Some Media Resolution for the Supposed Baalke-Harbaugh Rift

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

I take a look at a couple of articles published yesterday about Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh.

So much of this offseason has been defined by scandal, ill-deserved or not. And, as a consequence, so much of this offseason has been defined by how the sports media responds to and writes about scandals. Generally, I find the media's response to sports scandals quite disheartening. Uninformed writers get their news from a cap-restricted Twitter account and are forced to publish material they haven't had enough time to contemplate or, even, fully understand.

Now this isn't necessarily a problem when the sports writer is doing a "just the facts" story, or what Roland Barthes might call "writing degree zero" (if such a thing is even possible). Writers can, and probably should, write informative and thoroughly researched articles that lay out factually based news. The real problem happens when a publisher wants the "hot-take" the next day. This inevitably leads to speculation, faulty logic, sloppy writing, and a complete disregard for prudence (you now have the Beatles stuck in your head - you're welcome; I could have made a Blink 182 allusion or something, but I've got your back).

So, when I read this article by Greg A. Bedard over at Sports Illustrated's The MMQB, I wanted to bring it some attention. First off, simply from a content standpoint, it's worth reading. It seems to confirm what I think many of us suspected: both Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh are smart, fiercely competitive, socially flippant people who care more about winning a Super Bowl than making friends. Great. As far as I'm concerned, this is exactly what I want out of a GM and a Head Coach.

Does this mean they butt heads frequently? You bet your best pair of Levi's it does. And, I'm not at all convinced that this is a bad thing. Both have such sharp minds that a little disagreement can only breed good ideas, as each man's opinion is constantly examined, dislocated, and reassembled. Of course the hot-headed nature of both men could spill over into something inappropriate, but for as much fiery speculation as we saw this offseason from writers who can't tell a Ken Dorsey from a Cody Pickett, there has been no evidence up until this point that Baalke' and Harbaugh's disagreements threaten the long-term stability of their relationship.

Secondly, I wanted to give Bedard some credit for going to the source. It may very well be that both Baalke and Harbaugh are great actors who fooled Bedard to write an article that fools idiots like me. But, at the very least, Bedard had the right instinct: research your subject before formulating strong opinions. This is, I think, sadly lacking in the instant-response-style blog writing.

Just to provide a counter example, here is Mike Florio's (at Pro Football Talk) response to Bedard, published the same day only a few hours later. Of course Florio has a right to his opinion and to publish when and what he sees fit; moreover, he has a great degree of football cred as a professional writer, and I want to pay him the due deference he deserves. But, his response seems, if not sloppy, then at least stubborn. Barely taking Bedard's enhanced perceptive due to his recent proximity with Harbaugh and Baalke into account, Florio regurgitates a criticism that Harbaugh and Baalke falsified the degree to which they were pursuing Peyton Manning two years ago. Yes, two years ago, Baalke and Harbaugh may have lied about their relationship with a free agent. Good thing that isn't common practice in the NFL.

Florio's penultimate sentence is, "That perception [that Harbaugh and Baalke are difficult to work with] became so strong in recent months it doesn't matter what the reality is." Well, actually the reality of the situation does matter. It matters a lot. Bedard should be applauded for attempting, even if he was unsuccessful, to accurately convey the reality of the situation and thus shift the perception of the situation such that it would be in line with reality. Florio seems more interested in perpetuating perceptions than pushing them towards reality.

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