John Adams just became Public Enemy Number One in Commodore Country.
Who is John Adams, you ask? He is not our nation's second President (nor his son, the sixth). He is not Chief of the Canadian Security Establishment, nor the American composer who came to prominence with his opera, Nixon in China.
No, the John Adams who has earned the ire of Commodore Nation is the so-called "Sports Editor" and "Senior Columnist" at the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
Mr. Adams, following the hooligans and thugs from the Orange Institution of Knoxville ("OIK") over to the shining city of Nashville for the Institution's appearance in the Music City Bowl, apparently got bored with simply covering the inevitable arrests, shenanigans, and fights of the OIK's players.
One can tell, from the start, that the article is going to be an exercise in cheeky, sarcastic arrogance: "There's nothing quite like the hiring of a new football coach to arouse the passionate fanbase of an SEC school. ... So you can imagine the electricity surging through Music City as Vanderbilt begins a new era of football."
Immediately, the "author" loses all credibility as a mature, competent sports editor of a major daily in a prominent, mid-sized American city.
Say what you will about Knoxville (and I, being from East Tennessee originally, could say many things), but it is a city with a metropolitan population of more than 600,000 -- one would think that its flagship daily newspaper would have more professionalism and maturity than to initiate a hit-piece against a neighboring university's athletics program.
Such a hit-piece would be particularly egregious if the fan-base of the institution in one's own city passionately and adamantly denied that there was, in fact, any sort of rivalry between the said University and institution.
It would be even more ludicrous to begin throwing stones at the success of one's neighbor's athletics program if the institution which one apparently supported had multiple programs within its own athletics department under investigation by the NCAA for serious violations.
Mr. Adams, of course, was not to be deterred by such common-sense notions as "professionalism" and "maturity." No, he saw to it that his little hit-piece made it into the online edition of the News-Sentinel's "sports section," which is really nothing more than a conglomeration of pro-OIK fluff designed to sell as many copies of his bosses' rag as possible.
Adams' stalwart, responsible journalism
So let us review some of the excellent examples of stalwart, responsible journalism that Mr. Adams and the News-Sentinel saw fit to publish:
"As an icebreaker, I asked, 'Who's the Vanderbilt football coach?' The man behind the Opryland Hotel's information stand shook his head from side to side and said, 'I don't even remember who the last one was. He was only there a short while.'"
"Undeterred, I stepped inside Bushels and Baskets and asked a clerk, 'Do you know who the Vanderbilt football coach is?' 'I'm afraid I don't,' she said with a smile."
"I next asked a middle-aged man in the courtyard if he knew the name of Vanderbilt's football coach. 'I don't know his name,' said the Alabama resident. 'But he's from Maryland.'"
"I repeated my question [to a man at the West End Marriott]. 'No, I don't know his name,' he said. 'They just changed coaches. Who was that last guy?' When I maintained a blank expression, he explained, 'I follow Tennessee football.'"
The implication, of course, is that it is pathetic that no one in Vanderbilt's own hometown even knows the name of their new football coach.
"Let's all have a laugh," he implies, "at the silly little people over at Vanduhbeelt."
Faulty sample, faulty results
We will set aside the sheer audacity and insolence Mr. Adams shows in putting this garbage into print, and instead examine the premise of the article itself. Mr. Adams states that the entire point of his exercise is to "sample the excitement" of the "passionate fanbase of an SEC school."
He then proceeds to attempt that sample by asking the following individuals about the new head coach at Vanderbilt:
• An information desk clerk at Opryland Hotel;
• A clerk at a gift shop at Opryland Hotel;
• A guest at the Hotel from Alabama (who, ironically, knows where Coach Franklin is from, thus spoiling some of Mr. Adams' fun);
• A random, unidentified man at the West End Marriott (possibly another out-of-town guest?); and
• A bartender at the West End Marriott.
Does Mr. Adams really believe that these people are a "sample" of the "passionate fanbase" of Vanderbilt?
He seems to believe that the same sort of people who follow the Orange Institution of Knoxville's athletics teams simply because it happens to bear the name of the state in which they live would also similarly follow the athletics teams of Vanderbilt University because they live in close proximity to the University.
This is consistent, I suppose, with the OIK's self-understanding as a group of professional sports teams that happen to have a "degree"-granting department attached.
Vanderbilt fanbase: more than just a team name
But if Mr. Adams is a "senior columnist" and the "sports editor" for the Knoxville News-Sentinel, one would think that he would at least have a basic understanding of the demographics of supporters for Tennessee's two Southeastern Conference members -- even if only by osmosis from Media Days in Birmingham.
For a university like Vanderbilt, among the Top 20 in the United States and the Top 40 in the world, the base of supporters is drawn from literally across the United States and around the world.
The university graduates 1,700 students per class (with only 6,800 undergraduates total). That means that there are less than 100,000 alumni of the University even alive, and most of them do not live within the Nashville area.
Compare that with the Institution of Knoxville, which has almost 6,000 students per class, or almost 21,000 undergraduates. These students are drawn primarily from the state of Tennessee. OIK literally has three times more living alumni (with around 360,000) than does Vanderbilt.
And, of course, none of this takes into account the hordes of orange-clad masses who support OIK because it claims to be "The University of Tennessee [sic]."
One wonders how many people would be Vanderbilt fans if Bishop McTyeire had decided to keep the name, "University of Nashville" or use the originally proposed name, "Southern Central University."
Dearest alma mater
I am not deluded into thinking that this post on anchorofgold.com will even reach Mr. Adams, let alone call him to account for his journalistic folly.
But, at the very least, it reminds me why, despite my upbringing in the heart of the Smoky Mountains in northeast Tennessee (where I was taught to revere that horrible color which all true Vanderbilt men refuse to even glance upon), I am grateful to God Almighty that I was delivered into the arms of dearest Alma Mater, becoming a Son of Vanderbilt -- and yes, Mr. Adams, I know who our coach is.