On Wednesday, Steve Spurrier called me to tell me what a great guy Jim McElwain is. The two had shared a plane trip the day before to go to ESPN.
“He’s not too full of himself,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of team they’ll have this year, but he’ll be good for Florida in the long haul.”
Then, he went into what was a similar speech to the one that he gave to the South Carolina media later in the day, talking about the enemies of the program.
That’s been the topic of sports talk shows since, Spurrier getting on Mark Bradley, the columnist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Bradley has since responded and you can read it at ajc.com.
Pretty much everyone has responded. One national columnist — the well-respected Dan Wolken of USA Today — wrote, “Spurrier is a young 70, but Wednesday, he found a way to make himself look a whole lot older.”
My take? It was Steve being Steve. And I say this because we dealt with a similar situation 21 years ago. (So much for it being about his age).
It was the Tuesday presser after a Florida game. Wide receiver Jack Jackson had been suspended for the game and one writer called Jackson, who was critical of the decision in the story.
This ticked Spurrier off and he addressed it with the assembled media. The difference was that he told us all to turn off our tape recorders and put down our pens because this wasn’t for the public.
The theme — “You’re either for us or against us.”
We, of course, are neither. That’s the root of being a journalist.
Spurrier was emotional that day when he talked about his former players, pausing to clear his throat when the tears welled up.
The difference was that he was talking only to the media then. On Wednesday, he was talking to recruits and his fanbase and using the media as a messenger.
Spurrier addressed the possibility of his retirement last week at SEC Media Days. I went into that news conference thinking he was close to finished, but came away thinking he’s going to be around for a lot longer than anyone thinks.
And here’s one more thing to remember — Spurrier’s teams seem to be at their best when he has a feud going with someone in the media. There’s something about it that fuels the Head Ball Coach.