SEC Media Days in review: Coaches in word clouds and other observations

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — After three days of talk — some enlightening, some mind-numbing, we took a day off to catch our breath and take stock of SEC Media Days 2013.

We decided one way — no, the only way — to fully understand the week was to put the coaches’ opening statements into artistic word clouds. Thus, the gallery above.

Other pertinent thoughts from the league’s kickoff event:

* ESPN’s influence was more apparent than ever before, and it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate the television network from the league itself. That is, the two organizations are so intertwined financially that it’s impossible to separate the interests of one from the interests of the other.

There’s no point in shouting into the wind on this issue, and the practical impact of the partnership will probably create a lot of TV programming that you — and I — will enjoy.

But there were some annoyances this week, some indications that the rest of us were just props in the three-ring circus that the network was orchestrating.

The most jarring example came during one of the sessions in the main media room. Steve Shaw, the SEC’s coordinator of football officials, was giving a presentation on rules changes when there was a loud voice from the side of the auditorium.

An ESPN personality — I won’t name him, because he was almost certainly acting at the behest of a producer — was conducting a live stand-up.

Yes, it was annoying, but at a more basic level, it was simply inconsiderate to the person speaking and the people attempting to listen to him.

The way this is usually handled — at SEC Media Days and elsewhere — is someone asking the offending person to take his loud conversation elsewhere.

But this was ESPN. This was their show, and if they must inconvenience the rest of us so that they get a compelling backdrop, so be it. 

* The media predictions for this season weren’t surprising and, as usual, were on track with the preseason consensus.

But I thought it was interesting to note how voters grouped the league. There were six upper-tier teams — three in each division — and a large gap before the next eight teams.