Inside TSL: Fliers, Flyers, and Letters to the Editor
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com
TSL Extra, Issue #17

A few weeks ago, I ran an article on TechSideline called "Adding Up the Years" that broke down the infamous University of Virginia football recruiting flier that Coach Al Groh handed out to football recruits. The flier claimed 56 years of pro experience for Groh and his staff, and I went through an analysis that showed, in my opinion, that it was closer to 40 years of experience.

(A sidebar: you can use either "flier" or "flyer," as I did in the article, to refer to the handout. My dictionary says that one definition of "flier" is "a handbill," and it also says that "flyer = flier.")

While the decision to run that article may have looked obvious -- I run a Virginia Tech web site, and UVa is Tech's chief rival in recruiting -- I put a lot of thought into it. I am always wrestling with the dichotomy of writing as an impartial journalist versus writing material that plays to a very biased audience.

I try to take a journalistic approach to things, remaining fair and neutral, but I'm also aware that scripting things with a pro-Virginia-Tech slant definitely plays to the TSL target audience. The "problem" with writing the article about the UVa flier is that it gives the appearance of an attack against the UVa coaching staff and program, which is most decidedly biased, slanted journalism.

Or is it? I struggled with that question.

But not very long. Ultimately, as I looked at the flier and analyzed it, I thought it was a very interesting story from a pure analysis standpoint, because of the conflicts within. Since when does assisting at a mini-camp, for which some UVa assistant coaches got credit for one year of NFL coaching experience, equate to being the head coach of the Jets, for which Groh got -- you guessed it -- credit for one year of NFL coaching?

I very quickly realized that I could have my cake and eat it, too -- I could write a fair, balanced article that contained no shrill accusations, but instead simply stuck to the facts. So I went ahead with the article.

As I did, I wondered what reaction it would engender among not just the Hokie faithful, but among Virginia fans, who obviously wouldn't care for the subject matter. Back in October 1998, I ran an article that shrilly wondered where the press coverage was for a post-game incident in which a UVa football player had knocked down a Georgia Tech fan and then assaulted him by jumping on him.

The Cavaliers had just lost a heartbreaker to GT in Atlanta, and in the post-game euphoria of GT fans rushing the field, TV cameras caught a UVa football player knocking a Georgia Tech fan to the ground and then jumping on him. A GT fan later filed a police report saying he had been punched by a UVa football player, but despite this, and despite the video evidence, the media was ignoring the incident.

So I posted a video capture, talked about the incident, and wondered loudly, Where's the media coverage?

Virginia fans didn't like the article. I recall getting one email from a UVa fan, who was brief and to the point: "Don't f*** with the Hoos," he said, and attached a virus. Don't worry, I wasn't dumb enough to click on the attachment and run it. Sheesh.

I wondered if the flier article would bring up a similar reaction, and it did not. I think the article was so analytical and so fact-based that it was hard for even the most diehard UVa fans to (a) ignore its logic; and (b) get mad enough to send me a virus. They didn't even rip me too badly on the Sabre.com message boards.

I did receive two emails that stood out, though, and here they are. First, one that didn't think too highly of the article:

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Subject: Adding up the Years
To: will@techsideline.com

You have way too much time on your hands (as I must have for reading that whole article). Maybe you can lend a hand to Virginia and all the other schools who lump experience into the two categories that everybody cares about, playing and coaching. I look forward to reading Virginia Tech's guide and finding out about every detail of their coaches experience. Tech can't leave anything out, as that would be form of dishonest reporting, so if one of the coaches had as one of his responsibilities, collecting towels for an NFL team, it needs to be listed.

Living in Virginia, I like, respect and support the VA Tech football team, particularly the coaching staff, but articles like the one you wrote go a long way towards turning people like me off.

(Name withheld)
NC State 69

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All I can say to that is this: as the General Manager and Managing Editor of a web site that caters to Virginia Tech fans, the fact that I upset an N.C. State fan registers about a 0.0001 on my personal Richter scale. The dishes don't even tremble in the china cabinet.

The other email that stood out was this one:

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To: will@techsideline.com
Subject: Great Job

Will:

Your article on the Virginia flyer was one of the best independent (ACC-related) news articles I've seen in a long time.

You did a lot of research, stuck to the facts, didn't take unnecessary shots at Virginia and even gave UVa the benefit of the doubt in certain situations. I've always thought that approach carries infinitely more weight than the usual mean-spirited accusations and exaggerations many use to attack their rivals.

Congratulations on a job well-done.

Sincerely,
Dave Glenn
Editor, ACC Sports Journal

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That's high praise, folks. How high? Well, the ACC Sports Journal isn't a fly-by-night web site. It's a hardcopy subscription publication that has been published uninterrupted for the last 23 years. And at the bottom of Dave Glenn's email was the following bio information:

The ACC Area Sports Journal staff is led by award-winning editor and lead writer Dave Glenn, who has covered the league for 15 years. Glenn is the author of seven ACC-related productions/publications, including "Royal Blue: The History of Duke Basketball" (Raycom), "Tar Heels On Tape" (Village Companies) and "The History Of The ACC Tournament" (Raycom). Glenn also has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Durham (N.C.) Herald-Sun, the Chapel Hill (N.C.) News, The Sporting News, the ACC Basketball Yearbook, the ACC Football Yearbook, the ACC Basketball Handbook, Lindy's Annuals, Athlon Annuals, College Sports magazine, Carolina Court magazine, The Wolfpacker, Cavalier Corner, Basketball News, the Prep Stars Recruiter's Handbook, PrepStars.com, accsports.com, goheels.com, acctoday.com and many other publications.

Wow. For somebody with that background to compliment me Ö wow.

Feedback on "Is Change Afoot?"

Enough back-slapping, though. Let's move on. On February 21st, I ran an article titled "Is Change Afoot for the Hokie Offense?" that talked about Virginia Tech's growing reputation for having a poor passing team and for not developing quarterbacks for the NFL. I philosophized that VT might be getting ready, under new Offensive Coordinator Bryan Stinespring and new QB Coach Kevin Rogers, to add some passing spice to Tech's run-oriented offense.

To be honest, I wasn't happy with the article. It was pretty good, but I felt as if I was not clear on some points. And the following email, which is a bit long but is very interesting and informative to read, confirmed that I indeed had not done a good job of expressing myself. It's from a Nebraska fan. I have edited it for length by removing some comments about Nebraska and their offense.

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Subject: Comments on your 2/21 column
To: will@techsideline.com

Will,

A friend of mine who is a huge VT fan sent me a link to your column this week. Since I do pay attention to Tech football I read it with interest and I have a few comments.

First, I happened to hear an interview with Patrick Dosh on the Greg Roberts (radio) Show, which originates out of Roanoke, on the day he verbaled to VT. In his comments to Roberts, I think Dosh answers your question about the future of the VT offense. Dosh stated that "it was obvious" that Bryan Stinespring had opened up the offense some already in the bowl game vs. FSU and that in his conversations with Stinespring after Bustle was hired at, if I recall correctly, Louisiana-Lafayette, he was told that Stinespring had plans to significantly open up the offense with a passing game that at least impressed Dosh enough that he initially chose VT. So, I believe that, depending on who emerges as the 2002 VT quarterback, the VT offense will open up significantly from the 2001 version.

My second point is that I completely disagree with your contention that VT needs to implement a more balanced offensive system and "the Hokies may be reaching their glass ceiling in terms of development." I'm a Nebraska fan and have been since I was born in Lincoln in the mid 1970s. Comments such as yours exactly mirror comments made by disgruntled Husker fans and columnists after yet another bowl loss in the 1980s and early 1990s and were proven wrong three different times in the mid 1990s.

The problem that I saw out of VT this past season was that their offensive play calls simply were extremely predictable and designed to not lose the game rather than to win it. That is game planning and coaching, and in my opinion, Bustle's doing, not a flaw in the philosophy of "run first." Nebraska proved in the 1990s that you do not have to pass often to win National Championships. In 1997 against Tennessee, Nebraska was 9 for 12 passing for only 125 yds.

The difference is that Nebraska did not turn the ball over repeatedly and also rushed 68 times for 409 yds. Tennessee threw the ball 35 times, completing 25, for 187 yds and 1 pick. The difference is they could not rush the ball nor stop Nebraska's rushing game, the result was a blowout.

In 1995 vs. Florida Nebraska threw 15 times, completing six, for 105 yds and 1 pick. The Gators threw that game 38 times, completing 20 for 297 yds. The difference is the Gators threw three picks and were held to -28 rushing yards on 21 attempts while the Huskers piled up 524 yds which resulted in one of the biggest blowouts in college football bowl history (62-24).

My point is that a team does not have to pass a lot to win a National Championship, a team must pass effectively or in the case of Oklahoma and a team like Florida, run effectively, to win a National Championship. The problem with VT this year against Miami and, in some situations against FSU, is that Grant Noel simply was not effective and thus forced VT into being one dimensional, and you can't win a game against a high quality D-IA opponent that way unless you get extremely lucky, or, as is the case with VT in a lot of games, the special teams and defense score points to bail out an inept offense.

I think VT is doing a fine job with their program given the fact that Frank Beamer has taken the Hokies from not even contending for a conference title to contending for a National Championship just a short time ago while routinely contending for a Big East title and a BCS bowl bid. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water, such radical changes aren't always necessarily needed, what's needed is patience.

Sincerely, Chris Martin

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The key line in Chris's email is this one: "Ö a team does not have to pass a lot to win a National Championship, a team must pass effectively. "

That's really what I meant to say in my article and failed to say clearly. VT's problem this past season (and in 1997 and 1998) is not that they didn't fill the air with footballs -- it's that they didn't pass effectively when they needed to.

By contrast, in 1999, the Hokie offense was very effective passing the football. Michael Vick only threw 9 times against Virginia, for example, but he completed 7 of them for 222 yards and a touchdown. That's effective, and it wasn't the only time Vick totally smoked a defense on just a few throws. Ditto Jim Druckenmiller.

So I didnít mean to advocate implementing a bunch of four-wide and five-wide receiver sets and going pass-happy. I meant to say that VT simply needs to pass more effectively than they have historically.

Um Ö What?

Lastly, while we're passing on emails, let's throw in a few doozies.

One of the key aspects of our business, of course, is customer service. With TechLocker.com, TSL Extra, the message boards, and TSLMail in our suite of offerings, we of course wind up getting a lot of email related to shopping, subscribing, and posting problems.

And like any customer-service oriented organization, some of the emails we get are whoppers. Here's a sample of a few emails we've gotten that left us scratching our heads in bewilderment and laughing at the same time. Please note that although I print my responses here, I didn't actually send them out, they're just included here for your entertainment value.

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To: will@techsideline.com
Subject: why cant i compost messages on your boards?

I applied for a password and it was emailed to me. But i cant sign in, i like going on to the message boards for discussion. I dont think its fair that you only allow certain people. It makes you and the tech fans look one dimensional. You should allow other fans of other teams to voice there opinion. If they prove they cannot follow directions or rule regarding the web site then you should kick them off. It makes it look like you and your fans cant take criticism or anything else for that matter. Hopefully you will allow people to apply. Or if not take the regestration off, because its not fun for somebody to do it and not see anything.

thanks,
(name withheld)

P.S. No offense but i was reading all of your picks, and if I was betting on a game I would not ask you to be a consultant, you were wrong in all of VT's big games. You cant let your feelings for your team get in the way of a pick, it makes you lose your credibility. if you ever want to make it big, you got to prove your unbiased.

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Oh, look a credibility lecture from someone who Ö oh, never mind. He's got a point. I did pick Miami to drill Tech 35-17, and look what happened Ö the Canes only won by two points. Back to the maroon drawing board, with my orange chalk. -- Will

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To: will@techsideline.com
Subject: every time

everytime i try to sign on it gives me crapp== i use the same password for manythings do i know thats not it--- so what is the deal

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Sigh. Ė Will

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Subject: I need URGENT help.
To: will@techsideline.com

I'm constantly getting emails saying that i am sending them emails when i am not, most of the time i send emails through my hotmail account and ONLY use aol for personal friends, can you please tell me WHY this is happening and HOW i can fix it because people are yelling at ME for it when i donít even know whats going on. All i know is if they return my email its entitled "Hey There". I'm teirrified to think that i might of signed up or SOMEONE has signed me up on some porn site and if so i want OFF IT NOW! This has been done without my consent and i want a reason why and how to get out of it. Please email me back as soon as you can before ANY of these stupid lil emails wind up on one of my aol friends email folders.

Yours Sincerly
(name withheld)

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Yes. Yes, you're right. You do need urgent help. -- Will

A Note About Last Month's Contest

Last month, I offered a $75 TechLocker.com shopping spree to the person who could guess how many message board posts and how many page views were registered on the day that Justin London and Mike Imoh committed to UCLA and VT, respectively. The numbers had been posted on the message board, I said, but that post was gone, so unless you had a really good memory, you would have to guess.

Wrong. The exact numbers were posted in TSLMail #17, not the message board.

Of course, one of the contest submissions (there were only about 30, from TSL Extra's subscriber base of nearly 1,500 subscribers) "guessed" the figures exactly: 438,125 page views, and 2,904 message board posts.

Someone else got very close on the page view totals, which makes me wonder if they looked up the TSLMail and fudged it, because "guessing" exactly kind of gives away the fact that you looked it up elsewhere (a trick that the UVa students who were caught cheating in the "How Things Work" class donít seem to grasp. If you're going to copy your friend's term paper, don't COPY THEIR PAPER, know what I mean?).

Hmm, what to do, what to do? I would feel silly giving the $75 shopping spree to someone because of their research skills instead of guessing skills Ö or maybe not. Maybe I should reward that person for being the only one out of about 1,500 who remembered the TSLMail.

See you next month.

 

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