Criticism naturally comes with being in the public spot light

Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy gives new meaning to "shock and awe."

That's really the feeling one gets when watching Mt. Gundy erupt and spew lava everywhere, during a post-game press conference on Sept. 22. There was screaming. There was newspaper waving. There was a spectacular display of theater. Gundy stopped just short of his head spinning around, as in "The Exorcist."

His team had just beaten Texas Tech by a score of 49-45, by the way, and he still went on a tirade about a newspaper column that had been critical of one of his players.

Sometimes, you see similar reactions to negative press here in Clayton County. They can range from the sheriff putting the newspaper on suspension, to the general public saying you don't write any stories about the positive things that happen in the area.

You can have a story on the American Legion receiving an award for giving care packages to soldiers in Iraq, or children receiving state and national recognition. People, however, are skipping over those stories, because they are more interested in the cop who got arrested for allegedly going on-line to chat with someone he thought was a minor.

Then the public turns around and says you never write anything about the positive things happening in the county.

Huh? You've got to learn to take the bad with the good. It's the whole Ying-Yang thing. The good and the evil.

Now, I'm not defending Jenni Carlson's column about back-up quarterback Robert Reid, which ran that same day in The Daily Oklahoman. She essentially called him a wimp. I've read the column, and I got the sense there was a snide nature that came out in places.

Was it too harsh?

Yes, but it's a column. It's just one person's opinion. Let it roll off your back and move on with your life.

I frequently get e-mails criticizing my ability to write, stand upright, or think when I've expressed criticism toward certain things, like ABBA getting its own museum.

Sometimes, the e-mails are so vicious, they can't be printed, and I can't tell people what they say. They aren't exactly the things you'd read a child for a bedtime story. I still keep those e-mails, though. They really show me the levels of fanaticism to which a person will go when defending something they love. Of course, those are e-mails, not public rants, which go on to become hits on YouTube.

I've seen the public response to Gundy's press conference. Overwhelmingly, people think he was right to publicly humiliate Carlson, in the same way she publicly humiliated Reid.

Now, I know there's that whole eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth mentality out there, but whatever happened to "turn the other cheek?"

Have we become so hung up on pride that we've become a people who respond to criticism in childish ways? Is it OK for a public figure to blow up over a column of opinion, or suspend someone for pulling the curtain back on how you do your job, or accuse a reporter of not doing something that they actually have done?

People say the media go too far, but it's called criticism. If you can't handle being criticized, then leave the public arena. College athletes may not be paid to play, but they still have to be held to the same standards as a professional athlete. The days of college football players being truly amateurs went out the window years ago. The shining example of how far things have gone was when the University of Oregon posted Joey Harrington's picture on the side of a building in New York's Times Square to get some Heisman buzz going for him.

These players are on TV every Saturday. They are hyped to no end by media outlets, like Sports Illustrated, and ESPN. The university's go out of their way to get as much publicity on these players as possible. Some college football coaches have multi-million dollar contracts. Teams receive giant championship rings that could signal a plane from 30,000 feet.

These kids are not amateurs, they are public figures. They are no different than the elected officials who complain when the media picks up on something they did that was wrong. By their very nature, people who play football in the NCAA's College Football Bowl Division invite public scrutiny by putting on their pads every week.

If they can't handle the public spotlight, then they need to go home.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. His column appears on Fridays. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 247 or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.