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"THEY SHOULD BE FOR YOU"
It's the journalist's mission to write about people, not for them. Unfortunately, this distinction appears difficult for some to grasp. Among those having trouble getting the point at the moment are:
?Jet Quarterback Richard Todd, who pushed New York Post writer Steve Serby into a locker to protest what he felt was negative coverage (page 24). Of Serby and other sportswriters, Todd said, "They should be for you."
? Bob Trumpy, NBC telecaster and former Cincinnati tight end, who defended Todd's actions by saying on TV, "There comes a point as a player where you're so frustrated from the bad press, what can you do?" Answering his own question, Trumpy said, "These are athletic people, they are big people and you have to expect something like [Todd pushing Serby]."
?Clemson Athletic Director Bill McLellan, who spurned requests from ABC for comment on charges by two football recruiting prospects that Clemson had offered them money and, for good measure, threatened to keep the Tigers' Nov. 7 game against North Carolina off ABC if the network aired interviews it had conducted with the two.
? ABC-TV Sports publicist Donn Bernstein, who, while denying that the network's subsequent failure to air the offending interviews had been influenced by McLellan's threat, said with tortured logic, "It would not have been fair to use the interviews with the two kids without any response from Clemson."
?Kerry Sipe, managing editor of the Charlottesville (Va.) Daily Progress, whose sports editor, Gary Cramer, was fired last week after writing a series critical of the University of Virginia's football team (1-9 this season) and its coach, Dick Bestwick, with whom Cramer had feuded. According to Cramer, Sipe had told him that Bestwick wanted the paper to put somebody else on the football beat and had mentioned at the time of the sacking "that I had had three years to iron out my differences with Bestwick and had been unable to do so." Bestwick acknowledged that he complained to Cramer about what the coach considered to be negative coverage of the Cavalier football team. Cramer said the "complaint" consisted, in part, of Bestwick "physically pressing his nose against mine and telling me he was going to 'kick my ass.' "
As these examples suggest, strong support exists for the notion that sportswriters and sportscasters should be cheerleaders for the teams they cover. The reason this notion takes hold, of course, is that they all too often are cheerleaders. Thus, former NFL Coach John Madden, now a TV analyst, noted on a recent Giant-Packer telecast that "every time somebody does something [during a game], we say what a great guy he is." Whereupon Madden said what a great guy Green Bay Kicker Jan Stenerud was. In point of fact, not all people involved in sports are so great, not all the time, anyway. The fact that journalists who dare to suggest as much are pushed, threatened and fired only serves to prove the point.
THE THREATENED-PURSE SYNDROME