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And Justice For All

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Banality strikes back.

Gary Cartwright lanced the boil of modern sports journalism a few days ago and given Cartwright's unapologetic criticism, I was not surprised to see some of his former peers take offense.

Richard Justice offers a retort written in powerfully annoying folksy prose, suggesting that Cartwright's generation were unethical, easily manipulated, semi-racist, lazy journalists - who wilted under the avuncular guiding hand of a strong editor.

Let's see what Justice, cloaked as a cross between Uncle Remus and Atticus Finch, has to say:

Well it sure is true sportswriters today don’t have as much fun as you old guys had. What can be more fun than getting liquored up, missing a game, and then writing a story that led readers to believe you were there? Now that’s real fun. Real journalism, too. How many times did you pull that one off, Gary? How many of your peers did that? Share that with us, Gary.

To answer your question, yes, that does sound like fun.

Know this, people: Richard Justice will be in the press box two hours before the game! And he will drink V-8, thank you! And his lead will always start with a correct approximation of the weather and an accurate real-time depiction of the level of frolic at the event itself! He shows up! On time!

I’ll tell you what else is fun. Making up quotes and attributing them to football coaches. For instance, Darrell Royal. Know anyone that did that, Gary? Give us the inside on that one, you funny old sumbuck. Tell me again how my generation couldn’t carry your water bucket. That's a knee-slapper. Dad-gone-it, I wish we’d had that kind of fun.

Oh, no. Justice is going to write this in his folksy common man voice. Sumbuck. Dad-gone-it. Kirk Bohls does this periodically under the guise of humor. John Kelso writes all of his tedious I'm-A-Country-Talentless-Fuckwit-With-A-Friend-Named-Skeeter columns in this same voice.

Justice has an excellent point though: today's generation of journalists are known for their stringent ethics and high-minded professionalism. His is a profession that's deeply respected - sharing a societal trust factor that rivals the professions of tow truck driver and Scientology recruiter, edged only slightly by nimble-fingered Gypsy children.

Fun? Those boys had fun. Like allowing friendship and journalism to get all blurry. Good thing them old coaches never stopped buying you guys off with food and drink. That didn’t influence what you wrote, did it, Gary? Say it ain’t so, Gary

Richard, I've noticed you like calling him Gary, don't you, Richard? Richard, admit it. You really do, Richard. Richard, is is because that it personalizes your piece and makes your sleekly wielded rhetorical knitting needles sink in that much easier? Answer me, Richard. Richard. Richard! Richard?

Fun? No one had more fun than you fellers. How about covering the Dallas Cowboys while accepting tickets, paid vacations, and assorted other gifts from the team? Now durnit, that was fun. Only thing is, if a player—let’s say a black player—got in a contract dispute with the Cowboys, that feller never had a chance in the media, did he, Gary? I'll bet you’ve got some dang funny stories about how your generation never talked to an agent or got the other side of a story. Beneath you, right, Gary?

Well, accepting paid vacations is a no-no. You want the cash value.

Additionally, these old guys were racist tools of the oligarchy. But that's a sidenote. No need to flesh out that small accusation.

There’s no end to the fun you goobers had. How about taking quotes from a 20-year-old column and passing them off as new and original work? Did you do that, Gary? One of the people you praised in your article sure did. Ain’t heard much from the old boy since a real editor decided to hold him accountable for doing something that would get a reporter in any other department fired.

Harvesting old quotes is naughty. Tsk tsk. So where do you stand on Kirk Bohls writing the same column for twenty years and passing it off as original work?

And watch out always admire for those backstabbing, second-guessing ruggedly handsome editors! They're complete cocksuckers consistently virile, strong and honest!

Isn’t it amazing, Gary, that you guys lasted so long doing things that would never have been allowed on the city hall beat, or at the state department?

What's amazing is that you can't make the distinction between your job - the writing of sports entertainment, which possesses the journalistic rigor of writing the advice column in Tiger Beat magazine - and the important watchdog function of a city hall beat informing the body politic or a state department desk trying to making sense and inform about a nuanced, multi-layered, and dynamic world with competing narratives of truth.

You write male Cosmo, Ted Koppel. Get over yourself. One should make some attempt to be truthful and fair, but spare me your self-delusion that we're dispatching Woodward and Bernstein to the Big 12 Women's Softball Tournament.

I'll tell you something else that’s fun. That’s making up a story and passing it off as fact. Ever do that, Gary? Come on, Gary, be honest.

I don't know, Richard. What I do know is that repetitive, badgering insinuations are boring, and, though at first titillating, contrive to make you come off as a mewling pussy. It also reinforces Cartwright's contention that you can't write or persuade. If you have some interesting dirt, tell us about it. Though that might require actual writing skills, creativity, and story-telling capabilities; a capacity of which I find you currently innocent.

Truth is, Gary, your generation did do something better than us. You wrote better. You were more literate. You used humor instead of anger to make your point. You weren’t journalists as much as you were keepers of the flame. You created an image of famous folks and you worked like hell to protect those images. I know this because one of your peers said it exactly that way.

A'ight.

It was a sad day for you guys when real editors came along and made us attempt to stick to the facts, to cover the finances of the game, the fairness issues, to take people inside the boardrooms and locker rooms. We’ve gotten it wrong a lot, but we do try to be at the games we cover and to go down and ask what happened instead of turning a clever phrase.

So basically one can't write well and interestingly if they have to adhere to facts and fairness. That's the presumption of a true simpleton and a false dichotomy.

And no one offers a more sophisticated view of financial structures and the business of sports than a sports writer with a journalism degree.

We could argue all day which is better. Should Roger Clemens have had his personal life aired? You and I probably agree on that one, Gary.

Oh, joy. Common ground. A list of Roger's sluts on Excel spreadsheet, filtered by city and venereal disease.

Kirk Bohls? You got him wrong, Gary. I’ve known that guy almost forty years, and he works harder and cares more about his work than anyone I’ve ever known. OK, OK, he ain’t perfect. He will criticize a coach instead of protecting him. He tries to get both sides of every story. In fact, he probably tries too hard.

Cartwright tore into Bohls because Kirk can't write and he has the creativity of lemur. Justice defends him by telling us that he works really hard. In fact, he TRIES TOO HARD! He's advancing the Marxist argument that the amount of work put into something gives it its worth, irrespective of its value to others. Sorry Trotsky. The world doesn't work that way.

He has been doing this stuff a long, long time, and he has become famous among his peers for being a bulldog of a reporter and a tenacious interviewer. I’m sure he gets it wrong sometimes, but unlike your generation, he never got it wrong on purpose, never made up funny quotes and attributed them to someone. I’ll talk to him about being more protective of Mack and Augie, of keeping the flame and creating heroes.

We're in agreement. Kirk Bohls could never make up a funny quote.