The Filak Furlough Tour actually hit the road a few weeks back to drive out and visit a campus. Most people were fine with the “Vince on Zoom” experience, as it allowed them to shut me off and mute me when I got annoying. The good folks at Iowa State University knew me and decided that a couple days of me would be, at the very least, interesting.
Of all the campuses I’ve been on as a student, parent, faculty member and more, I found Iowa State to be among the best in terms of just feeling like it fit my personality. (I mean that as a compliment, not as a potentially libelous statement…) Nice people, smart kids, good questions and more. Totally worth the 4 a.m. car ride…
IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY – AMES, IOWA
THE TOPIC: I did one class on finding stories and trying to come up with the best ways to tell those stories and one on sports journalism, sports marketing and DEI. Since I’ve done a lot on the issue of finding stories, we’ll go after the second one.
THE BASICS: This had to be one of the more interesting experiences I’ve had, in that the class was set up like a press conference, with the students driving the discussion on the topic and then live-tweeting the entire thing as they saw fit. The professor gave me the option of asking them not to record or put me on social media.
“Nah,” I said. “Let them do it. If I say something pathologically stupid, that’s my fault.”
Thus began my life on a tightrope for an hour or so…
One of the key things we discussed was the way in which race, gender and other similar issues get covered in the media. We talked a lot about how the “oddity” interest element tends to get played up when it comes to those topics. It’s often stories about “The first (fill in the blank) to do (job white guys have done for forever)” instead of “Here is a person who brings XYZ skills and valuable elements to the (job).”
I apparently made this case about not being at a point of equity yet in a truly “me” way:
A student asked me how we could get closer to that kind of thing, both in terms of news/sports coverage and in terms of sports marketing. I think the key is to look at the person first and what it is that makes the person worthy of focus. It could be an athletic skill set or their personality or a dozen other things. Then, help that person tell the story they want to tell about themselves, rather than focusing on whatever quick and easy distinction we can make, whether it’s race, gender, sexual orientation or whatever:
The important thing to understand is that nothing gets done in an instant. That doesn’t mean we should accept mediocrity when it comes to making progress, nor should we say, “Well, that’s good enough for now.” However to fail to see that things have come a decent distance over a protracted period of time is to diminish the value of the people who worked and fought to get as much improvement as we have gotten to this point.
BEST QUESTION OF THE DAY: What did you think of how Coach Prime dealt with the media and how the media was dealing with Coach Prime?
BEST ANSWER I HAD AT THE TIME: Deion Sanders has always been very much his own person and has not really given a damn what other people thought of him the sense of if he was being “too much.” (Whatever the heck that means.) He was never going to come to college coaching and suddenly turn into a “We gotta play them one day at a time… I’m just glad to be here…” kind of person. He is who he is and he’s comfortable in his own skin, which I think is fantastic.
The person that I most thought of when I saw his situation in Colorado was Muhammad Ali: He was brash, confident and not afraid of telling people what he thought. In doing so, he ruffled a lot of feathers of people who didn’t like his approach. It was like the media was waiting for him to fail so they could say, “See? You’re not all that. Now sit down and shut up.”
That’s never going to happen. He will continue to be who he is throughout the process. Even if you don’t like him as a person or find him to be annoying on those Duck commercials, you gotta respect the sense of self he has and the way it can inspire and raise up his players.
ONE LAST THING: I saw these advertised in the campus bookstore.
Despite my best efforts, Amy wouldn’t let me come home with a pair of these.