Scooter Hobbs column: Another bad first impression

Published 10:58 am Saturday, September 10, 2022

It was Ed Orgeron’s weekly news briefing. LSU and Alabama were used to playing real defensive slobber-knockers, but the Tide and Nick Saban had recently joined the shady up-tempo crowd that was hijacking the game. LSU was still a stubborn holdout.

So I guess it was me who politely raised my hand and asked Orgeron, “How does it feel going into this Alabama game knowing you’re going to have to score 30 points to win?”

Orgeron: Who says we’ve got to score 30 points?

Me: I guess I do.

There were a few chuckles from media colleagues, but the Earth’s orbit did not grind to a halt.

But two months later in Scottsdale, Arizona, as Oregon’s first major news conference at the Fiesta Bowl was breaking up, he gravel-grumbled out at me and summoned me toward him.

I didn’t know what was up.

Me: Uh, yeah, I guess. I’d kind of forgotten about it.

Coach O: Well, you know I was walking off the field that night and I thought, Dang, Scooter was right.

We had a good chuckle over it.

But the point is, since he would later say that it was on that solemn postgame exit that he had the epiphany to go find an offense befitting Joe Burrow’s talents, well, I’m hereby taking full credit for the 2019 national championship.

Just kidding. It was a collateral contribution at best.

The point is that the original exchange, awkward for a brief moment, sneaked by without moving the social media needle.

Fast-forward to last Monday’s news briefing with new coach Brian Kelly in the same spot, having to answer for Sunday’s eyesore of a 24-23 loss to Florida State.

As Kelly was opening it up for questions, he noticed a sports writer from the Baton Rouge Advocate slipping in a tad late. He made a comment about “the late-arriving media crowd that must have enjoyed the weekend” and added a flippant remark (jokingly) that maybe she should donate $10 to the kitty for a “big bash at the end of the year.”

“Maybe when you win I’ll be on time,” Leah Vann responded.

Ooooh.

Afterwards Vann apologized to Kelly and she later said he was “super chill” about it.

Nobody who was there thought much about it. If it had been $10 a pop for being late back in the day, Les Miles would have blown through his contract millions before the season’s open date.

And harmless media-coach exchanges like that happen all the time.

Social media, of course, went to DEFCON 5, mainly with a Category 5 Twitterstorm.

If it wasn’t sanctimonious accusations that the reporter was unprofessional, it was trumpeted as just more proof that Kelly has lost control of the program one game into his $100-million tenure.

It was non-stop, rat-a-tat-tat from all angles, a softball tossed to all the afternoon ESPN scream-a-thon talk shows.

Well, excuse me, but everybody needs to just super chill.

It’s not like this was the Nuremberg trials or the latest developments in Leonardo DiCaprio’s age restrictions for a blind date.

But it’s not surprising.

Most of the salvos seemed to be aimed at Kelly, many with a sneering tone, almost gloating.

When word got out that several LSU players had deleted their Insta-go‘round accounts — or whatever those things are called — it was seen as proof that a purple-and-gold mutiny was afoot.

I seriously doubt it, but it makes for good click bait.

Granted, there was nothing in the Kelly debut to suggest he was anything but a dunce of a hire.

It was a breathtakingly bad opening statement, so ugly that pulling to within a point with a miracle rally didn’t seem to fool anybody.

But that doesn’t mean that’s the way it will be every week.

Kelly didn’t build up the goods to land the LSU job with sideline performances like that.

Surely it will get better.

But there’s no sense in his asking LSU fans to be patient. It’s their job to be fans, not rational. He’s the one who will have to be patient.

And nothing he and the Tigers do to Southern this week is going to erase that first impression.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at scooter.hobbs@americanpress.com