Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sportswriting Moro, uh, Jerk Of The Year

Where do I begin? Sigh. In this blog, I have made it a frequent point to lambaste examples of poor sportswriting; the misguided subjective diatribes masquerading as informed opinions, the lazy and non-existent fact-checking, the histrionics and short-sighted analysis of teams and players. I have pointed to well-known analysts and obscure just-for-fun bloggers like myself.

At no time, however, can I recall any of those nominations going to ESPN's Rick Reilly, a journalist with a pretty lengthy career and respectable resume. Even when he recently penned a long article in defense of the (in the minds of many, offensive) team name of the Washington NFL franchise, I didn't feel remotely compelled to take him to task. I did however send him an email, specifically pointing out the silliness of his equating a slur based on a physical characteristic (skin colour) with that of more grammatically (though certainly not historically) benign nicknames like "Chiefs" and "Braves".

Beyond that though, his article, while certainly one-sided and agenda-driven, did include enough objective evidence (in terms of opinions and quotes of people involved; ironic though: can subjective opinions really be considered objective evidence? In this case it seems so.) to make it a supportable article. So much so I began my email to him by commending his usual penchant to construct well-thought out articles.

Sadly, a startling new revelation has brought that measure of respect to an end. In a nutshell, Reilly apparently completely twisted words of his own father-in-law before including them to support his article's viewpoint. Then, to make matters worse, he refused to retract his out-of-context, opinion-negating quoting, forcing said wife's father to pen an article to clarify his words and clear his name.

Seriously. How low does one have to sink to completely use their own father in law like this? This is utterly despicable. He had dozens of quotes from people within the Native American community from which to draw. However, pull at our heartstrings to make it personal, he dragged his wife's father into his web, sullied the man's name, and then refused to apologize for it.

Let's grant for a moment that he misheard his 2nd dad, and really did believe the alleged misquote. The insult to injury comes with not believing AN ELDER at their word when they clarify their position. When the child refuses to respect the elder...well, is there any greater microcosm into what is wrong with this country?

Tragically, can there possibly a better illustration of the crux of the debate over the franchises name than this episode, than Reilly's cretinous behaviour? The use of Native American imagery as a minstrel show, the insensitivity, the twisting of accounts to fit an agenda, the total unapologetic lack of respect?

This episode is so egregious, you almost begin to wonder if it's a completely-intentional allegory to the name-debate. Perfection doesn't come along this clearly very often.

There's so much more I could say about this, but I'll leave Reilly's actions to speak for themselves. In fact, I end by linking to the father-in-law's statement of self-defense, as I respectful yield to an elder's any warm-blooded human ought to do.

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