Tim McCarver, please come back. All is forgiven.
After President Clinton hosted the national-champion Florida State football team at the White House last week, U.S. Senator Bob Graham, a Democrat from the Sunshine State, said, "The President has a lot of things on his plate to deal with—health care reform, crime, Bosnia. Now he's gotten to the really important things."
Graham was, we trust, kidding. But given the impact of those first two issues on American society, the human tragedy going on in Bosnia and the tiresome overemphasis put on athletes' visits to the White House, the comment was stupendously stupid. And as a joke, it was distinctly unfunny.
Anatomy of a Rumor
The phones at the offices of the Jacksonville Jaguars, one of the two new NFL franchises, began lighting up like pinball machines one morning last week with callers asking question after question about Dallas Cowboy coach Jimmy Johnson. A local sports talk host, David Lamm of WNZS, had just reported that Wayne Weaver and David Seldin, the owner and president respectively of the Jaguars, had had a 2½-day meeting with Johnson on Weaver's boat in South Florida and that Johnson was on the verge of resigning from the Cowboys to become Jacksonville's coach-general manager. The next day the local paper, The Florida Times-Union, reported that the Jaguars had denied the story, but the paper also said it had confirmed the Johnson meeting with what it calls "a highly reliable source."
The rumor was taken seriously. Dallas owner Jerry Jones threatened action if Jacksonville had tampered with Johnson, and the league office announced it had warned the Jags about dealing with Johnson, who has five years remaining on his contract with the Cowboys.
The thing is, it was all nonsense from the beginning. First, the only time Johnson and Seldin ever met was at a party on Dec. 6 where Johnson offered congratulations on the new franchise. Second, Seldin told SI several weeks ago that Johnson had been eliminated from consideration. Finally, Johnson told SI three days before the Super Bowl that he was no longer interested in pursuing the Jacksonville posts.
How did the story surface? Well, it wouldn't be beyond Johnson, who loves tweaking Jones about his future, to have whispered about his "interest" to someone in Jacksonville, knowing that the info might then be leaked. The story left Seldin and Weaver shaking their heads. "What an awesome enterprise this is, when a false rumor can provoke such a furor," said Seldin, whose job with the Jaguars is his first in football. "I guess there's not much you can do about it."
A Winner, a Teacher