I never thought I would compare Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski to Donald Trump. One man is a graduate of the United States Military Academy, the winningest college basketball coach of all time and a near-universally respected leader of young men. The other is a bankrupt reality TV star who once tried to sell steaks at Sharper Image.
But the media’s coverage of Oregon’s victory over Coach K’s Blue Devils reminded me of that of the Republican primaries. When a reporter asked Marco Rubio why he thought Trump was the party frontrunner, he responded by saying that the media was part of the problem, pointing out that two of the first three questions the reporter asked him were about Trump. Likewise, ESPN’s coverage of Oregon’s victory soon became all about Duke and Coach K rather than the Ducks moving on to the Elite 8.
Oregon, traditionally a good-not-great program, dismantled Duke — college basketball’s Evil Empire — in the Sweet 16, 82-68. This was a momentous win for the program, highlighted by strong performances from stars Dillon Brooks and Elgin Cook. The Ducks had already sealed the deal when Brooks, with 10 seconds left on the clock, an 11-point lead and the game well in hand, launched a 30-foot three pointer and drained it. Nobody cared. Except soon, everyone cared, after the media outlets spun the story to focus on Duke, a landmark program.
The lead story on ESPN’s college basketball page read, “Coach K denies telling Oregon’s Dillon Brooks to stop showing off” (it’s also worth pointing out that the headline didn’t even make it clear that Oregon had won the game). The article discussed the legendary coach allegedly mentoring the young Brooks about how to handle himself in the post-game handshake line, telling him that he is too good of a player to showboat. Krzyzewski initially denied lecturing Brooks but rescinded his statements after CBS’s audio picked up the exchange. But that’s beside the point.
I get it. Duke is Duke and it’s hard for them to escape the spotlight. There is no middle ground when it comes to discussing the Blue Devils — either you love them or you hate them (disclaimer: I hate them). And, I must admit, when I first read the story I got caught up in the nonsense, rolling my eyes at Coach K’s holier-than-thou attitude. But I soon realized the larger problem was ESPN’s irresponsible reporting.
This story is just another example of ESPN twisting a real story — Oregon’s outstanding play and victory and the justification of their highly debated number one seed — into tabloid click-bait in order to return agency to the Blue Devils.
ESPN refuses to shift its attention away from certain teams whether it be Duke basketball, the Yankees (all of A-Rod’s shenanigans), the Lakers (Kobe drama), or the Patriots (Deflategate). As a result, articles often focus on extraneous, minute details — like Brooks’ three-pointer — instead of providing meaningful, detailed analyses of the games, like they’re supposed to.
To their credit, neither Brooks nor Coach K seemed to make too big of a deal out of the situation. After being asked about the situation multiple times, they both seemed done with it, with Coach K getting ready for vacation and Brooks for his Elite 8 matchup with Oklahoma (which Oregon lost). The fault, instead, lies with the media.