Derek Dooley Invokes Nazis at D-Day to Describe Tennessee
Monday, Derek Dooley said, "Right now we're like the Germans in World War II. Here comes the boats, they're coming. You have the binoculars, and it's like, 'Oh, my God, the invasion is coming.' That's what they did, they were in the bunkers. It's coming, they call Rommel -- they can't find Rommel. (Pretending to speak into a radio.) 'What do we do? I'm not doing anything until I get orders.' (Pretends to look through binoculars.) 'Have you gotten Rommel yet?'"
He continued: "I don't want the German people to get upset at me. I'm not attacking them, but that's what happened. You had one group, they weren't worried about what the plan was and orders and all that. When the war hits, things change. You've got to go. "
Now the media storm is about to come.
Because Dooley touched one of our third rails, Nazis, while making a sports analogy. Remember when Nick Saban compared his team's loss to Louisiana-Monroe to 9/11. Well, Saban had to apologize. The same will probably be true of Dooley before all is said and done. He will have no interest in apologizing -- and as a matter of principle I'm not really sure he should -- after all, how many Americans can even name the decade that World War II took place? Not that many. Now what percentage of football fans can? Sigh, probably an even lower percentage. So who could he possibly have offended? But the university will demand that Dooley apologize and eventually Dooley will issue a short statement and hope that takes care of this imbroglio.
When stories such as this arise, it's easy to criticize the media for being dumb, but the media isn't really dumb. It's agnostic toward intelligent and unintelligent thought alike. It's a large beast that responds to what the American public responds to. And as a group the American public can be quite dumb; that's where the stupidity really arises. We can tell what you click on. And you'll definitely click on stories about football coaches and Nazis. Even when those comments are really used in a historical context and weren't intended to be offensive. That's why, as a general rule, you can't really make historical analogies that equate your team with Nazi Germany soldiers. Because lots of people will only read the headline and immediately adopt the most-favored posture in American life today: the outraged citizen.
Everyone is outraged about something these days. That's especially the case when being outraged doesn't require anything but outrage. Unfortunately for him, Derek Dooley isn't Charles Barkley, the guy who is funny enough to get away with saying anything. Barkley could dress up as Nazi General Erwin Rommel on Halloween for TNT's "Inside the NBA" and it would be laughed off. But when someone like Prince Harry does the same thing in England, he gets hammered.
So let's get this out of the way, is Derek Dooley a Nazi sympathizer? Of course not. (Really the fact that this question has to be rhetorically asked in a column has to leave athletic director Mike Hamilton up late at night staring at the ceiling wondering what karmic disaster he ever participated in to bring on the past two years of his life). Does he harbor ill-will toward anyone? Perhaps me, for saying he wasn't the right man to be Tennessee's coach earlier Monday. But in general, not that I can tell. He seems to be a pretty affable guy who doesn't take himself that seriously, a true rarity for SEC coaches.
He's also a pretty funny guy with a restless mind and a deadpan sense of humor that has now gotten him in trouble more than once at press conferences. Remember the response to the media awarded access based on practice attendance? He doesn't need to change, but he needs for people to get used to his wacky sense of humor. I mean, he pantomimed the binoculars, how ridiculously funny was that? (In fact, what if UT added a laugh track button for him to hit after his jokes at press conferences? I actually think this would be genius. And that Dooley would probably like it, too).
Even though I don't think he's going to be a good coach at Tennessee, I like Dooley. He's entertaining, he's interested in things other than football. Hell, it even seems possible that he might read a book every now and then for fun. If only most fans followed his lead. If Oprah has a book club, why can't Derek Dooley? They've both won close to the same number of football games as head coaches. But these outside interests mean Dooley can take questions in directions that no one anticipates. Such as historical analogies about Nazis that are designed to illuminate the present situation facing his football team. Ultimately, Dooley is probably lucky that he compared the Vols to the Nazis in this analogy. Can you imagine if the Vols were the Americans and the rest of the SEC represented the Nazis? Again, it would have been unintentional, but the metaphor would have been received even worse.
I've got the perfect solution for the rest of the season. If Dooley insists on using historical metaphors in the future to define the 2010 Tennessee football team, how about sticking to the Alamo? It works. See, there was a ragtag band of mostly Tennesseans in a tiny church. (The winless UT football team). And those Tennesseans were surrounded by a great horde of well-equipped, well-trained, veteran soldiers from Mexico. (The rest of the SEC). Then those Mexican soldiers arrived at the gates and demanded unconditional surrender. The Alamo defenders refused. For 13 days -- a football season is 12 games -- the Tennesseans fought as hard as they possibly could before the Mexicans stormed the Alamo on March 6, 1836 and slaughtered everyone inside.
OK, maybe he could leave off the end.
What Dooley needs is Davy Crockett in the Alamo, not Irwin Rommel in the north of France. The sooner he realizes that, hell, I don't know, the sooner he doesn't have to answer questions about Nazis.
Follow Clay Travis on Twitter here. With All That and a Bag of Mail returning for the football season, you can e-mail him questions at Clay.Travis@gmail.com