Stewart Mandel Says Covid Tweets Were ‘Condescending’, Asks for Reset

Longtime college football writer Stewart Mandel opened his mailbag at The Athletic today with a note acknowledging the “condescending” tone he has had in tweets about Covid-19 to readers and asking for a reset. Here’s the full text of what he wrote:

Before I get to your questions this week, I wanted to address something that’s been weighing on me — and many of you.

Writing and tweeting about college football in the time of COVID-19 has been the greatest challenge of my career because the topic is so emotional and has become so divisive. I’ve been accused at times of being too negative, or even that I’m trying to bring down college football due to some political agenda. Up until recently I mostly brushed off those comments. Once in a while I would snap back.

But over the last couple of weeks the tenor intensified — both from myself and my readers/followers. I’ve caught myself on a few occasions having to delete tweets that were just plain condescending. On Monday, after the preseason AP poll came out, I published a seemingly fun and innocuous piece making “predictions” on how the now-canceled marquee September matchups would have transpired. When the comments section quickly deteriorated into angry readers blaming me for those cancellations — and those comments getting lots of “thumbs ups” — it was time to stage a self-intervention.

The simplest explanation I can give you is, I’ve still got a lot of fears about COVID-19, both for myself and my family members. I live in a part of the country (California) that is still being super cautious (bars and indoor dining never reopened, outdoor gatherings are still severely limited), and every university in my time zone has canceled football. So it definitely feels foreign and alarming when I see pictures/videos of students at bars or news that a school is going to be allowing 20,000 fans at its games. And so I’m probably projecting some of my own fears in my tweets/comments about that kind of stuff.

Although my concerns aren’t going away (yet), I don’t think I’ve done a good job of taking the time to understand and accept that my reality is not necessarily the same as many of yours. I’m aware that in the South and elsewhere, people are increasingly returning to regular life (albeit in masks). High schools are playing football games. My brother’s ’90s party band in Cincinnati played in front of a socially distanced crowd at a bar last weekend. For many people — myself included — college football returning will be the most seminal milestone yet. And though I assure you I have neither the desire nor the influence to prevent that from occurring, I haven’t been reading the room with some of my more flippant tweets recently.

So, what do you say we hit the reset button? While I’m not going to stop reporting/commenting on pertinent COVID-related news, I’m going to be more mindful of my tone. Also: There are games being played barely more than a week from now. We at The Athletic are rolling out a lot of season preview content this week and next.

Though there is no singular tweet from Mandel that especially sticks out in my memory as condescending, I do recall feeling that way at moments when some of them crossed my timeline. Mandel was hardly alone there; he deserves credit for the introspection here. I read his anticipation of the return of what’s left of college football as an acknowledgement that cooler heads are prevailing.

Will anyone else follow Mandel’s lead?

Written by Ryan Glasspiegel

Ryan Glasspiegel grew up in Connecticut, graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and lives in Chicago. Before OutKick, he wrote for Sports Illustrated and The Big Lead. He enjoys expensive bourbon and cheap beer.

7 Comments

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  1. I think Stewart asking for a reset is an amazing public display of introspection in an era when that sort of thing is in desperately short supply.

    I am afraid to actually check the comments over at The Athletic because I would guess they are equal parts “FU for wobbling” from the Coronabros and “FU, you’re still a twat” from loudmouth dicks that think they’ve been vindicated about something.

    But from me at least, I’m impressed.

    As a big OU fan, I already canceled my SoonerScoop/Rivals subscription for this exact attitude.
    If I only got OU stuff from The Athletic I would have canceled that, too as the OU beat writer is just as obnoxious with his Coronabro-ness.

    The smartest thing The Athletic did is bundling EVERYTHING so any fan that may not particularly care for one of his/her favorite team’s writer- there are 5 or 6 other team writers that they do like so they keep the subscription.

  2. Well said, Scott. I really appreciate Mandel’s acknowledging that maybe he came across wrong and why he did that. There have been a few others at The Athletic who have been worse than him, but overall it’s still a great site. There are a lot of fine reporters there too.

    But yes, a simple “Thank you for saying that. I understand where you’re coming from too.” can go a long ways. But grace is a forgotten virtue.

  3. I agree, really good to see the public display of introspection. I’ve had times in my life where I’ve had to do introspection myself. We are all human.

    Tackle football is a sport where athletes are very likely to get multiple concussions, broken bones, torn and ripped out ligaments and tendons, injuries that will require multiple major surgeries, etc…Those are accepted risks that every athlete, coach, administrator, commissioners, university presidents and chancellors accept. They all know those injuries and, in some cases, life long debilitating affects from those injuries and concussions, are part of contact sports such as tackle football. But now, the Coronabros are suddenly so worried about the health of college football players, they have been campaigning to have the season cancelled because some of the athletes may test positive for a flu bug. This is hypocritical lunacy at it’s worst.

    And, once again, the Coronabros and the people (commissioners and administrators) making these decisions, do not have to suffer the consequences of their decisions, they are still collecting their huge paychecks while front line employees get laid off or furloughed, and athletes are denied the ability to play their sport. PAC 12 commissioner Larry Scott and his high level executives are all still collecting their huge salaries and retain their obscenely expensive conference offices in San Francisco, but this week, they are announcing layoffs and furloughs for over 100 front line employees. It is shameful hypocrisy.

  4. Roughly 7500 people die each day in the U S. There is risk in every walk of life and each of us should have the right to assess our own risks.

    Restrictions on a mostly healthy population (99.8%) is not the best method to win against this virus.

    Real stats should matter in determining the real risk. Politicians have fucked this up.

    Time to get busy living or get busy dying.

    Let’s play ball!

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