Today marks the last Friday of July, and that means just five Fridays left total before the first Saturday with college football games. Summer has past at breakneck speed, and the conclusion of college football’s various media days moves us beyond an important milestone.
I was at Dolby Theater in Hollywood for this week’s Pac-12 Media Day, where the most-read headline coming out of the event focused on someone not in attendance. That provides us our jumping-off point for this week’s edition of The Open Man Q&A. As always, you can send your questions to @kensing45 or @the_open_man. Email is always an option: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dennis Dodd’s take on Bryce Love skipping Media Day: The worst take? Or the worst take?
— Dave Singleton (@dfsingleton) July 26, 2018
So I have a variety of thoughts on this subject, but I want to first preface saying that I do not intend to nor want to come off as taking shots at Dodd. What’s more, dozens of much worse takes on sports will be produced next week alone, just based on who is producing them. I won’t name names, but you can probably figure it out…kick.
That does not mean I agree, though — especially given that Bryce Love actually Skyped into the event and took questions despite his absence.
I can understand frustration from a reporter seeking to write a feature on the returning Heisman runner-up. From another perspective, the Pac-12 not having its best player representing live and in person might fuel the criticism leveled against the conference in the wake of a 1-8 bowl season. But Dodd’s point — that Bryce Love may have cost himself Heisman votes — is a reach.
The column references Tim Tebow, but the year Tebow won the Heisman, 2007, he was not one of Florida’s representatives at SEC Media Days. Neither was Christian McCaffrey in 2015 when he was runner-up coming out of Stanford. If Love matches his production of 2017, and Stanford is in the Pac-12 title chase once again, his Heisman candidacy will be just fine. Both could come to fruition, too, in part because the Cardinal’s offense as a whole should be significantly better than it was for much of 2017. Some of the credit belongs to wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who attended Media Day in Love’s place.
Frankly, Bryce Love not making it to Hollywood provides more angles for interesting stories than if he had been at Dolby Theater in the flesh. Showcasing another member of the Stanford offense, who will be a hot commodity for NFL franchises, gives added context to what we can expect out of Love this season. And Arcega-Whiteside’s own story is quite fascinating: He took a day off from his internship for former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to attend.
If anything, Love’s motivation for missing Media Day is a great story. His pursuit of a Human Biology at Stanford is the sort of human interest piece pushed as prominently in a Heisman chase as statistics. Dodd’s inadvertent dismissal of Bryce Love prioritizing class did at least spawn this gem from Friend of The Open Man Sarah Kezele:
“We ain’t come to play school.”
– Cardale Jones — Dennis Dodd https://t.co/SUpQQN1bwb
— Sarah Kezele (@SarahKezele) July 26, 2018
More than the column itself, though, the backlash frustrates me. No doubt this will be the most-read and most-discussed article to come from the event. Our infatuation with hate-clicks perpetuates a cycle of toxicity, wherein there’s greater reward for presenting a strong take or something else inflammatory, than there is for the thoughtful and informative.
Best current player interviews (whether that be quote machines or genuine insight) in the Pac-12 ranked
— Tracy McDannald 📎 (@Tracy_McDannald) July 26, 2018
Pinpointing best players can be tough, since they tend to speak more as upperclassmen and are gone within a year or two of establishing rapport with media. To wit, I always enjoyed interviewing former USC offensive lineman Zach Banner, who put genuine thought into his answers and was always forthcoming. Adoree’ Jackson was often hilarious; ditto former UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks.
Of current players, USC linebacker Cam Smith has been a great interview from the first day he was allowed to speak to media in 2015. Khalil Tate was a hoot at Media Day, while his in-state counterpart, Manny Wilkins, was notably insightful. Washington defensive back JoJo McIntosh and Stanford wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside provided some of the most thoughtful answers on various off-field topics.
As a bonus, I can offer up my favorite coaches to interview: David Shaw has always been great about offering up detailed answers that addressing the subject; ditto Kyle Whittingham. Mario Cristobal has been fantastic in his few months on the job at Oregon.
Have you been enjoying @thetournament, Kyle?
— walsh (@theryanwalsh) July 26, 2018
The Basketball Tournament is an absolute blast. The NBA’s surge in popularity over the last half-decade or so has spawned a variety of summertime hoops, looking to capitalize on the audience’s thirst for basketball. The results have mostly been terrible.
BIG3 is silly, the JBA is an embarrassment, and NBA Summer League’s very hit-or-miss. Checking it out live is fun, because it’s in Vegas, but be prepared to watch games in which one player that a franchise is hoping to get a look at shoots 50 times, while his teammates function as little more than shaggers. What’s up, Kelly Oubre?
The Basketball Tournament is the lone summertime basketball option that is both unique enough to give its own identity without feeling cartoonish, and entertaining enough to avoid being a snoozefest. The stakes provide an intensity to every game, which Summer League sometimes lacks.
It’s a blast seeing former college basketball greats like Jared Sullinger and Jimmer Fredette balling out. The atmosphere also feels like a great college game. Use of the Elam Ending also makes for a much smoother final minutes of games when compared to the sometimes torturous, foul-laden conclusions of some college contests.
Will the New Japan/ROH show at Madison Square Garden sell out? Over/under 10,000 tickets sold on the first day?
— Dan Greenspan (@DanGreenspan) July 26, 2018
Watching Ring of Honor’s growth has been fascinating. I downloaded my first ROH match — Samoa Joe vs. Low Ki — from Kazaa in the summer of 2003. The fledgling promotion that ran shows primarily in Northeastern gymnasiums, before crowds of a few hundred, drew a sellout of a little more than 6,000 at this past March’s Supercard of Honor show in New Orleans.
The growth of ROH speaks to wrestling’s surge in popularity. The heights of the late ’90s/early ’00s will probably never be reached again, but the industry is more popular now than at any time in the past 17 years.
I should be more excited about this, having followed ROH since its earlier days. However, the federation’s ownership, which Deadspin covered well after Supercard of Honor, makes me uneasy. Sinclair Broadcasting’s efforts to monopolize local TV stations and force a specific political agenda have nothing to do with ROH directly — not like WWE celebrating the return of a self-described racist — but it always lingers in the back of my mind.
Furthermore, ROH simply isn’t as well-booked now running in front of thousands of fans as it was in the 2000s, running before a couple hundred. Its affiliation with NJPW often means talent from my current favorite promotion will appear on ROH shows, but it feels like New Japan wrestlers treat ROH cards like house shows. That is to say, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Hangman Page in the G1 Climax is a much faster paced match than Tanahashi vs. Hangman at ROH United.
So that then begs the question: Will Supercard of Honor be more of a NJPW show, or more ROH? And does it ultimately matter?
ROH started running its Supercard of Honor shows in 2006, functioning as a satellite for WWE Wrestlemania. The bevy of wrestling fans traveling for the premier show in wrestling guaranteed an audience. ROH is indirectly responsible for turning Wrestlemania into a week-long event, with dozens of shows in the lead-up to WWE’s stadium production.
Wrestlemania 35 (I still hate that Vince McMahon abandoned Roman numerals) will attract roughly 81,000 spectators to MetLife Stadium. Madison Square Garden seats about 18,500 for wrestling, less than one-quarter of the wrestling fans in the New York area just for Wrestlemania. Though WWE’s NXT brand will run its usual Takeover show in Brooklyn that same night, Barclays Center seats about the same as Madison Square Garden. All told, the two shows combined only need to sell to about 45 percent of the fans in town for Mania.
Add the allure of NJPW running its first billed show in New York since the promotion caught fire (I’m not really counting the co-branded Jersey All Pro tour it ran in 2011 during a downturn for the organization), and a sellout seems inevitable to me. The situation is much different than this month’s G1 Special in San Francisco, which drew a healthy 6,500 or so, but failed to fill the Cow Palace.
As for the number of tickets sold on the first day, 10,000 feels realistic. March’s Strong Style Evolved in Long Beach sold out of its roughly 4,000-ticket allotment on its first day, without the benefit of taking place on the marquee wrestling weekend.