Gabby Petito is missing. Her boyfriend refuses to talk to police. The Internet is angry and wants him arrested. Three days later, his parents report that they haven't seen him since Tuesday. The Internet loses its damn mind. His parents, The Internet decides, used those three days to help get him the hell out of Dodge before his girlfriend's body could be located in Wyoming.
Is that what happened? It doesn't really matter. That's what The Internet thinks happened, and everything will now filter through that. Social media, Reddit, comments under news articles - one thing has been decided: Brian Laundrie is on the run and his parents helped him put on his running shoes.
Yesterday, several news reports surfaced. Some items belonging to Laundrie had been found in the swamp where he had reportedly been hiding. Possible human remains were also found. And his parents were called to the area that day. I just did some research and couldn't really find out the timing of when those news reports were released (or in what order), but The Internet took them and combined them into one collective thought:
so you’re telling me the fbi looked for brian laundrie for 5 weeks… then they open the reserve, and call off the search… and then when his parents decide to go look on their own, within a few hours they find his belongings and the medical examiner gets called out?? yeah ok— cara 🌼 (@Cara_Dillard13) October 20, 2021
I'm not citing the person who tweeted that here. I just searched Twitter real quick and found one tweet (of thousands) promoting that theory. The theory that Laundrie's parents knew exactly where he was the entire time, and once the FBI called off their search, the parents decided to go out there on their own and found where he had been hiding in less than 30 minutes.
Hey, maybe that's what happened. I haven't really been following the story day-to-day so I have no idea. It's also possible that his personal belongings were found, reported to police, police searched the area and found possible human remains, and the police called the parents out to the site so that they could verify that the items belong to their son. Or the parents wanted to legitimately search for him because the FBI's search had been called off. Or the parents wanted to make an appearance at the swamp so that the TV cameras would capture them looking for their son and maybe some of the heat would subside. Don't really know. Doesn't really matter.
All that really matters in a moment like this is what The Internet decides. "Actually..." doesn't really exist in that realm. The Internet has enough evidence that the Laundries have been attempting to conceal their son's location from the beginning, so that's really all that matters. (And again, I don't really care if they did or didn't. I'm just saying that once a decision like this is made, it's basically permanent.)
Which is what makes someone like me so useless in 2021. 13% of the sentences I've spoken in my life began with "actually, when you look closer...". Which is why I tweeted this on Monday night:
Once more unto the breach, dear friends.— Robert Rosenthal (@ALionEye) October 19, 2021
That was basically a "I know it won't matter, but here I go again". I then quote-tweeted my own opinion of the Bret Bielema brouhaha and started trying to correct national writers who were getting the context wrong. It's pointless, but I did it anyway. Here I come to save the day.
Why pointless? For the same reason you can't put the "Laundrie's parents were in on it the whole time" toothpaste back in the tube. Once The Internet decides, it's over.
And, let's be honest, The Internet gets a lot right. I'm not saying Laundrie's parent's weren't in on some scheme to keep him hidden from the cops after he allegedly murdered his girlfriend allegedly. I don't really know. It appears The Internet was right about who killed Kristin Smart when police couldn't solve that case. I'm not here to hate on the internet. The internet is why I have a job.
I'm just saying that once something is out there, it's out there. It does not matter if context has been lost. A Thing has been decided and nothing will change any opinions until another Thing happens.
And with a reliable Thing out there on Twitter, well, fans can take it wherever they want to take it. I won't link to them, but look at any of the hundreds of comments from other fanbases about Bret Bielema's comments. Angry Arkansas fans attack this moment with "how does it taste, Bret?". Iowa fans seemed to go with "well, looks like we'll get every recruit Illinois wants for the next 10 years". Much posturing can happen after a Thing happens.
As for this fan-in-the-pressbox, I wrote my article on Tuesday and then waited for today's Zoom presser to ask Coach Bielema about the brouhaha. Here's my questions and his answers:
Let's start with him mentioning my "shots fired" tweet. Here's that tweet and my follow-up an hour later:
From the "I guess I have to clarify this" department:— Robert Rosenthal (@ALionEye) October 18, 2021
I do not mean "shots fired" at the players. Many are already gone. All of the offensive linemen in the 2020 class (3 HS, 1 transfer) are already gone.
Shots fired = "the former staff left me no depth on the offensive line".
If you're curious, I don't have a problem with him bringing it up in this press conference. He started to make the point that no one in the room made a big deal of his statements in the context of the question and his entire answer, stating that (paraphrasing) had the comments been out of line, the media in the room would have likely said something in the moment. Then he paused to correct himself and say that I did tweet the "shots fired" thing in the moment. But he's right about the press conference. No one brought it up in the room, including me when I asked a question later in the press conference. It didn't blow up until hours later.
His comments today didn't really change my take on all of this. Perhaps a better way to say that: what he stated today was in line with what I wrote on Tuesday. Those in the room were fully aware of the unique nature of this offensive line. Of the seven guys playing, six are grad students. Six other offensive linemen from the three classes (2018 to 2020, not the 2019 to 2021 that I originally tweeted) have already left. So his comments didn't really toss players under the bus. He said "three classes" for a reason - all of the linemen on the field this season are from four and five recruiting classes-ago and almost all of them will be gone after this season. That is a major concern.
I do still believe that bringing up the topic at all is a bit of a shot being fired. Even if it's just about the numbers, those were numbers that the former staff was supposed to be monitoring. And, I should note, the former staff did leave some "numbers" on the offensive line. Those players simply transferred down to FCS schools this summer or were moved over to defense. Follow that single thread all the way to the end (I follow every thread) and, in my opinion, it ends up being stitched into Lovie's windbreaker.
But that's just my take on him taking his answer in the "look at our OL two-deep" direction. The way the clip went viral, with everyone acting like he was talking about the 60-some players in the last three recruiting classes and how all of them sucked, well, that just wasn't the case. His point was clear: if your offensive line rotation in 2021 has two guys from the 2016 class, four guys from the 2017 class, one guy from the 2018 class, zero from 2019, and zero from 2020, and zero from 2021 you have a major problem on your hands in 2022.
OK, so now he has clarified his comments. Will that matter? Of course not. The Internet has found a Thing and it's not really going to go looking for information to clarify that Thing. The Laundrie's lawyer can tell CNN whatever he wants about his clients' cooperation with police, but even if it's true, no one will hear it. Case was closed weeks ago. The parents are helping him hide.
Here's what I mean in the case of Bielema's comments. Just click on this Adam Rittenberg tweet (specifically, click on the little quote bubble with the number next to it) and read all the replies:
#Illini coach Bret Bielema says his comments about personnel Monday were "completely taken out of context." Says he wasn't talking about current Illini roster. Bielema showed the entire transcript of his comments to the team Tuesday.— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) October 21, 2021
Minds are made up.
But I linked that tweet as a way to make my final point here. Which I will do now. And then I'll probably stop talking about this subject forever.
Bret Bielema's comments from Monday were, in fact, taken completely out of context. People focused in on a portion of a quote about the offensive line depth chart (all seniors, no underclassmen in the two-deep) and carried it forward to mean that he didn't think he had a single good player in the last three Lovie Smith recruiting classes. He was not referencing a single player that's been on the field this season (and only two or three who are on the practice field), and yet the responses were "will the team walk out before the Penn State game after he trashed all of them?". Many national CFB media members were responsible for removing the quote from the boundaries of the answer in which it was spoken and applying it to another topic. Quite literally, taking it out of context.
Bret Bielema then answered my question today by stating exactly that: that his answer was taken out of context. He said he showed his entire team the clip - all of the questions and all of the answers - and they took no issue. He didn't clip out certain parts of it to make himself look better - he expanded the quote so that everyone would understand the context. They - the players who everyone was defending by saying "how can he talk about his team like that?" - had no issue. Several players said that in Tuesday and Wednesday interviews this week.
Yet what do you feel when you read Adam Rittenberg's tweet? Here's the text again:
Illini coach Bret Bielema says his comments about personnel Monday were "completely taken out of context." Says he wasn't talking about current Illini roster. Bielema showed the entire transcript of his comments to the team Tuesday.
A tweet like that, in 2021, gets what? 85% "suuuuuurrre they were taken out of context" eye rolls? It's almost like a tweet saying "completely taken out of context" today is some kind of "get a load of this guy" dog whistle. Face value was destroyed long ago, I'm afraid.
Well, except for ol' fanboy over here (me), MUSTPROTECT-ing his way around the internet, saying "actually, when you look closer...". Here's the face value I see: The Bret Bielema quote at the center of this was taken completely out of context. After spending hours studying this brouhaha, I can say this with absolute certainty. The core of this debate is whether he was discussing three entire recruiting classes or whether he was discussing the fact that only a few offensive linemen remain from those three recruiting classes, and I can tell you with 100% certainty that he was saying the second one.
Does that mean it wasn't a shot at the former staff, the mathematicians behind those numbers? I stand by my tweet. After being mostly complimentary of Lovie's staff the last 10 months, this felt like the first "shots fired" moment. So I tweeted exactly that from the presser.
But that's a different topic. In this specific issue - was he saying that he didn't have a single good player in three whole recruiting classes? - I believe the answer is no.
And that's all I have to say about the subject. If you'll excuse me, I need to go pack for my trip to State College.
Oh, and I also need to check to see if the body found in the swamp as actually Brian Laundrie.