Being the watchdog for the public has its difficult moments.
Like writing about people about to be fired.That was the situation facing Deseret News sports writer Brad Rock two weeks ago. It was just after Utah's 70-31 loss to BYU. Before that, actually, there were rumors that Ute head football coach Jim Fassel was in trouble because of the team's poor play, particularly after the 50-10 loss to Colorado State at Rice Stadium. But until the BYU game it didn't seem appropriate to speculate extensively on his future - speculation that would undoubtedly cause him some grief.
After the humiliating loss to the Cougars, though, the subject demanded serious attention. Not just Rock, but others on the sports staff were told by those supposedly in the know that Fassel was "gone." And a lot of people were asking this question, "Will Fassel be back?"
Then, there was Fassel himself adding to the speculation after the BYU game by telling the Crimson Club about the strain the year had caused on his family and hinting that if it continued he might quit coaching.
And so Rock wrote about the debacle facing Fassel as the lead in his Nov. 22 Utah football column. It wasn't splashed across the front page but put inside with what turned out to be a prophetic headline: "Are Fassel's days as U. coach about to come to an end?"
Some people not only didn't like the message but they didn't like the messenger either. Rock found that out after the season-ending game with Air Force. When reporters entered the Ute locker room they were met with obscenities by one player and cold stares by others. The unspoken question was how could Rock write such a thing?
Well, he could write such a thing because that's his job. To not do so would have been unprofessional as a journalist.
But it wasn't easy. Rock has a good relationship with Fassel, but it's a relationship based on professionalism. So, he wasn't going to pretend there wasn't a story when there clearly was one.
As this illustrates, sports writing and reporting involves more than just chronicling what happens on a 100-yard-long field of grass (or artificial turf) Saturday afternoon or on the basketball court Saturday night.
Those are the basics. But there's so much more. The Utah Jazz, for example, are getting about as much ink now regarding their quest to finance a new arena as they are regarding their games.
And the focus at the University of Utah has shifted from the playing field to inside the walls of athletic director Chris Hill's office, where talks regarding who the new football coach will be are taking place.
Brad Rock, who brought you Utah's euphoria after last year's 57-28 football victory over BYU and its gloom over this year's 70-31 loss to the Cougars, will serve as your eyes and ears to these latest developments in Utah athletics.
That's his job. And one he does quite well.