Slow Clap Or Eight Clap?

Maybe I’m late to this particular party, but in the last couple of days it’s become far more apparent to me that there are two newspapers in Los Angeles that are unapolgetically biased in their coverage of UCLA sports.  One is the school’s longtime house organ, THE DAILY BRUIN.  The other, apparently more so than ever, would be the Left Angeles TIMES.

Look, I’ve actually softened my stance on the TIMES’ sports section of late.  They recently restored local box scores for all pro teams and major colleges and apparently will those of all of MLB, at least bringing them back in line with their s0-called competition that encompasses the remains of the DAILY NEWS, DAILY BREEZE and ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER.

But with a couple of clearly parochial pieces and their abject ignorance of a significant breaking story, whatever momentum they may have been garnering has, at least to me, been undone and, indeed, overshadowed.

It started on the eve of UCLA’s Sweet Sixteen showdown in the NCAA Women’ s March Madness against defending champion LSU.  The same LSU that was the subject of a Washington Post piece that dropped hours earlier that dredged up still-simmering grievances and alleged intolerances of the Tigers’ feisty coach Kim Mulvey.  Mulvey had gotten out in front of that one last weekend during a press conference where she directly called out the Post for she clearly believed was a hit piece, and was more than prepared to tell the world at large she was ready to lawyer up if necessary.  As BroBible’s Grayson Weir reported last weekend:

Mulkey’s comments came less than 24 hours after rumors started to circle online.  She claims that the Washington Post’s story has been in the works for two years. The reporter, who Mulkey did not mention by name, supposedly pestered her for an interview that was not granted (for a reason) because she did not like a piece that he did on Brian Kelly in the past. From there, the unnamed reporter allegedly contacted Mulkey’s former coaches and players under the guise of collaboration, among other sketchy practices.\

As it turned out, the Post’s writer, one Kent Babb, was actually more even-handed that Mulkey may have feared, as the LAFAYETTE DAILY ADVERTISER’s Cory Diaz, whose audience is right in the heart of Geaux Nation, observed yesterday:

In a lengthy profile piece spanning Mulkey’s life as a young girl in Tangipahoa Parish and her 40-year coaching career…Babb highlighted Mulkey’s march to becoming one of women’s basketball’s “best motivators and teachers any sports has seen,” he wrote.  The story featured a theme of Mulkey doing whatever it takes to win in the article titled “The Kim Mulkey Way: The LSU coach holds grudges, battles everyone — and keeps winnings. But at what cost?”

If any sports reporter had a justifable reason for indignation, it would have been someone who has covered Mulkey day in and day out.  But nope, that title now belongs to the TIMES’ Ben Bolch, who wrote his own commentary yesterday that not only took on Mulkey, but indeed the entire LSU women’s basketball program.

The original version of Bolch’s biased BS included such pointed and balanced observations as these, which AWFUL ANNOUNCING’s Andrew Buchholz shared yesterday:

This isn’t just a basketball game, it’s a reckoning. Picking sides goes well beyond school allegiance.

Do you prefer America’s sweethearts or its dirty debutantes? Milk and cookies or Louisiana hot sauce?

The team that wants to grow women’s basketball or the one seemingly hellbent on dividing it?

The coach who embraces reporters or the one who attacks them?

The tender star player or the one who taunts?

When UCLA plays defending national champion Louisiana State on Saturday at MVP Arena in the Sweet 16 of the Albany 2 Regional, the contrasts don’t stop with blue and purple.

Buchholz shared dozens of criticisms from fellow journalists in his write-up, none more on point than those Mulkey herself offered up during her post-game presser after her team did the only thing a team and a program under fire could legitimately do to shut haters down: eliminate the “milk and cookies” opposition.   As Baton Rouge TV station WBRZ’s Adam Burruss detailed:

“Debutantes? Take your phone out and Google dirty debutantes and tell me what it says,” Mulkey said. “Dirty debutantes? Are you kidding me? I’m not gonna let you talk about 18-21 year old kids in that tone.”  “You can criticize coaches all you want, that’s our business. You can come at us and say ‘you’re the worst coach in America’… but the one thing I’m not gonna let you do is attack our young people. There are some things in this article you should be offended by as women. It was so sexist and they don’t even know it.”

But apparently at some point in the last 24 hours someone somewhere within what’s left of the TIMES’ sports department did notice, because at 9:55 pm Pacific Daylight Time Bolch’s story was updated with this unbylined disclaimer: “(T)he previous version “did not meet Times editorial standards.”  Milk and cookies, along with dirty debutantes, have evaporated into what the TIMES would like to consider history.

Fat chance.  As Ricky Ricardo used to crow, “you got some ‘splainin’ to do”.  And not necessarily just for sexism.  For an even more insulting kind of bias.

Consider how the TIMES’ bio of Bolch reads:

He is serving his second stint as the UCLA beat writer…Bolch is also the author of the recently released book “100 Things UCLA Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.” He previously covered UCLA basketball from 2010-11 before going on to cover the NBA and the Clippers for five years. He happily traded in gobs of hotel points and airline miles to return to cover UCLA basketball and football in the summer of 2016.

Now consider the lengthy and whiny tone of the story that ran almost the entire length of the sports’ section’s front page (and then some) which Bolch authored that documented how the gory details of UCLA’s loss:

The cities change, the details vary. The constant is the disappointment this time of year for UCLA. The latest bout of March sadness played out in a somber locker room inside MVP Arena, the Bruins contemplating another opportunity lost.  That’s now six trips to this weekend of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament under coach Cori Close. One ended in the Elite Eight and five others in the Sweet 16, the latest stumble for the second-seeded Bruins coming Saturday afternoon during a 78-69 loss to third-seeded Louisiana State in a semifinal of the Albany 2 Regional.

Meanwhile, the coverage of USC’s VICTORY against Baylor which took place mere hours later yesterday, which sent them to the first Elite Eight in 30 years, was relegated to a small picture box and a far smaller story on the section’s back page.

But at least the paper covered it.  They’ve still not covered a story about the Trojans’ men’s basketball program which just about every other media outlet of significance has already broken.  Including their one-time corporate cousins, the DALLAS MORNING NEWS.  Per Kellen Bulger in a story that dropped THURSDAY:

On Wednesday afternoon, college basketball analyst Jeff Goodman of The Field of 68 reported on Twitter/X that the head coach of USC, Andy Enfield, is expected to sign a deal to become SMU basketball’s new head coach and that the hiring may not be official until next week. 

Tuesday, a person familiar with the process told The Dallas Morning News that Enfield has emerged as a top target to replace outgoing coach Rob Lanier. He was fired from his post last week after the team lost its opening-round game to Indiana State. Lanier finished his time in Dallas with a 30-35 record after two seasons.

According to some personal connections with direct ties to USC, it is reportedly the lack of an official statement from USC regarding Enfield’s status, and some details about his potential buyout, that have delayed any coverage.  (That window is supposed to expire tomorrow; it is anticipated Enfield’s departure details will be forthcoming later this week).  But no one at UCLA issued any sort of statement regarding their thoughts on LSU or Mulkey, yet the TIMES somehow chose to greenlight their Bolch-evic diatribe, devoting an awful lot of very limited column inches to it.

Do they actually have any concrete data that infers, even tangentially, that what’s left of their readership is far less interested in what goes on east of the Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevard diagonal intersection at the foot of Beverly Hills?

Or might it somehow be even perceptually tied to to the fact that the increasingly involved and cost-slashing billionaire owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong is a proud Bruin alumnus?  Who continually gives amplification to other UC campuses’ medical experts to support their never-ending crusade to keep our fair city masked and isolated until the end of times because, let’s face it, who actually wants to kill that golden goose even as warm weather approaches again?  Apparently the seasonal update that occurred in the past is probably in the same queue with the Enfield story.

So while I do think there’s agenda journalism at play here, I’d offer to Mulkey it’s not as cut and dried as “red” vs. “blue”.  Rather, I’d offer it’s more like cardinal vs. blue and gold.

Until next time…

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