Lang's World: 'Jeremy Pruitt Show' providing unintended entertainment as UT Vols struggle
MEMPHIS – This weekend, I was gifted with the rarest of autumn opportunities: A weekend off.
Our Memphis Grizzlies did not have a game, the Georgia Bulldogs had their lone bye week, and the Atlanta Falcons weren’t not scoring touchdowns until Monday night. So, given the chance to take a few days away from football, what did I do? I watched what has become my favorite football television show.
Now, I am not all that old, I know, but in many ways I am ancient. I regularly listen to Frank Sinatra. I enjoy sitting and reading books and newspapers. I try to put my phone down. And I am one of the apparently rapidly decreasing number of people who still uses cable television.
Cutting your cable makes some sort of sense, particularly if you are keenly watching your wallet. But speaking as someone who enjoys discovering and consuming content, for me cable TV is well worth the premium I pay each month. You can subscribe to all the video on-demand services you want, but I love flipping through channels and stumbling over some show I’ve never seen, or a movie I haven’t seen in years, or watching a rerun of “The Office” that I haven’t thought about for a while.
I tell you all of this to explain how I have become a regular viewer of “The Jeremy Pruitt Show,” which airs locally in Memphis late on Sunday nights on the local CW affiliate. I am not a fan of the University of Tennessee, and I have no real feelings either way about Pruitt, the UT Vols football coach. But his eponymous program has become regular viewing for me. I know coaches get paid good money for doing these shows, and I suppose if you’re winning a lot of games, these shows could be actually kind of fun to record. (Of course, Nick Saban never has fun. Check out this version of his show following a 65-31 road win, where he seems like someone just drowned his pet turtle
But the Volunteers are not winning a lot of games this season. They’ve actually only won three games this season, two of those being against small schools. But thanks to a killer schedule – every other game Tennessee has played has been against a ranked opponent – as well as a rebuilding roster, Tennessee has not had a lot of luck.
And so it was a few weeks back, late on a Sunday night when I was basically trying to not go to sleep, I came across “The Jeremy Pruitt Show.” If you wanted to make sure nobody watches your TV show, airing it late at night on a Sunday, and especially on a channel that usually only airs infomercials, this is about the best place you could stick it. On this night, Coach Pruitt was wearing a faded plaid sports coat, along with a tie that didn’t really match. And he was glumly sitting there on camera, being asked to narrate clips of a 38-12 loss to UGA. If ever there was a week to perhaps skip over the highlights this may have been it, but Coach Pruitt and co-host Bob Kesling pressed on. And I couldn’t stop watching.
The most unfortunate thing about this show is that they apparently film it right after each game, when probably the last thing Pruitt wants to do is sit on camera for an hour and talk about the losses. Coach seems mostly sanguine, a mixture of anger and sadness, looking as though he’s watching grass grow while Kesling searches for any bright moments from each game. For the most part, Coach just stares off camera at some unknown fixed object, dreaming, I like to think, of how much better his team will be two or three years from now.
Believe me, Coach, thanks to my Grizz Gaming experiences, I know what it’s like to have to face the media after a loss. It ain’t fun to answer a few questions a few days later, much less be made to sit down on camera just hours after getting beat. There may come a time a few years from now when the Vols are stringing together wins, at which point Coach Pruitt would likely enjoy filming his show each week, essentially taking victory laps.
But we live in the present, and presently Tennessee isn’t all that good. When they got waxed by Alabama this weekend, losing 58-21, I knew this week’s edition of “The Jeremy Pruitt Show” would be must-see television.
And it was. This week Coach and Bob were on a different set, this time in a mock locker room, where they chatted quietly about the game. Per usual, Coach mostly focused his death stare off into the middle distance, while Bob looked for positives they could focus upon.
“There’s some guys on our team that fight really well, who compete really hard, and they know who they are,” drawled Coach. “And we gotta get other guys on our team to do the same thing.”
After some small talk, Bob cued up the clips. The first play was the opening kickoff, where the Alabama returner ran the ball back about 40 yards. (“Three missed tackles to start the game,” noted Coach.) Alabama’s offense then came out in a spread formation, which Coach said they had not “worked” against. “That’s really a preparation error on our part.” I appreciated his effort to angle the blame onto himself.
Before long we got to what could likely be considered highlights for Tennessee: “This is a good tackle. This is hittin’ ‘em high and knockin’ ‘em back.”
But as could probably be expected in a 30-point loss, the bright spots were few. According to Coach, there were plays where the protection was “poor,” where the tackling technique was “poor.”
Coach’s silence during many of the replays was deafening and, at least to me, humorous. Most often, Coach Pruitt was direct.
A first down run went for negative five yards. “Need to cut that guy right there. There’s no reason a guy runs through the line of scrimmage like that.”
A punt went for 54 yards with no return. “That’s a good kick there.”
There’s some guys on our team that fight really well, who compete really hard, and they know who they are ... [but] we gotta get other guys on our team to do the same thing.Jeremy Pruitt
A draw play on third-and-16 went for three yards. “Too many negative plays to start the game.” (Personally, I was wondering why they ran a draw on third-and-16, but I suppose we can’t be privy to every decision.)
At some point, Tennessee will start winning football games again, at which point Pruitt will probably turn into Saban and pretend to not be happy with their effort and execution, even in wins. But for now, I like to think that “The Jeremy Pruitt” show provides us the rarest of opportunities in sports media, which is a relatively clear window into our subject’s soul.
Jeremy Pruitt was hired under contentious circumstances to help rebuild the Tennessee program, and only time will tell whether or not he was the right man for the job.
Until then, I’ll keep tuning in to “The Jeremy Pruitt Show,” where he is most certainly the perfect man for the job.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Lang Whitaker are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.