The mind-numbing tedium; the absurd repetition; the hatred; the anger; the ugliness; the jealously; the bitterness; the line dancing. Of course I’m talking about Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. Below is my only slightly exaggerated running diary of the 2019 meetings.
7:47 a.m. Central Time. A Hilton Hotel ballroom in downtown Chicago. A buffet of free food is set out for the assembled Big Ten writers and TV sportscasters. Putting free food in front of sportswriters and broadcasters is akin to waving raw bloodied meat before a pack of starving jackals. What ensues can best be compared to a replay of the Fourth of July Coney Island hot dog eating contest on fast forward. The food is gone within minutes.
9:15 a.m. Word comes that due to weather-caused flight delays the Nebraska contingent may not arrive on time but that media days will begin on schedule. No Nebraska? This is beginning to feel like an 'N Sync reunion minus Justin Timberlake.
11:30 a.m. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany addresses the crowd after driving into the ballroom in a vehicle that looks suspiciously like the Popemobile.
11:31 a.m. Delany uses his fourth cliche of the day and we’re only 38 seconds in.
11:35 a.m. Delaney pauses, probably to check on the status of adding two “schools” from NFL Europe to the conference.
11:51 a.m. Delany’s opening speech is already seven times longer than the Gettysburg Address. Odds are good it won’t be nearly as memorable.
11:55 a.m. Delany is four minutes into a story about a six-year-old boy who grew up wanting to be Big Ten commissioner. The story peaks when he gets misty eyed and, with voice cracking, says, “And that little boy’s name...was Jimmy.”
11:57 a.m. Delany says that his wife Kitty Delany - who was great on "Gunsmoke" - is hosting a separate luncheon for coaches' wives. How sexist is that? Is this 1952?
11:58 a.m. Delany mentions that with his looming retirement this will be his last speech at Big Ten Media Days and the relieved crowd goes bonkers.
12:01 p.m. If the Q and A with Delany drags on much longer I'm hoping for a power outage.
12:02 p.m. A few quick remarks from the president of BTN Francois McGillicuddy. Because he's from BTN there are two TV time outs during his talk.
12:04 p.m. The Huskers have arrived but Lovie Smith of Illinois still goes first. His new beard makes Smith look like a cross between the Unabomber and the bassist for ZZ Top.
12:05 p.m. After hearing Smith’s blunt assessment of the current state of the Illinois program I decide that grief counselors should be brought in to help the assembled media members deal with their emotions.
12:08 p.m. A guy from the Chicago Tribune - which is like the Bible to the assembled sportswriters - asks what Illinois can do to win more games. Uh - score more points than the opponents?
12:16 p.m. Husker coach Scott Frost takes the podium accompanied by his man-servant Matt Davison.
12:18 p.m. The University of Nebraska chancellor, dressed as a French maid, delivers a cup of coffee to Frost. The chancellor curtsies to Frost, then scurries away.
12:19 p.m. I’m thinking how cool it would be if Husker football program mentor Ron Brown makes a surprise appearance to call on the NCAA to ban players from slapping other players on the butt due to the obvious homosexual overtones.
12:20 p.m. In response to a question about recruiting Frost said he's willing to go to "Jamaica or Kazakhstan" to find players. Which is impressive since Bo Pelini wasn't willing to go to Hastings or Grand Island.
12:21 p.m. Better yet, how about just going to Iowa Western?
12:28 p.m. A newspaper reporter from Omaha criticizes Coach Frost for not yet winning a national championship.
12:30 p.m. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio is front and center, literally standing in Jim Harbaugh’s shadow.
12:33 p.m. I note that Dantonio seems perpetually stressed like somebody who just quit smoking the day before, or the guy in the constipation commercial, or Johnny Depp’s accountant going over the books or...(write your own Dantonio joke here).
12:34 p.m. Dantonio mentions that Michigan State's mantra this season is "chase your dreams." Considering all the 4-4 conference records he's put up perhaps "chasing your tail" would be more appropriate.
12:36 p.m. Dantonio is asked about his tough upcoming schedule and doesn't even complain about having to play the Packers in Green Bay on Nov. 17.
12:45 p.m. Coach Tom Allen of Indiana takes the stage. The vibe in the room can only be described as funereal.
12:47 p.m. Allen goes into his spiel about how the Indiana program is making progress. I’m labeling it the “You Can Put Lipstick on a Pig” speech.
12:48 p.m. Allen answers the obligatory question about recruiting by saying he "likes to recruit the entire family." Which explains why Grandma Thompson started at tight end last year.
12:49 p.m. A reporter mentions that BTN is devoting 14 hours of coverage to media days which says less about the importance of this event than it does about how little BTN has going on outside of football and basketball season. I believe the Trump inauguration and Prince Harry’s wedding combined received 11 hours of TV coverage. An ABC special “The Bachelorette Reunion: The Men Tell All, Season 7” lasted 15 hours.
1:00 p.m. It’s Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck’s turn. An incredible ball of energy, it’s easy to see why Fleck has earned the nickname “Richard Simmons on Crack.”
1:04 p.m. Fleck is so relentlessly upbeat and optimistic he almost makes you think that Minnesota can win the BCS national championship which is about as plausible as the guys in Mini Kiss winning an NBA title.
1:13 p.m. During the Q&A Fleck quickly goes into excuse mode and says that last year he had "the youngest team in America." Which probably explains the bounce house behind the Golden Gophers bench.
1:15 p.m. New Maryland head coach Mike Locksley is introduced. Locksley is the former offensive coordinator at Alabama. My prayer that he says, “Coaching at Maryland is very similar to coaching at Alabama only minus the wins” goes unanswered.
1:17 p.m. Locksley says he likes to "create a family culture" and "takes a personal interest in the players." You know, like number 43, Jason something.
1:26 p.m. Locksley becomes about the fifth coach of the day to say he looks for "good citizens, good people" to fill his roster. When, in fact, you know most of these coaches would sign an escaped convict who could run a 4.3 40.
1:30 p.m. New Ohio State coach Ryan Day makes his maiden media days appearance. As is tradition the Ohio State head football coach is carried to the stage atop the shoulders of adoring BTN executives who are attired in Buckeyes jerseys and singing the Ohio State fight song.
1:31 p.m. Day introduces the three Buckeyes players in attendance. All three are pre-season All-Americans even though two of them are second team at Ohio State.
1:32 p.m. Day mentions that he played quarterback for the University of New Hampshire and a heckler who sounds a lot like Harbaugh shouts, “Is that a juco?”
Big Ten Media Days Day One is mercifully officially over. We’ve learned close to zero except that Big Ten writers like free food way too much.
7:53 a.m. Central Time. There are approximately 80 sportswriters in attendance, only about 62 of whom write for The Athletic.
8:00 a.m. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is up first. Putting Ferentz on early in the morning is a cruel joke on the world. You may as well crush Ambien pills inside the free bagels. Ferentz is the dullest human on the planet and I’m including trigonometry teachers, Cornhole analysts and Dick Stockton.
8:02 a.m. Ferentz mentions he's been coaching at Iowa for 21 years. Only U.S. Supreme Court justices have more job security.
8:03 a.m. There's currently so much enmity between the programs that the Husker writers in attendance turn their backs to the Iowa coach.
8:05 a.m. I prepared for listening to Ferentz by spending weeks watching paint dry. Still, it's wearing on me.
8:07 a.m. A reporter from the Des Moines Register asks Ferentz a question. Because it's the Register the reporter works in his endorsement of Elizabeth Warren for president.
8:12 a.m. Ferentz finishes talking and it’s safe for the Iowa players remove their earplugs.
8:15 a.m. A man named Jeff Brohm is at the microphone. He’s the fifth year Purdue coach who led the team to a 7-6 record his first year. I’m pretty sure everybody here is thinking, “Should’ve quit while he was ahead.”
8:17 a.m. Brohm mentions his playing days in the XFL which is about as impressive as going to your high school reunion and hearing a former classmate brag how he always remembers to include little packets of ketchup with the french fries when he’s working the drive thru window.
8:18 a.m. In response to a question about a defensive player Brohm says he's a "tremendous young man." Just once I'd like to hear a coach say the following about a kid: "He's a real slacker who loves weed, is an avowed bigot and a true jerk but he can help us win games so we put up with him."
8:20 a.m. Brohm mentions another player who rises to the occasion and "moves fast when the lights come on." Like a cockroach?
8:30 a.m. Penn State coach James Franklin is up. I'd like to ask him how often he’s mistaken for Carlton from “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”
8:35 a.m. Franklin is so cocky he comes off like a WWE wrestler.
8:46 a.m. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald takes the podium. Fitzgerald is in his town, Chicago, and has much of the assembled media eating out of his hand. He reminds me of an Illinois politician minus all the indictments and the campaigning in cemeteries.
8:47 a.m. Fitzgerald shows some personality and injects a little humor into media days. Is that even legal?
8:48 a.m. The BTN scroll beneath the Northwestern coach reads "Big Ten West and Holiday Bowl champions" and I ponder which of the two is the least impressive.
8:49 a.m. The Big Ten media are almost fawning over Fitzgerald, or “Fitz” as many call him. I’m guessing that's because he’s good looking and has that ex-Big Ten player thing going for him. I’m pretty sure he could fart and it’d get applause.
8:50 a.m. Fitzgerald farts and the media gives him a rousing ovation.
8:52 a.m. I note that Fitzgerald is wearing some purple clothing. I can’t decide if he looks more like a pimp or Barney the Dinosaur. After tuning out his speech to think about it, I’m going with pimp.
8:55 a.m. Fitzgerald is slick as he boasts about Northwestern’s academic successes and its facilities upgrades. I too get caught up and almost feel like standing and saluting this coach who has, let me check...zero Big Ten titles.
9:00 a.m. Paul Chryst from Wisconsin gets his turn. People from Wisconsin are just hoping he makes it all the way through without bolting for Arkansas or some other position. At previous Big Ten Media Days Wisconsin head coaches have been known to say hello to the audience and then literally walk off stage to accept another job.
9:02 a.m. As the Wisconsin coach Chryst is just pleased to be appearing in front of people who are (mostly) sober.
9:05 a.m. Chryst utters some nonsense about the Big Ten West being really tough and a few of the guys from the Big Ten East roll their eyes.
9:11 a.m. Chryst is still droning on. This is the dullest commentary I’ve heard since last year’s Rose Parade.
9:14 a.m. Chryst announces he’s leaving Wisconsin to accept the Holy Cross job.
9:15 a.m. It’s Rutgers’ turn at the podium so most people break for brunch.
9:30 a.m. Jim Harbaugh addresses the room. It’ll be tough to top his arrival at Big Ten Media Days when he sky-dived onto the roof of the Hilton from a passing Blue Angels jet dressed as Batman.
9:31 a.m. Harbaugh is chewing gum! If he blows a bubble this will truly be "Must See TV."
9:34 a.m. Harbaugh is funny in a weird, offbeat, deadpan, sorta scary way. Think comedian Steven Wright.
9:37 a.m. Members of the media ask the Michigan coach about his podcast criticism of Urban Meyer, coaches who've defected from his program and players who've transferred. The only things left to get under his skin are to ask if he's received a recent traffic ticket, about his bald spot and whether he's anticipating any NCAA investigations.
9:38 a.m. Harbaugh casually drops the following names of celebrities he’s acquainted with: Madonna, Stevie Wonder, LeBron James, the guy who voices Shrek, Joey from “Friends”, Pauly Shore, the late Mr. Rogers, Shamu the Killer Whale and the vice premier of Canada.
9:40 a.m. Harbaugh is animated as he discusses his plans to hold an upcoming Michigan satellite camp on Bora Bora.
10:01 a.m. Bill Carollo, Big Ten coordinator of officials, takes the stage. Carollo is the last speaker of media days. Say what you want but the Big Ten but knows how to reach a crescendo by having the last speaker be the conference coordinator of officials. “Now what you’ve all been waiting for - the coordinator of officials!” Who would possibly even think of leaving early and miss Carollo’s interpretation of article 453 in the rule book?
Carollo follows Jim Harbaugh. This is like Taylor Swift opening for Kellie Pickler.
10:03 a.m. Carollo calls targeting on one of the Husker players in attendance.
10:05 a.m. Carollo mentions that the penalty for targeting is going to be tougher this season. So that means a player whistled for targeting must now drop out of school and sign on with a Norwegian fishing expedition for a year?
10:27 a.m. The 43 Big Ten players who accompanied their coaches to Chicago are interviewed and recite approximately eight thousand well-rehearsed superlatives none of which are worth mentioning. Adrian Martinez starts to say something that's profound but decides not to waste it on this group.
11:30 a.m. Tom Osborne, Barry Alvarez and Lorenzo White are the guests of honor at the official Big Ten Football Kickoff Luncheon next door. Osborne is being feted for his outstanding legacy as a coach, mentor, educator and humanitarian as well as his efforts to keep medicinal marijuana out of the hands of sick people.
1:03 p.m. Big Ten Media Days 2019 are over. They were a rousing success and I’m defining “rousing success” as getting through the two-day event without one Ohio State assistant coach being arrested. Members of the contingent from Rutgers do their annual bitch and whine about the league putting them up at the Super 8 in Harvey as everyone exits the room in search of more free food.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Brad Dickson is a former writer for "The Tonight Show," a humor columnist for the Omaha World-Herald newspaper, a best-selling author of two books and a professional speaker. You can find Brad on Twitter at @brad_dickson.
Never miss a blog post. Sign up for our email list here.