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Seth Davis was right: Fear and loathing in UVA Nation

chris jpjMy apologies, as hard as they are to offer, to Seth Davis, but Seth, you’re right: UVA Nation is messed up.

I came to realize this tonight upon scanning a UVA sports message board and seeing my own name dragged through the orange and blue mud. Unlike Davis, who earns his haters by prodding the pro-UVA message boards with whatever anti-UVA basketball rant comes to mind that particular free Twitter minute, my sin was writing a decidedly pro-UVA analytical piece criticizing a rather lazy ESPN.com article on how UVA basketball is supposedly boring.

The piece in question went into some detail in terms of offering comparative data on points, scores and turnovers per possession for UVA, UNC and Duke in recent games, then looked deeper at where the Cavs rank in offensive and defensive efficiency relative to tempo vis-à-vis Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin, UVA, and extending the dragnet out to Northern Iowa and West Virginia.

The message boards, select posters bringing their own ammunition for the purposes of starting an otherwise non sequitur firefight, were not kind.

“His writing on UVa seems like an amateur blog to me.”

“It’s decidedly average. No advanced stats, no quality writing, just a puff opinion piece responding to a puff opinion piece.”

There was a lot more, none of it nice.

“Apt description of AFP – ‘small time, please pay attention to me.’”

“It’s just a dude writing stuff. Just like you and me here.”

“Except that both of us and many of the posters here are smarter than he is. And capable of using statistics and analysis to back up our opinions when necessary.”

This, again, keep in mind, was the atavistic response from fans to a column written from the perspective of a knowledgeable UVA basketball observer that spelled out in deep, data-driven detail, how a national writer who doesn’t follow UVA basketball closely missed the point.

Put more simply: hey, I’m one of us, I have a platform, I’m going to use it to tell those other people who don’t know any better that they’re wrong, and spell out why, no need for a pat on the back, just doing my job, and glad to be able to.

That the writer here literally wrote the book on UVA basketball, also literally graduated from the school, whose athletics logo he has tattooed on his goddamn left shoulder, whatever, this isn’t enough to not just, you know, maybe raise an issue of two with presentation, perhaps point out politely that the writer in question missed a key point, but, no, hell no, this guy is an abject idiot, and worse.

I know what the issue is. Yes, Dear God, I write columns that are critical, shudder, like the one that I wrote in October 2013 with a much bolder headline (“Still not sold on Tony Bennett”) than anything that was on the inside, the point to that one being, hey, entering year five of the CTB era, he had one NCAA Tournament game to show for his tenure, a blowout first-round loss in 2012, and the pressure was on to do something positive in 2013-2014.

Feel free to take issue with that one all you want, honestly. I’m a fan and alum who bleeds orange and blue, but I’m also a journalist for whom the old saw about how if your mother tell you she loves you, you need to check it out, still carries the day.

If you don’t like that I was asking questions about Bennett two years ago, good for you, I guess I’m Seth Davis, Myron Medcalf, Jay Bilas, Jay Williams and Dan Bonner all wrapped up in one.

Poor Dan, incidentally. Another UVA alum in the media who goes out of his way to be objective, and gets shat upon by the fan base for his trouble.

Add to that shat-upon list Doug Doughty, a 1970s-era UVA alum who was sports editor of the Cavalier Daily in his time on Grounds, and depending on the day of the week is Public Enemy #1 on the UVA message boards because, yep, you guessed it, he isn’t 100 percent hoo-ray-ray.

Jeff White is another UVA alum (’85) who had his moments riling up the fan base, but now that Jeff works for VirginiaSports.com, the message boards have been kinder, if only because Jeff’s own critical voice has been muted just because of the nature of his job.

Jeff does a great job, Doug does a great job. The UVA media as a whole has for years done a solid job covering what until recently was a program that few outside of the hardcores paid much attention to.

I feel like my niche is to bring data-focused analysis to the discussion, looking at efficiency numbers, stats on tempo and pace, and the efficiencies of individual players and different lineups, the numbers serving as a contextual jumping-off point for an observational perspective that comes from having covered UVA and ACC sports professionally for 20 years, and having followed UVA sports with almost religious zeal since the second grade (for me, that goes back to 1979).

Sometimes the job is to ask questions in print that others won’t ask. Others it’s to cheerlead, or buck up, if necessary pile on. Like Doug, like Jeff, like many others who do this for a living, I sign my real name to whatever it is that I’ve written that day, and I don’t prune the archives for pieces from the past that I wish in retrospect I hadn’t written.

Write professionally for 20 years, have literally tens of millions of words under your byline, and you should learn at some point to take the good with the bad, the praise with the criticism, but some days, today for me, that’s not so easy.

I remember thinking a week ago when Seth Davis blew up on UVA Nation that he needed to just chill out, it would be OK, if necessary, just ignore the haters, but today I get where he was coming from.

I’m not sure what it is about sports that makes some people think it’s a constitutional imperative on their part to be an asshat, but it’s to a point where it can be embarrassing sometimes to admit to other grown-ups that you’re a sports fan.

Not to necessarily bring religion into this, but I’d be more religious if it wasn’t for the other religious people, if you catch how I’m drifting.

As a Wahoo4Life, I hate it that Seth Davis is right about us. The guy graduated from Duke, for eff’s sake, but he’s right.

Right now we look the Clampetts loadin’ up the truck for the move to Beverly.

I mean, I hate to be the one to break it to everybody, but we’re really not that far from burning couches on our front porches.

It’s not a good look, is what I’m saying.

Either way, #Wahoowa, I guess.

– Column by Chris Graham


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