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A Friendly Rebuttal To Mr. Jack McCallum

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Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum took issue with an opinion piece here on SBN Minnesota. No problems there. Use of a partial quote, the meaning twisted to suit his own purpose, however, is unacceptable. A rebuttal is offered.

A few days ago, I wrote what was intended to be an off-the-cuff, tongue-in-cheek, humorous opinion piece looking at some of the major sports stories swirling around Minnesota. I did so knowing full well that I did not have a full, nor firm, grasp of the subject matter or the sports they involve. Most of the response I received was positive in nature, but that happens often when writing for a site like SBN. People who like your opinion tend to stick around and continue to read. Those who don't tend to go elsewhere.

Thus the system works.

However, it is the negative feedback that tends to pique a writer's interest the most. After all, it is the way we learn what people like and don't like, right? So, it was interesting to me that a reader posted a comment saying that one Mr. Jack McCallum of Sports Illustrated was "right about [me]." I was curious, so I went to the link provided by the reader, who apparently doesn't like me either, and found Mr. McCallum's opinion piece on what had happened during and after the Minnesota / Wisconsin football game. Suffice to say, Mr. McCallum does not agree with me. I'm OK with that.

What seems strange to me is the manner in which Mr. McCallum does so. Rather than simply stating that I had an opinion on the matter and stating his counter opinion, he plays me off as some kind of expert on college football, and then uses snark (which I can fully respect) to make his point. However, Mr. McCallum forgot one of the first rules of debating a topic.

Before belittling someone's work, make sure yours is clean. You see, first, Mr. McCallum takes his crown jewel quote out of context. Here is what he wrote:

Brewster has already been lambasted in the Minnesota edition of SBNation by Bryan Reynolds, whose rationale included this sentence: "The more points a team scores, the better chance they have of making a bowl game. I could be wrong on that but ..." Well, whatta you know? You are wrong. (But, hey, why check a fact, right?) Reynolds also wrote the obligatory, "Grow up coach. This isn't middle school."

I did, indeed, write all of that. However, he cut the quote off to fit his purpose, which is generally frowned upon in journalistic ethics.

Here is the the full quote:

My understanding of the way Bowl games are decided includes margin of victory. The more points a team scores, the better chance they have of making a bowl game. I could be wrong on that, but even if it isn't the case, it still makes sense. Football is a game of intimidation. If other teams think Wisconsin is going to go for two with a comfortable lead, it makes them question what they will do when the game is close.

I fully admit, throughout the entire piece that I am writing outside of my comfort zone, and outside of the topics I care most about. I admit that I could be wrong, and no, I did not check my facts. I did not feel it important to the piece to do so. It was intended to be humorous, not a full-on critique of college football and its unwritten rules. I don't care about its unwritten rules, but that is a topic for another day.

The fact is, that I knew that I could be wrong. It was "my understanding" of the system. Can anyone actually explain how the BCS works? I'm not sure where I learned that it had anything to do with it, but at some point I did, and that was my understanding. I stand corrected. However, if you read the full quote, it doesn't matter (to me) if it is correct or not, and I gave my reasoning as to why. Mr. McCallum felt it appropriate to take the portion of the quote that fit his purpose, and eliminate the rest.

This is poor sportsmanship at its best, sir. It also does not befit someone of such high standing as a respected member of such a prestigious organization as Sports Illustrated. Jack Falla would be ashamed of you, sir. You should be ashamed of yourself to stoop to that level. You couldn't find something else to use? No one wrote a quote that fit your purpose, so you felt it acceptable to take a portion of a quote and use it to your advantage. Laziness is the word that comes to mind. 

As for the portion about middle school, I understand your disagreement there. It was intended to be incendiary, and it obviously worked. However, the point remains. Tim Brewster did not like something, and he threw a temper tantrum. Children do such things. Rather than breaking into a cuss filled tirade, maybe he should have displayed some of the "character and discipline and steadfastness" that Mr. McCallum claims football coaches instill in the college community.

Next, Mr. McCallum, I offer you the lesson I promised earlier. Before you attack someone for being incorrect on something, and for not checking a fact, make sure your house is clean first.


A screen shot of his article shows the "Story Highlights." The second of the three statements reads, "Even at the highest level, it's poor sportsmanship to kick a team went it is down." I would guess that he intended it to read "when," not "went." But, hey, why check your work, right?

If you care to come off of your high horse, good sir, I welcome a reply. Or you can email me, as I did you, but you likely felt no need to respond to the subject of your journalistic impropriety.

Finally, to the reader who shared the link in the comment section, "BeerCub." I welcome any of your own thoughts on the matter, Mr. Kemp. Rather than simply linking to a post and using someone else's words to fight your battles, perhaps you would care to share an original thought on the matter? Until then, thank you for the heads up on the link to the SI piece, and for your readership. It means a lot to us.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.