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LINKS: How Not to Do Sports Journalism

Jimmy Hyams manages to out-Clay Travis Clay Travis, details on the Hurd transfer saga, and more: it’s your Thursday links!

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NCAA Football: SEC-Media Day Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Morning fam. As we’re out of the top 25, aren’t in the playoff rankings, and are next playing Tennessee Tech, there’s been little national media this week beyond the continued fallout from the South Carolina and Hurd-transfer debacles: Tennessee made ESPN’s weekly Bottom 10 list, and somebody fired Mike DeBord on Wikipedia. It’s been a disheartening week! But if you’re feeling like the Vols have nothing left to play for, take a gander at this:

Butch Jones for his part is, uh, deep into analyzing what’s gone wrong:

Right. Also per Rucker, later in his presser yesterday Jones said Cam Sutton is back to “land running,” and that Micah Abernathy is still day-to-day with his hamstring injury.

#Hurdgate Details Emerge
Following Butch Jones’ announcement of Hurd’s transfer Monday, on Tuesday Hurd’s mother and stepfather made comments discussing the situation. Hurd’s mother, Tara Smotherman, via Facebook:

While it was not my choice for Jalen to leave Tennessee (and we were adamant about this), this is a decision that he put a lot of thought into and certainly did not take lightly. It is not my place to discuss his business and the reasons that he’s decided to transfer, but at the end of the day, he believed that it was best for everyone. [...] We don’t always agree with our children’s decisions, but nevertheless, you love and support them through it all no matter what. Thank you to all of our family, friends and Vol supporters that were so kind to us today. We are so thankful and appreciative to the University of Tennessee, the coaching staff and the wonderful fans for all the love and support throughout the years. Many blessings and much success to you all.

Hurd’s stepfather, Arthur Smotherman, gave an interview with The Read-Optional which discussed in more detail Hurd’s reasons for leaving:

“Jalen wanted to leave after the Arkansas game last year and we begged him to stay. He felt like the offense was not built for him. He knew that (Alvin) Kamara was more than capable of coming in and playing behind him so he knew if he left Tennessee he would be leaving it in good shape. He knew the offense didn’t fit him and he felt like he was making the best decision for himself at that moment. We begged him to stay. We got in Coach Jones’ and Coach Gillespie’s office and told them to help us get Jalen to stay. We thought it was the best thing for his future. If we look back in hindsight, 20-20, we probably would have let him go ahead and leave because we did not realize he was frustrated enough to walk out in the middle of the season”

In the interview Smotherman also indicated the staff made no promises to Hurd regarding the system, and that Hurd is looking to change positions due to concerns about injuries and the short length of NFL running back careers. KNS has a more complete breakdown of the interview here.

Jimmy Hyams is Acting Like an Irresponsible Hack and Should Be Ashamed of Himself
This is a links posting on a sports blog. We’re not really in the business of lecturing people. We try to keep things pretty light around here, and #STICKTOSPROTS. This, sadly, is not one of those times. In the last year or two, there’s been a growing debate about the intersection of privacy rights and the newsworthiness of celebrities’ personal lives in online reporting. This is also not about that. This is about Jimmy Hyams and basic decency.

Roughly twenty-four hours after the announcement of Jalen Hurd’s transfer on Monday (which, incidentally, Hyams said sources told him would not happen), Hyams posted a string of tweets and a subsequent blog post detailing an embarrassing legal incident from September involving Tara Smotherman, Jalen Hurd’s mother. (The posts remain up at WMNL and Gridiron Now, and the tweets are still in Hyams’ feed; we’re not going to link them here.)

To be clear here: this is an incident that no one, including Hyams, claims has any connection to Hurd’s transfer (or anything else!), and which has been in the public record, wholly unreported, for two months- because it isn’t even sorta news. Ms. Smotherman is not a player, a coach, or a public figure. This story when it occurred was apropos of absolutely nothing even vaguely relevant to Tennessee fans, much less months after the fact. Publishing this story, and particularly publishing this story now, serves no public interest, no fan interest, and no interest in general, other than generating a few clicks for Jimmy Hyams. And it will almost certainly cause embarrassment and pain to Ms. Smotherman, Jalen Hurd, and their family.

Sportswriting will always have the tinge of the tabloid about it; a small army of people like Clay Travis have built careers on repackaging the anger and prejudices of their audiences into click-calibrated #takes that often target individual players and coaches. But this isn’t even about a sports personality. It’s about a private citizen who simply happens to be the mother of a (20-year-old!) football player, and now has her face plastered across thousands of screens. Posting about it now at best smacks of a sportswriter of fading relevance shoveling the kind of cynical clickbait that legitimizes the worst impulses of the most hateful pockets of the fanbase; at worst it’s pettily vindictive mudslinging aiming to hurt and embarrass a player and his family. It’s appalling and should have no place in the media, or anywhere.

Like we said- this is a aggregation feature on a sports blog. I’m not a journalist. But those writers that still claim to be journalists, as Hyams ostensibly does, should hold themselves to a higher standard than this; and we can and should hold them to that standard. We, and sports, deserve better. Or, to put it another way:

“I don’t like the fact that anyone can call in and rip players and coaches and be so cruel about it... How would you like for your kids to hear all the negative stuff said about you?

Nothing wrong with a good, solid debate. But when it gets personal, that’s when I cringe.”

Jimmy Hyams, Nov. 2015

Happy Thursday!