’s sanctimonious soul. He berates beat reporter Jeremy Fowler for doing nothing more than accurately quoting one of his players and suggests that they’d be throwing down if the player were his son. Fowler, by the way, is a good guy. And when McMurphy left CBS for ESPN a few years back, guess who CBS hired to replace McMurphy? Fowler…who has since moved to ESPN.

What will forever link Fowler and McMurphy, besides the job-hopscotch, is that Urban Meyer publicly showed disdain for them. The reason? They were simply doing their jobs. And that compunction to humiliate the media (where have we seen that before?) instead of being forthright is what will cost Meyer his career. Worth it?

Sorry to drag politics into this, but Meyer reminds us much of vice president Mike Pence: humorless, rigid, judgmental, overly pious and more than just a little bit smug. I’ve never bought either man’s act. When you cannot have a sense of humor about yourself or compassion for the inevitability of human imperfection, we usually smell a hypocrite in the henhouse.

We’ll be surprised if Meyer, who has won three national championships at two different schools in the past 12 seasons and is now on paid administrative leave, survives this crisis with his job.

2. McMurphy’s Lore

Meanwhile our old friend and former colleague at AOL Fanhouse, Brett McMurphy, had himself quite a day. By posting his story on Facebook McMurphy basically dunked on his former employer, ESPN, as well as on Meyer, of course, and really on every sports news outlet that exists. He broke the biggest college football story of 2018 and got paid in “Likes.”

Brett was one of 100 or so employees ESPN laid off in April of 2017, and while he is still being paid by ESPN through early autumn, it still was a major blow to his pride. Brett’s a bulldog of a reporter, the Woj of college football, really. ESPN just never figured out how to deploy him on TV (we loved Brett’s Saturday morning pieces with daughter, Chesney, but his true value is in breaking news before anyone else has it).

You can say what a sad state that sports journalism is in when one of its very best has to break a story on Facebook. Our reading of this is that Brett probably has a non-compete until the WWL money runs out and that he’s just too energized about college football to let a story worth pursuing go unchased. Bully for him. This was the best moment of vindication we’d seen since the final 15 minutes of The Shawshank Redemption.

3. ESPN’s Four-Hour Delay

We were a little rough on our friends yesterday on the Twitter. But we do maintain that this was a moment that could have altered, for the better, the path of their program. Even if it required outright rebellion.

Brett’s story “broke” on Facebook shortly after 10 a.m. We tuned in to First Take about an hour later to hear a spirited debate (do they have any other kind?) on whether the Lakers would advance beyond the second round of the NBA playoffs next spring. Again, it was August 1st.

No mention of the developing Urban Meyer story.

We tuned into High Noon, a show that takes its name from an iconic movie in which the title character demonstrates uncommon courage, acting alone, even though the odds are heavily stacked against him (of course, but if he wins, he gets Grace Kelly, sooooo) because it’s simply the right thing to do, and again, no mention. Not even a drive-by such as, “There is a story from former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy alleging that Urban Meyer knew all about the Smith domestic violence situation. This is a developing story that we have not yet vetted and we’ll have more to say about it tomorrow…”

That’s all they had to say. We were pretty rough on our friends Bomani and Pablo, and for that we apologize. Like other ESPN employees, they were acting under orders from higher-ups who put a strict ban on discussing this story until the news team had a chance to vet it (we suppose; even Bob Ley ignored it completely on OTL, and that must have killed him to do). We get it, but this is an extremely bad look for ESPN. You’re America’s sports channel, you have LIVE programming on a weekday, and you’re ignoring the biggest story of the day on an extremely slow news day….WHY?

It’s not even like you’re CBS being forced to report on the misdeeds of Les Moonves. Urban Meyer doesn’t even work for you (any more). By the time ESPN eventually acknowledged this story existed, after 2 p.m., they had nothing new to add to the story. They were just riding McMurphy’s wake.

What ESPN should’ve done: Report that the report is out there. Acknowledge that McMurphy, a former employee, broke the story. Provide the context of the Big Ten Media Days kerfuffle. Move on. The silence on this story was deafening. And because it wasn’t even personally embarrassing to ESPN (it’s not as if Chris Berman was accused of hitting his wife, for example), there’s no good excuse for not reporting it. Lord knows if some nobody even tweeted that Brian Kelly was covering for a coach that it would be all over SportsCenter.

Where was Herbie? Where is Herbie? Will we see him today?

Lastly, ESPN needs to put Kirk Herbstreit, a former Ohio State quarterback, on TV to discuss this. I’ve attended one of those ESPN college football seminars (this is where the ESPN college football group apparently was yesterday, and for some reason last night Rece Davis was in Atlanta, so maybe they held it there?) and what I can tell you is that in that room, Herbstreit is the king of the jungle. He’s the voice of authority, the person the higher-ups look to for guidance and the lower-downs listen to with absolute fealty.

His input on this story is needed here. Like, yesterday already.

4.  White House Down

Game, Set, Match here.

5. Tesla: Historic Loss, Big Gain

The Model 3

We don’t pretend to understand the stock market (okay, that’s a lie; but when situations like yesterday’s Tesla earnings report happens, we are at a loss). After the closing bell yesterday Elon Musk’s cool electric car company posted its LARGEST QUARTERLY LOSS since first firing up its battery-powered engines, and yet the stock has soared 10% this morning.

What gives?

The company lost $717.5 million in the second quarter (will someone pay US to do that?), but the market liked that Tesla was able to meet its production goals of manufacturing 5,000 Model 3 vehicles per week. So they don’t mind the burn rate as long as the production rate matches expectations.

Still, wouldn’t it be good if these millennial monoliths (Tesla, Amazon) eventually started posting profits? Crazy idea, we know.

Music 101

She Talks In Stereo

Early New Wave here with Gary Myrick and the Figures. That over-the-shoulder keyboard is all over the song. You could probably speed up the tempo, blast some guitar here, and you’d have a terrific punk song. From 1980. I hear a little Tom Petty in the vocals, no?

Remote Patrol

Myrna Loy Night on TCM

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dreamhouse

6:15 p.m. 

Love Crazy 

8 p.m.

I Love You Again

10 p.m.

Smart, beautiful, funny and a redhead. Myrna Loy was never a Rita Hayworth pin-up type, but closer to Katharine Hepburn minus all the vinegar. She was the perfect complement to a leading man, from Cary Grant in the first film tonight to her frequent partner in crime (fighting) in the latter two films, the criminally under-appreciated and unknown (by almost anyone under age 50) William Powell.

Every wisecracking heterosexual crime duo (see: Moonlighting) should be paying royalties to this pair, who created the genre


5 thoughts on “IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

  1. Even if one has never bought a house, built a house or renovated a house, “Mr Blandings Builds His Dreamhouse” is a hoot. Cary Grant had never been better (except maybe in His Girl Friday). A friend/co-worker of mine spent over 2 YEARS trying to get his & his wife’s “custom” Floriduh dreamhouse built. The house was originally to be completed by Dec 2016…then June 2017…then Dec 2017….then “early Spring 2018”. When I last spoke with my friend this past June, it was STILL not finished. Anyhoo, at his retirement party, I gave him the Blandings DVD & told him it will make him laugh till he cries. Or vice versa. 🙂

    TSLA. I’ve never invested although it’s been on my Watch List for 6-7 years now but after the past few years I doubt I’ll ever put money there. BTW, what do you think of your boy Musk these days? Calls/tweets a guy a “pedo” because he apparently had the audacity to CRITICIZE him? HOW is that not worse than what that Papa John guy said in a closed meeting? It’s possible the pizza guy said worse but what was reported didn’t seem like a fireable offense & yet this guy basically lost his company (which, ok, he didn’t really OWN anymore but was still Chairman & a major stockholder).

    As for the, er, Urban Blight story. I have not yet read McMurphy’s “article” but read some excerpts from it & saw bits from the ex-wife’s video interview. (BTW, couldn’t McM have set up a personal WEBSITE by now? Maybe you should show him how!). Anhyoo, since I haven’t read the entire piece yet, I will refrain from a full comment but I do have a couple questions for you. 1st, unlike yourself, I like Urban Meyer. I wouldn’t follow him into battle or give him money, but for a CFB coach, he seemed admirable if not a little humorless at times. But Tebow WOULD go to battle with him as he thinks the world of him. He views Urban as his “2nd father” much like Urban apparently viewed Earle Bruce, the grandfather of Zach Smith… And THAT explains 90% of this story to me.

    My questions. 1st, How many large companies (3000+ employees) do you know that get involved yet alone feel it their “DUTY” to help in their employee’s personal lives? The #1 mission/mantra for ALL large companies (& that’s what state universities are) is to PROTECT ITSELF. #2 is make money. The personal welfare of their employees is either NOT on the list at all or at the bottom. When I heard the ex-wife state it was OSU’s “DUTY TO HELP” her (not even their employee), I winced because it’s not. Oh sure, in a perfect world, we all care about each other & want to “help”, yadda yadda, but in the corporate world? Employees that have faithfully worked for a company for 25-30 years are let go because of “realignment” bullshit, do they CARE what happens to their long term employee? They do not. Most companies want NOTHING to do with anything that could hurt their “brand”, including employees with “problems”, legal or otherwise. Expecting a large company to “help” is like expecting a shark to “help” you in the ocean.

    2nd, what do you think should be the purpose & purview of Title 1X? I marched for it with my Aunt back in the late 60s & early 70s when I was a kid & I guarantee you it had NOTHING to do with colleges getting involved with sexual assault or harassment “investigation” let alone adjudication. CRIME should be handled by law enforcement & the legal community, how did colleges get dragged into it?

    3rd, how do you feel about folks being fired &/or lives ruined based on mere allegations or rumors? Are we so disgusted with our legal system that we won’t even wait for it to START let alone finalize an investigation/judgement/sentencing before punishing the guilty-before-proven perp? YOU don’t find that scary? To me this is “Big Brother” by mob.

    By late yesterday afternoon, there were DEMANDS for Meyer to be fired. Are you frickin kidding me? Forget “justice”, we’re not even waiting for “testimony”! Honestly, jdubs, you are fine with this? I have no idea what Urban knew or when & NEITHER DOES ANYONE ELSE except maybe his wife. But by all means, let’s fire the guy. RIGHT NOW.

  2. One more thing. If some woman from your past comes forward & alleges you did some heinous or at least nasty thing to her 10-15-20 years ago, I will NOT immediately stop reading this site &/or tell you to go to Hell. No, I will WAIT to hear from YOU. I may THEN tell you to go to Hell, but I will 1st listen to, well, read, what YOU have to say. However, I won’t help with your legal bills until I win the lottery. 🙂

  3. Susie,

    I think the issue here with Urban is that when asked about it last week he denied knowing about it. If he says “yes, we knew about it and did our due diligence and there was nothing there but in light of new details we decided it was best to part ways with Coach Smith” he’s probably in the clear. But he denied knowing about it when there is some proof that he should have known.

    Also, we could get into a discussion about the “great” Urban Meyer but we all have our opinions. Is he a great coach? yes. Would I let my kid play for him? Probably not.

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