published Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

5-at-10: Modern-day Archie Bunker, must-win for UT, combine losers

Gang, hope you're pumped for hump day. Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike.

From the "Talks too much" let me clear my throat.

Archie Elkington

Athletes are people, like you and me. They just have an extreme skill, whether it's hitting a golf ball or shooting a basketball or being 266 pounds and running a 4.53 40.

They are still people, and they make mistakes. Because of those extreme skills that set athletes apart, those mistakes are seen and witnessed and dissected by exponentially more people. This is not apologizing for the spotlight, just explaining it, and any athlete or actor or politician who bemoans the increased scrutiny during times of human frailty is simply ignoring the extreme advantages — be it fame or pay or what have you — that the spotlight from those extreme gifts and skills allows them.

It's part of the bargain, even for the fringe stars and the borderline celebrities who all-too-frequently are making mistakes more often than they are making plays.

Meet Steve Elkington, the former PGA golfer who won 10 times on tour including the 1995 PGA Championship. Elkington's golf career was fine, he was ranked in the top 50 for most of the mid-1990s, and that certainly brings a fair amount of notoriety and coin. Good for him.

But Elkington needs to break up with Twitter, the social media forum in which he has become the face of stereotypical hatred, an equal-opportunity bigot. He's a real-life Archie Bunker with 140 characters. He's a throwback in a lot of ways — think more stereotypical closed-minded angst than penny loafers and parsimmon woods— in a world that has thankfully moved on. He is a joke, whispered ashamedly in bad taste, that has now been shared on global platforms.

  • photo
    Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

And he's a serial offender. His latest strike came Tuesday, when he Tweeted, "ESPN reporting Michael Sam is leading the handbag throw at NFL combine... No one else expected to throw today."

Elkington has since deleted the Tweet after claiming the shot was at ESPN's coverage of Sam being the first openly gay football player invited to the combine. Whatever, that's what he does — Tweet, offend, apologize, delete, repeat.

This is far from Elkington's first toe-dip in the choppy waters of social media controversy. Earlier this month, he insultingly Tweeted about a female reporter's figure to the female reporter, who classily shrugged the comment off, to which Elkington responded with the ultimate mea culpa, "I've been drinking."

Had he been drinking when he used racial slurs last year on Twitter? Or last November after a deadly accident when a helicopter crashed into a Scottish pub, and Elkington tweeted "locals report no beer was split."

If you think that's funny, OK. Different tastes for different folks. And yes, we by far live in a world that is wrapped in skin too thin and that far too frequently believes volume is akin to validity and that assailing the source of the opposing view is the same thing as debating or defeating the opposing view.

Yes, Elkington and his ilk are completely free to say and do what they want, within in reason. Those are the rights that we are blessed to have because of the ultimate sacrifices of the the brave and the proud men and women of the military.

But Elkington and those that embrace free speech must know that free discourse is a two-way street. Speak your mind, sir, but be prepared for the world to realize you're a half-wit. And in this world — unlike the Barcalounger days of Archie and his living room bigotry — the connection is global and the whispers of social media become the blaring trumpets of the next hour's headline.

Elkington? He's a clown, and if he had not developed a social dependance on 140 characters and the approval and yuks of 60,000 followers he'll never meet, we'd likely remember him for one golf's most graceful swings.

Now, he's the face and the whispers that make Michael Sam news. Elkington's bigotry and what it represents is the reason that Sam is a big deal whether anyone likes it or not and whether Elkington knows it or not, and regardless of his hashtag, his apology or whether he deletes his latest 140-character quip.


The Conz

OK, now that we have stepped off the soap box, let's get back to the quick (yes, quick, Spy, we've already hit about 1,500 words, so let's float like a butterfly and sting like a Jenkins) comments on sports.

Tonight the Tennessee Vols head to Mississippi State to visit the five-star restaurants and the museum and the cultural experience that is Starkville. And baby, who knows culture more than someone who spent six years at Auburn. (We redshirted and took an extra fall for good measure — and no, the do not call us doctor.)

Where were we, ah yes, Vols-Miss State. This one is a must-win for Cuonzo Martin and Co. Simply a must-win.

The bubble in which the Vols live is dirty and convoluted, but they could still be on the proper side of it. A loss against MSU pops any and all hopes of that.

Must-win indeed.


Combine losers

The funny thing about Elkington's comments and timing was there was a lot to be critical about in regard to Mr. Sam's performance at the combine. In fact, Sam was the second most-scrutinized player this side of Jadeveon Clowney (who went nuts in the 40 with 4.53 at 6-6, 266 pounds) and he struggled in the physical aspects.

Michael Sam made the biggest headlines before the draft, sharing his personal life with all of us. Sam then was articulate and direct and forthright in the interviewing process. However, his on-the-field work was less than impressive. He posted a 4.91 40 time. He benched 225 pounds 17 times, which was tied for second-to-last among defensive linemen, and was in the bottom quarter in the vertical jump. No matter what the critics or supporters of Sam's personal life may say, whether he can make plays will be the deciding factor in his NFL future.

Teddy Bridgewater started the college football season as almost a sure-fire bet as the top-ranked quarterback on everyone's draft board. His stock has stagnated, even getting passed by fellow AAC quarterback Blake Bortles. His decision not to participate in the combine was met with indifference by the league's scouts, but it certainly raises the stakes for his on-campus workout. There's a chance that Bridgewater could slip to No. 4 among quarterbacks.

Oregon running back D'Anthony Thomas was viewed as a speed back who could return punts at under 6 feet tall and roughly 170 pounds. Well, Thomas clocked a 4.5 time that was almost exactly what Clowney ran. Speed backs need to be able to outrun 6-6, 266-pound defensive ends.

Not unlike Clowney and maybe Bridgewater, Cyrus Kouandjio could have been a top-10 pick if he could have left Alabama last year after a standout sophomore season. Kouandjio, however, was not eligible then. Fast forward to this combine, and he failed some medical exams at this combine and his power game at Alabama was betrayed by his 21 reps on the bench.

Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy were the country's best cornerback duo last year at Florida. They posted matching 4.61 times in the 40. Cornerbacks, like speed backs, need to outrun defensive linemen.


This and that

— Quite proud of the TFP sports crew today from front to back we got good stuff like ace columnist Mark Wiedmer catching up with Buddy Nix here.

— Also liked Downtown Patrick Brown's look at Butch Jones. Good stuff. Here's the link.

— Orioles manager Buck Showalter had a minor leaguer write a report on Frank Robinson. Good times, well until they put in the next labor agreement that unannounced homework and quizzes is not allowed.


Today's question(s)

Feel free to sound off about any of the above topics.

But here's a question for you: With more than 20,000 signatures on an online petition, the Bruce Pearl back to Tennessee rumors/hopes are starting to grow. Heck, even national columnist Gregg Doyel is writing that it makes sense for the Vols to turn to Pearl.

  • photo
    Tennessee head basketball coach Bruce Pearl no longer has a job at the school.

We are having a hard time seeing it. Sure, everyone is couching the 'Pearl Returns' angle with the 'This doesn't mean Martin should be fired,' which complete horse feathers. If you are angling for a coach to return you are angling every bit as eagerly for the current coach to get canned.

We believe Martin's time is done in Knoxville if the Vols miss the Dance. We believe Pearl is an excellent coach and will get a job somewhere in the coming months, and that locale could very well be in the SEC. A month ago we thought there was no way Pearl could return to the UT sideline, but now, who knows. (As Lloyd says, "So you're telling me there's a chance.")

Thoughts? Is there any way Pearl could return to Knoxville? Discuss.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
MocTastic said...

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. UTK has hired Pearl once, having to fire him due to his being a habitual liar. Why do the same thing again? This was not Pearl's first run in with the NCAA,, he supposedly lied to the NCAA while at Iowa and he was reportedly blackballed by the Big 10 as a coach.

If you are in Knoxville needing a haircut, I would have suggested checking out his ex wife's hair salon Alimony's, but I read that it has closed. Guess the local Knoxville women didn't want to be reminded of their ex coach's dalliances. Seems ol Bruce lied and cheated on his wife too.

February 26, 2014 at 10:15 a.m.
chas9 said...

Is Butch Jones letting an 11-year-old kid draw up his plays? Has it come to that?

In other news from Knoxville, apparently some of Tennessee's citizens are shocked that there is sex at the state's flagship university. Shocked, I say.

Gives a new meaning to hump day.

Elkington might want to consult Paula Deen or Toronto mayor Rob Ford about mea culpas. And it's better to keep your mouth shut and let people assume you're an idiot than to open it and remove any doubt.

And the Starkville baling wire museum is a must see.

February 26, 2014 at 10:29 a.m.
Stewwie said...

I think that Elkington's joke was funny. I guess it's out of bounds for anyone to make any sort of gay joke at all? Gimme a break. And I don't even know who Elkington is...I've heard the name before, but that's it. He may be making jokes and other inappropriate comments just to get attention. And if so, he's succeeding quite well because of the media's penchant for trying to hammer anyone who disagrees with the liberal agenda. But Elkington and his comments would be no big deal if the media wouldn't make them a big deal.

It's naive to think that there wouldn't be criticisms (fair or unfair) against Michael Sam or any other openly gay athlete for publicly coming out. But those criticisms aren't what keep guys like Michael Sam in the news. It's ESPN and the rest of the media wanting to use people like this to promote their agenda. Plain and simple. If Sam gets to the NFL, we'll have to hear about the first openly gay minutes, first openly gay tackle, first openly gay interception, etc. So much for just wanting to be another football player. The media has other things in mind.

February 26, 2014 at 11:14 a.m.
jomo11 said...

Jay- Pearl's show cause expires in August. Help me understand, so does that meean that if UTK wanted to hire Pearl in April, it would have to petition or appeal to the NCAA to get permission to hire Pearl ? or does it mean he CANT be hired until after August ?

February 26, 2014 at 11:23 a.m.
MocTastic said...

If the media went out and interviewed 10 people on the street about Michael Sam and assume that 8 of them could basically care less if he was gay or straight and 2 of the 10 were against him because he was gay, guess which ones would get shown on the news that evening? I bet that both of the "anti" Michael Sam interviews would get face time.

I sense the vast majority of the people don't care one way or the other about Michael Sam, yet the media keeps the story in the news. Are the media the ones with a problem?

February 26, 2014 at 11:24 a.m.
Stewwie said...

Agreed, MT. It's almost as if the media is trolling simply to get a story. Otherwise, why in the world would they care this much about a tweet from a guy like Steve Elkington?

February 26, 2014 at 12:02 p.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent —

No way Pearl should be back. You can't go home again. It's just the way it is. Sorry, everyone. Yes, Conz has to win tonight.

With Missouri's loss to Georgia last night, the Vols dominating 19 point win over Georgia last week looks better. Their loss to Missouri looks worse. That win over Georgia may be the only thing keeping the Bulldogs out of serious discussion for the bubble at this point. (They're still on my bubble, which I'll try to update tomorrow.)

I think there will be REAL pressure on someone to pick Michael Sam because he came out. I really wonder if he would have been drafted if he didn't come out. I read the piece on SI the other day from the guy who watched every one of his plays and said he was a late round pick at best. But if he doesn't get drafted, there will be a major backlash against the NFL. It would probably be unfair. And what happens if, like so many late round picks, he actually doesn't make the roster? Will there be a backlash then? This is PC nightmare for the NFL and whatever team drafts him. It would be nice if the first gay player was a legit first round talent. Unfortunately, that is not how this worked out. Thoughts?

February 26, 2014 at 12:22 p.m.
fechancellor said...

No to Pearl and to Conz. The AD needs to get his book of coaching mug shots and fashion a list of exceptional coaches who can lead Tennessee towards the promised land. I don't care if this means standing under the preverbal street light propositioning anyone of quality on the theory someone will eventually say yes.

February 26, 2014 at 12:40 p.m.
jgreeson said...

MT —

As for Pearl, he certainly has left a wake of destruction. Has he learned from those missteps and lies? No way to know for sure, but we all know he'll get another chance to coach somewhere.

The big question for UT AD Dave Hart is, "Are you willing to pin your career on Pearl?" Because in a lot of respects that is what he'd be doing, ignoring a lot of potential red flags to please the vocal minority and if (some would say when) it blows up, Hart is the one holding the burning bag.

As for the interview question, well if you asked 10 people a question and eight of them had no opinion on something and two of them were passionate about it, the passionate voices almost always are used, regardless of topic. To be fair in your reporting you use one from each side and report the numbers. Would the passionate one get more air time, I would guess yes because it's more interesting, but we're not a TV journalist.

As for the media having a problem, maybe. But to not see this as news seems disingenuous at least considering this is the first time an openly gay player has entered the NFL draft. Maybe in five years it will be like being left-handed or from the WAC, who knows?

Stewwie —

It's completely your right to find that funny. But it's not criticism, it's making a joke at someone else because they are different. We all laugh at jokes like that all the time — heck we've all made jokes like that before — rightly or wrongly.

But we're not all major champions on the PGA Tour. And we have to watch what we say all the time, even though we write opinion pieces because of the fallout that can happen because of the thin-skinned society in which we live.

Criticism is pointing our badly he did at the combine or that he's undersized and overly slow for what he'll be asked to do in the NFL. As for Elkington, this is his fourth social media misstep in a year and that's what got us started on this this morning.

PS — When people refer to me in the 'liberal media' it makes us laugh. Out loud. Almost as much when Auburn fans call our desk and want to know why we hate Auburn because we never, Never, NEVER put them in the TFP.

Stuck —

We said on Press Row that as soon as Sam came out half the league likely took him off their draft board. Your right, a sure-fire first-rounder and no NFL team really cares, but as we all know the level of distraction around a player teams are willing to put up with is directly proportional to the level of said player's talent. That's how T.O. got so many chances. Randy Moss too.

February 26, 2014 at 12:48 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Jomo —

The Show Cause is a penalty on Pearl that means schools have to show the NCAA cause why they are hiring him and why those penalties should not apply to Pearl today. Any school can hire Pearl regardless of what the NCAA says, yay or nay.

We suppose if they said no on the petition, the NCAA could levy some penalties against Pearl and his new program between now and August, but lot of good that would do.

9er —

That's the finest bailing wire museum there is. Bar none.

Everybody in the car. Boat leaves in two minutes... or perhaps you don't want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away?

February 26, 2014 at 12:50 p.m.
Buschleague said...

5- Golf clap-a-dap for the Furman alum that took it upon themselves to revive the mulla deficient golf team. For my money that's taking care of bidness, putting your own 'skins' in the game.

For the record people like Elk (borderline humorous), Dixie Chicks (spot on), Ted Nugent (derelict/dangerous) are more than welcome to their opinions in this free nation. And that's a GREAT thing! The selective Christians who stump on religious values only when it's convenient..way more offensive!!

Remember the Bible condemns ALL immorality, including the premarital kind most of us at one time or another had a robust appetite for, except Timmy Tebow, Lolo and maybe BYU students.

February 26, 2014 at 1:24 p.m.
chas9 said...

Jay--Appreciate your taking the time to explain a bit on the journalism angle. Certainly lots of stories (print and broadcast) ride the wave of whatever current tide is washing over society, and these stories can be lazy. But arguably these stories see the light of day because that's what the public wants.

I shake my head when I hear (often) that "the media" does this or that thing as if it's a monolithic block. The news departments at WRCB, WDEF, WTCI, etc., don't have a morning meeting where they all get together on how they're going to spin the news of the day. And their "agenda" is to turn a profit.

I'd suggest mostly using "media" as an adjective. When you use media as a noun, understand that it's a plural noun, so "the media" is inaccurate.

February 26, 2014 at 1:50 p.m.
Stewwie said...

Jay, just to be clear, I am not lumping you personally in with the rest of the "liberal media". By "liberal media", I'm referring to the media's bias as a whole which is obviously very far to the left. But that's the majority; there are others such as yourself that lean the other way (the right way!)

I would agree that Elkington (and any professional) should use discretion when making public comments. But some folks either don't care or they are simply looking for attention. And when those folks are has-beens, why should the media care what they think? If the media didn't troll, would anybody really care what Elkington has to say in his tweets? I wouldn't.

As for the joke itself, why can't we just laugh and move on? Of course it's about Sam being different. All jokes about someone are about them being different in some way. Some can go too far, of course, but most of the time, people need to acquire that thing we call a sense of humor and just roll with it. The problem is that gay people are an apparent untouchable by the media and that's the reason this is even an issue at all.

If an NFL team picking last in the draft has a chance to draft Michael Sam, they're really going to get it either way. Either they pass on "making history", or they take Sam and let a gay guy be known as Mr. Irrelevant. The media might even request that we retire that title because "it might make gays look irrelevant".

February 26, 2014 at 1:51 p.m.
Stewwie said...

Chas, the local TV news stations here are pretty fair. But most national newspapers and TV news channels are not. For those entities, there's no need for a morning meeting to say how they're going to spin the news that day. It's an expectation that it will spin the same way everyday.

February 26, 2014 at 2:13 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Stewwie —

Wow, that's a very interesting point about the Mr. Irrelevant scenario, and one we had not thought of. You may see that in print — with proper credit of course — and we could kick that around on Press Row today. Well-played indeed.

No doubt, we all need to be better at laughing at ourselves and those like us. In truth, Elkington's chronic Twitter hatred — four insensitive remarks in the last year — was the bigger crime here and the Sam shot was the most recent.

Your points about the kid gloves that some treat certain groups are supported in several areas — case in point Tebow got drilled for his poor mechanics and Sam's combine showing was less than average — and here's hoping that, like we said earlier, Sam's social preferences in the not too distant future are as important as if he was a vegetarian or left-handed.

We will defend forever Elkington's right to say whatever he wants — that's in our core belief system — but we equally defend our right to call him an idiot.

Either way, thanks for the discourse. Seriously. It always makes for more interesting discussion — and shows the ability to have a conversation without caps locked and a slew of !!!!!

War 5-at-10.

9er —

You bet the overall agenda is to make money, but we try not to concern ourselves with that goal. My daily ambitions, in order as listed in the drawer next to our bed: Be a better Believer, Be a better husband, be a better father and have a great sports section.

Amen and pass the biscuits.

February 26, 2014 at 2:38 p.m.
WilliamRscott said...

UTC at WCU MBB is on espn3 and locally on THIS TV [Comcast cable ch 208, epb ch 169 + WTVC 9.2]...thanks Dave Staley.


February 26, 2014 at 2:41 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Bib —

When did we start adding decimals to cable channels. Pass the Advil.

That's good news though.

February 26, 2014 at 2:43 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

When Steve Elkington is news, it's a slow news day.

February 26, 2014 at 2:49 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

Jay, a tip of the cap on your write-up about Steve Elkington and his Twitter habit. I concur with everything you wrote. I would add one point, if Elkington or anyone else takes the time to type a message and send it out for the yucks and chuckles of his followers he should own it. I despise this process of sending out a message on social media and then at the slightest sign of backlash deleting the message and making lame excuses for your earlier statements. If Elkington wants to be the cringe inducing drunk uncle that still rails about the "coloreds" and "queers"...He has every right to be that guy. What he must understand is that the Earth is moving under his feet. Society is evolving and leaving his ilk in the rearview mirror. If you choose the ways of a bygone era, enjoy the view from your little corner of the world but don't whine about the present and future moving on without you.

Or this could all be a ruse orchestrated by the liberal media, The Illuminati, one-world government types, and The Freemasons to bring about social revolution via the medium of a professional golfer's Twitter account. Look alive folks...They're out to get you.

February 26, 2014 at 3:30 p.m.
Stewwie said...

[...and here's hoping that, like we said earlier, Sam's social preferences in the not too distant future are as important as if he was a vegetarian or left-handed.]

I think Sam would want that too and just play football, but the media will continue to fan the flames of controversy because they'll continue to track his every move and try to put him on a pedestal due to his sexuality. Folks who oppose homosexuality (or any other form of sexual immorality) would want the issue to die down just so it doesn't get glorified. Folks who are ok with homosexuality seem to also want this to die down because they're simply tired of hearing about it. So if/when the media decides to finally quit talking about it, maybe we'll all get what we want in the end. But I doubt the media is willing to go that route (at this point anyway).

[We will defend forever Elkington's right to say whatever he wants — that's in our core belief system — but we equally defend our right to call him an idiot.]

That's fair.

[Either way, thanks for the discourse. Seriously. It always makes for more interesting discussion — and shows the ability to have a conversation without caps locked and a slew of !!!!!]

Agreed. Thanks to you as well. Keep up the good work. And yes, War 5-at-10.

February 26, 2014 at 3:52 p.m.
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