From ‘Coach as Postmodernist Sage’ in Chapter Seven, How Postmodernism Explains Football

     ‘What Bud Wilkinson did in a weekly newsletter drafted, crafted, and polished before being sent out via the U.S. mail, Bob Stoops does facing microphones, cameras, a regional television audience, and a roomful of sports reporters with their own agendas. He takes their questions, but then regularly reframes them on his own terms, advancing his own narratives and rejecting theirs – again, all in real-time and without PR assistance at the podium. It’s actually a rather impressive feat that he pulls off as a routine part of his weekly schedule, a demonstration of intellectual depth and quickness that likely would surprise many who assume they know how coaches always think and talk.   . . .

The most consistent theme that emerges in the exchanges is the way that the coach comes across most often as if he were something of a postmodernist sage, demonstrating – often less than patiently – the fallibility of one narrative after another that individuals among the sports media attempt to propose. Quite often he flatly rejects the proposed narratives and articulates why.   . . . Stoops generally maintains a reserved demeanor throughout the conferences, but at times his tone and facial cues suggest various levels of annoyance and at times stronger aggravation, often seemingly at having to explain the obvious. But through it all, in articulating his response, he most often seems to quickly cut through each question to the premise upon which he sees it as based – and then frequently to address the premise.

. . . But in an age of cybergalactic narrative profusion, it can hardly be surprising that a football coach would find it in his and his program’s interest to staunchly advance narratives that he finds more valid interpretations of relevant football realities.  . . . Certainly coaches at high-profile programs like Oklahoma’s are always at risk of having competing narratives undermine their success. As discussed earlier, human behavior can be shaped as much or more by the power of narratives as by more objective realities. As also discussed, the careers of Oklahoma’s previous dynastic coaches, Wilkinson and Switzer, can be argued to have suffered from forms of narrative dissonance in their later years. And such could potentially be the fate of Stoops as well. For after his 2014 team wound up with four losses in the regular season and also a bowl-game loss, the narrative pattern that began to coalesce among Oklahoma media represented Stoops in some of the harshest terms of his fifteen-year career there.  . . .

Such comments are characteristic of the way sports media seem to insist that the players and coaches upon whom media have imposed narratives of superiority are to blame when the narratives prove unreliable. That is, virtually every sports-media figure in the area who criticized Oklahoma for the 2014 games it lost had predicted the team would win most or all of those games. Nevertheless, when participants in the game do prove not to be eternally superior – as all inevitably must, eventually – sports media virtually always represent it as a failure on the part of the participants, rather than a failure of media to construct more reliable narratives. But that is simply one fact of life in the hyper-mediated marketplace of narratives in which Bob Stoops and other bigtime coaches in the commercial-football industry operate today. They must attempt not only to win as many games as possible but also advance the narratives they see as most valid. Sports media by contrast have a relatively easier job of only advancing narratives.’

How Postmodernism Explains Football and Football Explains Postmodernism  © Robert L. Kerr 2015

And Football Explains Postmodernism: The Billy Clyde Conundrum