On day two of the SEC Media Days I set out to cast myself in the mold of reporter. To truly experience SEC Media Days, you must fully embrace it. You cannot, as I have heretofore done, maintain a reasonable distance for the purposes of perspective. If you want to experience - nay, become a part of - Media Days, you must allow yourself to be swept up into the fracas for at least a little bit.
But I am not a reporter. Nor do I report to be a reporter. I am, however, decently capable of observation, analysis, and re-performance. Know thy strengths, dear reader. Day one provided me with all the observation I would need for my transformation. Now all I needed was to implement said observation in an appropriate manner. Let's run through the key qualities for faking it till you make it at SEC Media Days, shall we?
Just as we eat with our eyes first, so, too, do we judge our comrades by their appearance before inquiring of their mind. Lesson 1: if you want be a reporter, look like a reporter. Here, it is not so important what look you cultivate so long as you commit to it wholeheartedly. Dress for attendees ranges from the dapper television anchor to the "I slept in these clothes because I didn't feel like packing for Thursday" audio guy. Both extremes fit in equally well at Media Days. Just know what look you're going for and embrace it. It would not have phased me to see a gaggle of Japanese school girls in the main media room any more than it would have to see a stag Furry with a boom mic. Are you starting to get a feeling for the circus-like atmosphere in Birmingham this week?
Related to committing to a look is committing in general. Lesson 2: Be confident. This rule applies almost anywhere in life, but at SEC Media Days it is essential for your achievement of journalistic goals. I have not yet seen a single reporter from a reputable outlet take one step to the side, look at a table, and then decide to set his course for the opposite direction. Do you want to hear what player X from Auburn has to say? Narrow your sights on him and pounce on the least bit of open space around his table. If you don't, you might find yourself being boxed out by Joe Schad look-a-likes. Are you jonesing to see what's going on in the CSS taping room? Walk with confidence, my friend, and you will soon find yourself within an arm's reach of what ESPN would be like if it had been built inside a Studio 54 bathroom. I'm almost certain that you could literally drop trow and relieve yourself in a solo cup during Derek Dooley's interview if you could somehow manage that feat without being nervous (I can't know for sure since I can't perform with people staring at me from a stage. It's why I lost the nerve to audition for body double in Eyes Wide Shut.).
Lesson 3: if you want be a champion, eat like a champion. Reporter-types are notorious for keeping strange hours - mostly due to filing deadlines and their need to adapt to other people's schedules. As such, they often eat at weird hours or skip meals all together. Case in point, there was no allocation for lunch on Thursday even though interviews didn't finish up until 1:30. Why? Because the SEC knows that a bag of chips and pack of Smarties is all beat writers need until 4:30. If you don't have some sort of flavored salt under your fingernails and a Mylar junk food wrapper in your pocket, you won't make it in this profession.
Lesson 4: have something to fiddle with. Writing may be a cerebral activity, but you must show your dedication to the craft by occupying your hands. A pen and paper will work just fine, but the truly gifted opt for the use of a digital recorder, which must be held aloft at uncomfortable angles at all times. Alternatively, you may go for the video recorder on a mini-tripod. This may seem like a straight forward enough device (it stands up by itself!), but you must commit to constantly adjusting the angle and tinkering with buttons like some kind of $200 Digi-pet. The point is, if you are just listening to the interviewee, you aren't reporting.
And there you have it, dear reader. Go forth and report. Now let's get down to the substance from Day 2.
Stories from Day 2 of SEC Media Days were few and far between, but below I'll re-hash what I took from the sessions.
Joker Phillips seems like a good guy. When asked about his former status as "Coach in Waiting" he pointed out that, unlike some situations, he was an integral part of building what was going on at Kentucky. I think this was a cogent point that was lost is the shuffle. His situation has worked (so far) because his role in the program defined from the get go, not manufactured to fool recruits. Phillips also touched on preparing mentally as a coach. He noted that he watches football during his time off just so he can actively prepare for situations on TV that he otherwise might not have considered. I like this quality in a coach. He also imparted a bit of wisdom when it comes to student-athletes and Twitter. At Kentucky, they tell their kids "Before you tweet, think 'Dear General Manager,'" his point being that each tweet is essentially an interview in today's world.
I got nothing. Mark Richt almost went off on a tangent about greed and the love of money but stopped himself before getting into anything actually interesting. He's not concerned about their depth at offensive line or tailback, but I suspect he was lying about both. In short, Georgia is still Georgia. They still expect to win the SEC East and they very well may.
Gene Chizik was a total snooze fest. That man might be the best liar I have ever seen. He said absolutely nothing of consequence and answered only the questions he wanted to answer.
I did, however, glean this interesting nugget from defensive tackle Nosa Equae. He was asked about his fondest moment at Auburn so far and responded by recounting a touching story regarding Nick Fairly. Yeah, I know, that Nick Fairly. During the Iron Bowl last year when Auburn was down to 'Bama 21 points in the first half, Fairly reportedly asked his teammates what they were thankful for. While the offense was on the field, each player took a turn saying what he was most thankful for at that moment. Fairly started by saying his teammates and family. Now, I'm no Nick Fairly fan, but that is one of the best stories I've heard happening on a sideline. Equae said it was a deep experience that he would hold dear the rest of his life.
Coach Derek Dooley was great in his press conference. He had an early quasi-gaffe when he talked about UT's right to keep its standards as low as it wants, but he recovered well. He spoke on the feasibility of contract law and 4-year scholarships when prompted and Marcus Lattimore being the best back in the league when not. He had two money quotes.
On cutting money spent on recruiting services: "My instinct was: cut money. Then I realized we had $100,000,000 and I said, 'why did I do that?'"
On close losses from 2010: "I told everybody I was 8-7 in postgame handshakes last year. It was a remarkable feat."
Coach Dooley brought along RB Tauren Poole to Birmingham and he did the unthinkable. He made me like the Volunteers. I must say that I had been directing a good bit of ire toward UT after the way Lane Kiffin behaved in the SEC, but it was hard not to like Derek Dooley and Tauren Poole after hearing them speak. Good on them.
Well, that wraps up my coverage from Day 2 of the SEC Media Days. As always, you can follow me on Twitter tomorrow (@FeatherdWarrior). Look for an SEC Media Days post from me late Friday night or even Saturday night (it's a long drive, folks).