My degree in “Fake News” from Cal State Fullerton has served me well since 1981. Four years of studying the “yellow” journalism of William Randolph Hearst, along with other muckrakers, has keenly honed my skills in the art of B.S. detection. The pot-smoking, acid-dropping, hippy-dippy weathermen professors who taught me how to fabricate sources prepared me like a sous chef for a four-decade career of lying about lying athletes, coaches and administrators.
It’s hard to slip anything by me these days, which is why my “Lance Armstrong” alarm went off Tuesday with the news that Steve Sarkisian was amicably leaving Alabama, after one game, to become offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons.
Nick Saban put out a nice statement: “We appreciate all Coach Sarkisian did for our program during his time here. He is an outstanding coach.”
Sarkisian offensively coordinated one game for Alabama—the loss to Clemson in last month’s national title game.
Not long ago, Sark was being promoted as the seamless and harmonious successor to Lane Kiffin, the bad-boy brat Saban couldn’t wait to put on a boat to the Gulf of Mexico.
And now, a month later, right after signing day, Sarkisian bolts for Atlanta with a letter of recommendation from his old boss?
Give me a break.
While I was at CSUF, a guest-lecturer spoke in a class I needed to graduate called: “How to Radicalize your hometown newspaper through Friday night prep football coverage.”
Dr. Stills said, “There's something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.”
For what it's worth, the news-bender in me knows there is no way Saban is coming clean about why Sarkisian left so abruptly. I have a few guesses as to what happened.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
I will say this: follow the dots. At some point in the last month, Saban told Sarkisian he needed to go. Sark, coming off the worst 18-month stretch of his adult life—a nasty divorce and a bout with alcoholism that led to his firing at USC--turned to the one man who could help him.
That man was Pete Carroll, who then placed a call to Falcons’ coach Dan Quinn, who was Carroll’s former boss with the Seattle Seahawks.
Sarkisian and Kiffin were practically raised, from infants, on Carroll’s coaching staff at USC.
Atlanta had an opening for OC because Kyle Shanahan was leaving to take over the San Francisco 49ers.
But Shanahan couldn’t leave until after last Sunday’s Super Bowl in Houston.
So this “deal” has been in the works for weeks. Saban wanted to delay the timing until after National Signing Day, which was last Wednesday.
Am I making this up? Of course. Did you not get the memo? I AM A WORKING JOURNALIST.
But I’ve learned from the cream of the crap—coaches, general managers, agents and athletes.
Some lies are harmless and funny. Mal Florence, the legendary former fibber for the L.A. Times, used to tell a great yarn.
Mal was also a graduate of USC, which has produced some lie-whopper journalists and athletes in its day. The most recent was defensive back Josh Shaw's story of breaking both ankles while trying to save his nephew from drowning in a pool.
Mal, winking out of one eye, used to tell people he served in the Pacific during World War II.
This was, technically, true.
“I was stationed on Catalina,” Mal would say.
Like I said, we lying journalists learned from the best.
--Nick Saban, when he was coaching the Miami Dolphins, said in 2006: “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach.”
--Pete Rose insisted, for 20-plus years, he never gambled on baseball.
--Notre Dame linebacker Manti T’eo, in 2012, made up a fake girlfriend and finished second in Heisman Trophy balloting.
--Baseball star Rafael Palmeiro, under oath, once told a congressional committee: “I have never used steroids. Period.”
--Danny Almonte, in 2001, stole our hearts as a 12-year old Little Leaguer with a 76-mph fastball. Turns out he was 14.
--The "honorable" Jeff Kent once broke his wrist falling out of his pick-up truck. Or maybe it was riding a motor bike, in violation of his contract?
It’s hard to keep this all straight--no wonder we journalists can’t tell a true story.
Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, George O’Leary, Jim Tressel, Rosie Ruiz…remember that Toronto Blue Jays manager who said he served in Vietnam?
That’s why my first instinct, as a sportswriter, before making up a fake story, is to assume no one is telling me the truth.
It has made for a fine, workable, reciprocal relationship.
So, no, I don’t believe the happy story of Sarkisian leaving Alabama for a better job at Atlanta.
I don’t believe Saban appreciates what Sarkisian did for his program “during his time here.”
I don't know what the real story is...yet. Until then, I'll continue to keep my polygraph detector hooked up to Cal Poly.
And continue to make it up as I go along.[/membership]