David Shaw, Paul Finebaum and Context


Part of my work covering Pac-12 football has necessitated I speak with David Shaw. I’ve done so a number of times in the last few years. In fact, I am putting the finishing touches on a feature with details compiled over the course of Stanford’s 2015 season.

That got sidetracked so I could hopefully bring some perspective to a fallacy floating about the college football space Monday, centered around comments Shaw made to local reporters over the weekend.

Speaking with a person enough times, you pick up on tendencies. One of David Shaw’s is touting the rigorous academic standards for Stanford University as part of the football program’s allure. Think of it akin to a coach calling his team’s fans the best in the nation, pumping up the quality of facilities, displaying championship bling on social media.

Thus, when David Shaw turned a question from San Jose Mercury News reporter Jon Wilner into an opportunity to talk up Stanford academics, I wasn’t surprised reading it Sunday morning.

Fast-forward more than a day, and Shaw’s Stanford boastfulness mutated into the latest slight against the mighty SEC — nay, the entire American Southeast!

Where there’s smoke, there’s Finebaum.

Much as trumpeting Stanford’s academics is Shaw’s M.O., antagonizing the listening audience is Paul Finebaum’s.

We are about as about far removed from the college football season as we’ll be at any time. A show centered around college football needs to stir up the viewing and listening audience. Easy to chalk up the misrepresentation of Shaw’s comments as fodder for air were it not gaining so much traction.

Oh, dear. I’m already setting up filters to avoid the inevitable Clay Travis take.

This quote floated for nearly two days before gaining steam nationally. Why? In this case — and, unfortunately, too often in the sports media landscape — reality as told by reporters isn’t as sexy as comments barked by entertainers.

To wit, here’s Wilner offering context on the question he asked.

Shaw repeating the line about Stanford academics he’s toed repeatedly as Cardinal head coach wouldn’t elicit the kind of reaction generated this afternoon.

Redressed with an inaccurate headline above it that reads “On Holding Satellite Camps in SEC Country,” however? That’s the kind of material that launches a thousand copy-paste blog posts.

Context? What the hell is context?