Due to a shift in schedule for the Florida Gators, this week’s The Silver Lining was pushed to Thursday. It will next be published on Wednesday, Oct. 15.
Taking a wider lens to the Treon Harris incident
This was originally written at 2:03 a.m. because no matter how I attempted to begin discussing this issue, I found my final product to be unsatisfactory. In fact, this is my
fourth fifth (following the Huntley Johnson press release) draft of the same segment of this column, which I hope communicates how serious and important I consider this subject.
The details – and more importantly, the facts – of the sexual battery investigation involving Florida freshman quarterback Treon Harris remain a mystery at this time, and there is unlikely to be anything truly substantial that comes out until the University of Florida Police Department decides whether to charge Harris with a crime.
Harris’s attorney, Huntley Johnson, is just doing his job by publicly stating that he expects Harris to be cleared of the accusation and hopes the situation resolves itself in a timely fashion. The press release Johnson issued on Thursday is standard operating procedure for cases such as this with Johnson getting out in front of everything by presenting a mountain of circumstantial evidence in an effort to paint Harris as innocent, whether he committed the crime or not. Granted, there is more information than usual in Johnson’s release, but the concept of the release itself is quite common.
Even if everything Johnson wrote on Thursday is determined to be completely accurate, sexual battery may still have been committed that morning. “No” means “no” and “stop” means “stop” at any time, whether it is said before or during a sexual encounter.
Similarly, the UFPD continues to do its job, in conjunction with the Gainesville Police Department, by conducting a thorough investigation including the significant collection (and eventual analysis) of forensic evidence. The University of Florida and University Athletic Association also did their job by acting swiftly and justly, suspending Harris indefinitely pending the results of this initial investigation.
UF, the UAA and the UFPD knew exactly how to handle this situation, and it was not because another state school (located 150 miles northwest) and its city police department were equal parts pitiful and deplorable in the way they completely botched the handling of a similar accusation.
As Confucius (supposedly) said: “To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice.” Whether they were thinking in those terms or not, those involved with Florida’s initial decision-making on this subject proved to be leaders, not cowards.
The Harris situation has brought up a number of other talking points that I feel the need to address in this space. So please, bear with me as I run through them.
» Along with other heinous crimes that do not need to be detailed here, it is extremely important as a reporter to handle something as delicate as a sexual battery investigation with overwhelming care and the sharpest of focus. The consequences of fact errors and poor sourcing are significant in such cases and can be dire for everyone involved, from the alleged victim and alleged assailant to the police officers, investigators, lawyers, etc. As Johnson states in his release, allegedly referring to facts that will be detailed once a less-redacted version of the incident report is made available, mistakes have already been made in the reporting of this story. It further illustrates that this is a story where it is best to take a step back and wait. A decision on whether to charge Harris will be made by law enforcement and the necessary information will subsequently be released in an official capacity at that time. Patience is not a virtue in this regard, it is a requirement.
» On that topic, while the hunger for immediacy exists and is somewhat understandable in this day and age, a premium should always be placed on quality and accuracy. There are more than enough talented members of the media – crime reporters, beat writers, veteran bloggers – covering this investigation. Yet there remains a secondary market of “information” – primarily message board posters and random Twitter users claiming to have their own “sources” – that insatiable content seekers consume and often take to be fact. Be careful what you read and what you believe, especially from those desiring a form of payment (whether money or notoriety) for their “information.” It’s one thing to read and trust that type of material when it comes to recruiting or team gossip and quite another when it is regarding a serious legal issue.
» This is an actual line from Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi’s piece on the Harris situation, which argues that UF should have already kicked him to the curb for good: “Innocent until proven guilty is the standard for a court of law, not for an esteemed institution of higher learning.” I was taken aback when I read it and seriously bothered by the lack of perspective Bianchi was giving such a sensitive topic.
Luckily, Dr. Theresa Beachy, Executive Director of the Gainesville Domestic Violence Center, contacted Bianchi and correctly informed him that Florida not only did the right thing in this instance but has been proactive in educating its players about violence against women. “I’ve been in this job a long time (15 years) and Coach Muschamp has been the only (UF) who has allowed us to come in and talk to the players about the importance of healthy relationships,” she told Bianchi. “We have always addressed with every (UF) coaching administration the fact that our services are available … and frankly none of the other coaches were ever really interested and weren’t receptive, Coach Muschamp has had a completely different attitude.” For more information on Beachy’s organization, visit PeacefulPaths.org.
» The UAA and its website’s writers were put in a tough spot on Monday when the Harris story broke. For years now, the Gators have attempted to position their in-house staff writers as quasi-autonomous despite their bevy of unequal access (compared to the rest of the actual-independent media) and inability to truly be independent (with the ability to cover any and every story) or impartial because of the specific roles they were hired to fill. The fact has always been that they are an extension of the media relations wing of the UAA, and the truth is that there has never been anything wrong with admitting that fact, though the school has simply refused to do so previously. So when the Harris situation unfolded Monday and those same writers were unable to cover the story, Scott Carter put pen to paper (sounds better than “fingers to keyboard”) and honestly explained their roles with the athletic program. Big-time kudos for removing the veil. (And that is not sarcasm.) Here’s a portion of his letter, which can also be read in full.
Instead of chasing the story like in our old newspaper days, we met internally with several other members of the UAA Communications staff to help manage it.
That’s part of our jobs. ..
That’s part of the deal I made when I moved from one side (sports journalism) of the fence to the other side (team media/public relations). …
Our primary role here at GatorZone.com is to accurately inform, aggressively promote, sometimes entertain, and on our best days, humanize the players and coaches that Gator Nation cares so much about. …
The fact we are posting this story hopefully helps you understand some of the differences in the way media outlets – those lines are blurred more than ever and GatorZone.com is just one of many examples on college campuses across the country – operate and disseminate information.
Stomping out Cleatgate
I do not need to tell you this Cleatgate incident between redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg and freshman defensive end Gerald Willis was much ado about nothing. But it is indeed nothing…and I’m telling you anyway.
As head coach Will Muschamp alluded to in his press conference on Wednesday, families fight, friends fight, and yes of course, football players fight. The details of the incident make it sound like Mornhinweg overreacted and did so to a guy who appears to be gaining a reputation as a bit of a hot head.
This is neither indicative of Muschamp’s level of control inside the program nor the temperature of the players in the locker room. On a team with 120 young adults, everyone cannot be best friends and plenty of guys simply do not get along with each other. This disagreement just happened to play out in public, and a bystander just happened to see it and decide to call the UFPD to report it.
What struck me most from the incident report, which OnlyGators.com was able to post first on Tuesday, was the officer’s response to defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson, who was at the scene when she arrived and told the officer that Florida would handle the issue internally. She would have none of that. “I advised Robinson that I still needed to speak with both the players to ascertain what happened and to ensure no one needed medical attention,” she wrote. “Robinson then led me into the stadium.”
Fans of the Gators know full well that (1) the UPD does not let players slide no matter how minor the accusation or incident, possibly a stark contract to the way some school police departments handle student-athletes in other college towns across the country, and (2) the media that covers the Florida football program both on and off the field (including this website) do so as closely as any group in the nation. This particular incident being investigated, becoming public and blowing up to this level just proves those as facts.
As an exasperated Muschamp said on Wednesday: “That was a tremendous misunderstanding. I tell you, boy, we’ve made a big one out of this.”
Snell’s Slant: Victory formation grabbing
Many of you are avid readers of Shannon Snell’s weekly Snell’s Slant column published exclusively here on OnlyGators.com. As usual, Shannon provided his unique perspective on Florida’s last game in this week’s column, but he missed a topic I wanted him to cover: the Tennessee defensive tackle pulling redshirt senior center Max Garcia‘s arm during a victory formation snap at the end of the game. I asked Shannon, an All-American offensive lineman with NFL experience, “Have you ever seen anything like that before?”
To be completely honest, I have never, ever in my entire life seen something like that. That was definitely a first. I cannot remember a time, either as a player on the field or a fan watching from home, when I saw a defender try something like that before the snap.
I look back on the maneuver from two separate angles. If you are a Tennessee player, coach or supporter, you are proud that the Volunteers played to the final whistle because you never know what could have happened. What if the referees simply missed it and gave your team the ball? Considering the only penalty was offsides and the game was over anyway, it was a no-lose situation.
On the other hand, from Florida’s perspective, that was bush-league bullshit. It was cheap and unsportsmanlike. No wonder the players scuffled on the very next play. The Gators had the game in hand and it was simply a matter of procedure to run out the clock.
Taking it to the extreme, Tennessee could have even caused a completely unnecessary injury from guys fighting at the bottom of the pile or getting into an altercation on the field. Greg Schiano got absolutely ripped apart for trying something similar when he instructed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to barrel roll through the line of scrimmage in order to try and force a turnover. Yet Butch Jones escapes without a shred of national criticism.
Not Only Gators: Mulaney
Generally, I am not one to judge a television show on a single episode, especially a pilot. Some of my favorite sitcoms of all time (Seinfeld, Parks and Recreation) struggled mightily in their first seasons before either making some tweaks, finding a rhythm or being discovered by an appropriate audience.
This will not be the case with Mulaney, which I feel perfectly comfortable to judge after one episode because it was, well, hot garbage.
For a show that must have been pitched to network executives as “Seinfeld in 2014,” the show misses on so many levels that even putting the two sitcoms in the same sentence is an insult to the greatest comedy in the history of television.
It starts with John Mulaney’s eponymous show title and continues into the overall format and structure. Mulaney opens and closes with a stand-up routine from the main character and has three friends (one woman who is obviously penciled in a best friend-slash-former/future love interest; two men including an out-of-sorts best friend and wacky guy who pops into Mulaney’s apartment unannounced) taking separate paths only to find themselves interconnected in a troubled situation.
What’s even worse about Mulaney trying so hard to emulate Seinfeld is that it misses its rip-off attempt on many levels. The storylines are neither unique nor interesting, the jokes fall completely flat, and the acting is not only forced but also overly-rehearsed. The show feels so unnatural that it is completely impossible to ignore a couple of its more forgivable flaws because so many blatant ones hit you right in the face.
No wonder NBC passed on this Lorne Michaels-produced program (yes, the guy who has run Saturday Night Live for 45 years and controls both of the network’s late night talk shows), which was forced to be rewritten before FOX eventually picked it up. Mulaney will be off the air soon, and I can only hope I never have to think about the program again once I finish writing this sentence.
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From the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska…
Active national NBA color commentators:
1. Jeff Van Gundy (ESPN)
2. Chris Weber (TNT)
3. Mark Jackson (ESPN)
4. Hubie Brown (ESPN)
5. Doris Burke (ESPN)
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