There Will Never Be Another Lewis Grizzard

Lewis Grizzard, 1947-1994

The title of this post is 25% tribute, 75% media reality in 2022.

The older folks reading this are more likely to recognize the name of Lewis Grizzard, a popular Atlanta columnist until his death in 1994 at the age of 47. He combined clever wit with a mischievous irreverence and a writing style that definitely would have bought him trouble had he continued to write to this day.

If you are not familiar with his work, the AJC has a page of his best columns offered to the public. They deserve a read.

As I reflect on Grizzard, however, my concern goes beyond the journalistic void left by his death. I seriously wonder if today’s media table has room for the tasty fare Grizzard used to offer.

Way back in the sports media Stone Age, sports media consumption was defined by scarcity. You might watch the game that night, and if it ended in time you could catch the highlights on the evening news sports segment. Then you would go to bed, and the next morning read about it in the newspaper.

Even as a general interest columnist, Grizzard would frequently provide comment on the big games, and they provided morning-after reflection that a night’s sleep seemed to kindle. Wherever you congregated–work, school or Waffle House–you would discuss the game, and Grizzard’s thoughts frequently were cited.

That doesn’t happen today. We are bombarded with major sporting event information and data from every possible angle, so that reflection, if it comes at all comes, is pushed back to much later, when the moments subside, and is the stuff of retrospectives that lack the shared experience.

There are great columnists out there, but so often their stuff appears two or three hours after the final whistle. It’s amazing that they are able to put out quality stuff so quickly, but often that means a post-midnight publication. If we read it–after frantically scrolling Twitter while seeing the highlights on SportsCenter or checking out a couple of live podcasts–exhaustion plays a factor. And if we don’t read it until the next morning, it can still move us, but the timing is as fragmented as our attention.

What started my thinking on this was a tweet or reply from a Twitter friend, and it’s appropriate to the topic that I can’t remember which one it was. (Lewis would smile sympathetically at that.) But the friend wondered what Grizzard would write about his beloved Georgia’s national championship victory last Monday.

Twenty-seven years is a long time. As Grizzard passed, the World Wide Web was starting its journey toward critical mass without him. Grizzard would have knocked out an amazing column about a long-awaited natty by his Bulldogs.

But would it have been received the same? Maybe, but even then it would be the exception that proves the rule. More likely, most Georgia fans would have seen and heard and felt so much by then that Grizzard would have been just another demand on their attention.

I reference frequently the advantages of being old, from a media audience perspective. Just recently, with Sidney Poitier’s passing, I could recall watching “To Sir, With Love” in a movie theatre. For me, it also involves being moved by “Rocky” before the franchise became a monument to Stallone’s ego, watching the Watergate hearings, and making sure I was near a TV Saturday nights at 10:30 Central to watch this new show on NBC.

Those days are gone. Life, with its various events, comes at us fast now. I’m glad that, years ago, it was slow enough that Lewis Grizzard could be along for the mornings after.

Who Pays How Much to Sports in the SEC?

The Chronicle of Higher Education and Huffington Post collaborated on an excellent report, “Sports at Any Cost,” which looks at the high financial cost of sports, particularly to smaller schools trying to hit the so-called “big time.”

How does the SEC stack up?  I took the SEC data from a “College Sports Subsidy Scorecard” page they created and came up with this

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 5.59.38 AM

A couple of quick comments:

For institutions that do not rely on student fees, the money comes almost 100 percent from institutional funds, so the students would still pay the cost, but indirectly, through higher tuition, for example.

Vanderbilt University is not included, because it is a private institution and not subject to public records law.

LSU has committed itself to transferring $7.2 million/year from athletics to the general fund — the opposite direction of the subsidies portrayed in this article. In July, the university increased the transfer by $3 million for this year, given the funding crisis facing the university.

 

 

May You Always BIRG and Never CORF

The day before the Georgia game, ironically, I delivered the GameDay lecture for the Auburn Office of Communications and Marketing.  My topic was “This Is Loyalty,” and I presented some research on fan behavior, particularly in rivalries.

After the game, I related some of the content — particularly the concepts of BIRGing and CORFing — on Twitter.  The retweets and replies showed interest, perhaps because they sound like gross things that would happen at post-game keg parties.

So after getting a grad student through a tight and chaotic thesis deadline (mission accomplished), I could turn my attention to some of the more fun aspects of academic research on fan loyalty.

We’ll blitz through the basics of social identity theory (finding groups that share our interests give our life balance, blah blah blah) and in-group/out-group conflicts (Robbers Cave experiment, yadda yadda yadda), to get to the more current stuff — disposition theory.

Giving credit where credit is due — and defying the cheap-click rivalry attitude of “professional” journalists — I would point out that two researchers from Alabama, Dolf Zillmann and Jennings Bryant, have done some of the best work on this.  Type them into a Google Scholar search and party hearty.

But before they did the bulk of their research (including a 20-year trend study of the Iron Bowl rivalry), Robert Cialdini of Arizona State came up with the concepts of BIRGing and CORFing.  BIRGing means “Basking In Reflected Glory” and CORFing means “Cutting Off Reflected Failure.”

First, the B word.  This obviously refers to the way in which fans share a certain joy in their team’s victory, even though they might not have directly participated in it.  I know, I know, the coach always says that the crowd helps, but we’re talking about throwing something down besides nachos.

It goes beyond wearing team apparel to the office on Monday (as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford demonstrates in the photo above) or talking about the game around the water cooler.  The winning team’s fans also report an enhanced self-image and more confidence in making decisions.  This is serious stuff! And when your rival team loses, it increases the BIRG.

CORFing is not the opposite, because fans deal with losses in a different but not opposite way.  Rather than hide from it, they blame it on external factors: “The refs were not going to reverse their call even though Murray did not cross the goal line,” or “Robinson was holding on that last pass.” (Yes, the end of the Georgia game produced quite the CORF-fest on both sides at some point.)

That is because losses often do not diminish a fan’s loyalty to the team, but often strengthens their resolve.  Yes, research does show that fans often show less immediate outward support.  But we don’t abandon our in-groups quite that easily — even when the rival team wins and our team loses.  They provide us too much social identity to be dumped that easily.

So after the trash talking and the blog commenting and the flag waving, I hope you BIRG to your heart’s content this weekend. Wear the sweatshirt on Monday. Talk about the game. Feel better about yourself and your decisions.

Unless you cheer for my rival.

Then, as one of the attendees at the aforementioned lecture said, “They can go CORF themselves.”

Nothing like statistically significant smack talk.