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The Mind of Nick Saban

In case you missed the ‘60 Minutes’ interview of Nick Saban, it contains one of the most provocative statements uttered by…anybody…ever!

Near the start of the piece, Armen Keteyian asks Saban why he’s “so tough on people.”

Saban’s initial response was pro forma:

“I don’t know if that’s fair that I’m really tough on people. We create a standard for how we want to do things. Everybody’s got to buy into that standard or you really can’t have any team chemistry.”

Then he appended:

Nick Saban

Nick Saban

“Mediocre people don’t like high achievers, and high achievers don’t like mediocre people.”


Think about that.

As a generalization.  As a theory of human behavior.

Let me start from a personal perspective.  As a mediocre person I am offended.

Sports Journalism 101

Justin Rice penned a thoughtful piece for Poynter on teaching sports journalism to high schoolers in Boston.

A few years ago Rice started the BPS Sports Blog, which eventually became part of Boston Globe media.  Now he curates the blog, and covers city sports, and relevant issues, such as GPA requirements for high school athletes.

I admire Rice.  Among a sports media where redundancy, shtick, and hot air are standard issue, he delivers information and insight from a quiet outpost, professionally and responsibly.  To the kids, coaches and families in Boston schools, his coverage is every bit as important as commodity media in and around high-profile sports.

In his Poynter piece, Rice summarized what he learned as a teacher:

  • Collaboration is key. A lot of organizations do similar work and are eager to help identify students interested in sports journalism.

Tim Keown

Tim Keown

Tim Keown

Position: Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com

Born: 1964, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Education: UC Berkeley (1982-84), graduated Washington State University (1986, Communications)

Career: Yuba-Sutter Appeal-Democrat (1986-88), Sacramento Union (1988-1989), Sacramento Bee (1989-1991), San Francisco Chronicle (1991-1999), ESPN The Magazine (1999-present)

Personal: Married, four sons

Favorite restaurant (home): 1. Norman Rose Tavern, Napa, Ca. – “great food, casual, the ballgame’s on behind the bar and you don’t have to mortgage the house to feed four large sons.” 1a. Nopa, San Francisco.

Favorite restaurant (away): The Purple Pig, Chicago, “one of the rare places worth the ridiculous wait. Order the skate wing.”

Favorite hotel: The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas. “ridiculous people-watching, crazy rooms – almost enough to make Vegas palatable.”

Q. Two major elements to “After the NFL”: Steve Hendrickson and your family.  Why?

Tim Keown's Napa

Tim Keown has been writing so well for so long that we tend to take him for granted.  I first noticed him in the mid-1990s when, as a baseball writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, he captured the toxic paradox of Barry Bonds.  Since 1999 Keown has written for ESPN the Magazine with quiet elegance — quiet because he tends not to draw attention to himself.   He’s not First Take material.

Tim Keown

So I was intrigued to read Keown’s After the NFL” piece, about a former NFL kamikaze, Steve Hendrickson, and about himself. Turns out Keown and Hendrickson share a hometown, Napa, Ca., a legacy of high school football, and concerns about the concussive toll of the game.  Turns out they both are proud fathers of children who played, or play, football.   This is a carefully rendered  piece in which Keown does not personalize the story for the wrong reason — egotism — but for the right ones — depth, perspective and nuance.

Patrick Hruby is on Fire

He’s got a cause: the NCAA.  It’s a big fat monopolistic punching bag, and nobody thumps it better than Patrick Hruby.

In recent months, from his perch atop Sports on Earth, Hruby has become the NCAA’s most prolific antagonist.  He does it with a stylish and nasty relish that could spring only from righteous conviction.  In Hruby’s telling, the NCAA exists to serve itself, and the coaches and athletic directors who profit from the weird anachronism of amateurism.

Patrick Hruby

The victims, Hruby writes, are athletes held to impossibly obscure and dense regulations:  “In college sports, justice isn’t blind; it’s a blind, trembling man throwing darts in a pitch-black room, hoping to strike a coveted recruit getting a free pair of shoes, or maybe a star player receiving a cash-stuffed envelope from an overzealous friend of the program. And things can never be otherwise. Not so long as the NCAA continues to promote and defend a false ideal rooted in ersatz morality; an unworkable mandate that makes no practical sense; a corrupting system that turns legitimate, well-meaning oversight (specifically, looking out for the safety and welfare of campus athletes) into a risible, dispiriting wabbit hunt, an endless, unwinnable war against both human nature and basic economics.”

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