I’m having a blissful time in Ashland and as part of the bliss I just went online and read Eric Branch’s Niners blog for the SF Chron. Eric used to work at the Press Democrat and he’s a great guy and I love his writing, always have. In his blog he pointed out that the Niners conducted their final hour of practice on Friday far away from reporters. Eric wrote it was difficult to see practice because of the long distance and players obstructing the view. When a PR guy asked the team if reporters could get closer he got a “no dice.”
I didn’t expect this post from Eric, but it didn’t surprise me. Jim Harbaugh is the most anti-media coach I ever covered in any sport. He makes it hard for journalists to do the basics of their jobs. I see nothing good or funny or cute in this. Journalists are crucial in our free society and Harbaugh, I believe, wants to limit and control news. He doesn’t want reporters to report even though the Niners already enforce strict rules that reporters cannot describe formations or quote what is said on the field. All the writers who cover the team honor these rules, which should be enough. It’s not enough for Harbaugh. I’m guessing he would like a world in which reporters never were allowed near the field and never report anything about the team except everything looks good and the Niners are as close to heavenly as is possible on Earth. Beyond that, he seems to want few specific details. Maybe he’d like to play games in an empty stadium. I don’t know how/if Trent Baalke and Jed York figure in this regrettable attitude toward the media.
I’ll tell you what troubles me more than Harbaugh’s attitude. It troubles me that most people reading this blog entry think Harbaugh is doing the right thing. It troubles me that most of you think the media have no business getting a good look at practice or reporting on the team. As long as Harbaugh wins, fans will side with him vs. the media.
It never had to come to this. There is no war between the Niners and the press except in Harbaugh’s mind. That’s how I see it and it’s sad. Bill Walsh and George Seifert never placed such restrictions on the media and they won lots of Super Bowls.
I’m glad I’m in Ashland. I’m glad I’m not suffering the indignity of attending a practice that’s intentionally hard to see. To read Eric Branch’s blog, click here.