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Cooking method on rumors goes from slow simmer to microwave

by | CBSSports.com Columnist
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Rumor-mongering is an art, a gift, and even a bit of a science. It takes the creation of a daft idea, but one that isn't so daft that it couldn't be plausible under the right circumstances, and the right method of delivery.

Say, like Jon Gruden to the University of Miami. As created on Twitter, the home for snide half-baked notions that just need a quick bit of exercise.

Jon Gruden and his TV bosses were slow in reacting to the quick-spreading Miami rumors. (US Presswire)  
Jon Gruden and his TV bosses were slow in reacting to the quick-spreading Miami rumors. (US Presswire)  
I know, because Saturday night, when the news that Randy Shannon was prepping his form for the unemployment office, I tossed out, "I'm first with the Harbaugh-to-Miami rumor, and no, it doesn't matter that I just made it up."

I was first, too. I thought it was the most ridiculous notion out there, and Harbaugh was still finishing the lattice work on Stanford's 38-0 beatdown of Oregon State. I failed to come up with Gruden, and that's my fault because I didn't think far enough outside the sanity box.

The Gruden thing, though, turned out to be the right viral agent, because it ran wild before the folks at ESPN, prepping him for 49ers-Cardinals, realized this was a rumor that actually needed to be killed.

And in fairness, it is not unreasonable to think a broadcaster prepping for 49ers-Cardinals might have some doubts about his job security at the network and long for something else.

Anyway, it hit, it ran rampant, and to Gruden's great shame (or that of his people), he didn't react quickly enough to eradicate it. It lasted longer than it should have, and now his name could be jammed into the rumor mill at even sillier places, like the University of Minnesota, unless he stands up and says, "I want an NFL job, period."

Which he won't.

Now a good rumor, on the other hand, is still being driven by sentences and paragraphs and reporting -- like the fresh one about the Miami Heat players turning on Eric Spoelstra as the cause of their struggles.

Eric Spoelstra is the coach. Of course it would be his fault.

Anyway, he's not letting the fellas be the fellas. Or he's too nitpicky. Or he yelled at LeBron James, or James shouldered him going to the bench, or he's afraid for his job, or something. But the point is, the word is out (as you knew it would be) that he'll be out soon enough.

Rumors, rumors, rumors
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People have been guessing at this since the start of the season, James and Dwayne Wade having constructed the super team and all, but most folks hadn't figured on everything going all helter-skelter after 17 games, barely one-fifth of the schedule. The players-only meeting after the Heat's loss Saturday night to Dallas, and then the river of "sources say" sparked the idea further, you had a rumor what is a RUMOR.

Will Spoelstra be fired? Oh, probably. Someone is going to have to face the music for this slow start and the dour faces and the dented reputations, and it's not going to be Carlos Arroyo.

And is the Spoelstra stuff a surprise? No, because you knew any team run by players would find the players to be the least culpable when things went bad, just as teams run by coaches don't tend to blame the coaches.

But this soon? That's the twist. And the relevance to rumor-mongering? Well, this was the kind of rumor that would normally need to simmer awhile, like fine spaghetti sauce. Half a season, minimum.

But no, the players (and no, not just James, but the players) figured it out quickly and seem to be in agreement that it not only isn't them, but that it is becoming intolerable, if that time hasn't already arrived.

That means the life span of a rumor, whether it turns out to be just a rumor or an accurate harbinger of the bigger story to come, has shortened considerably in just the past couple of years, and both examples of that conveniently occurred in the same city at the same time.

And Jim Harbaugh? Still the coach at Stanford. But check back Wednesday. We have faith that someone can get him somewhere sexier than Miami quickly enough. It just isn't going to be me, because I apparently don't have the gift.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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