Why I dig Jason Whitlock

whitlock1

Few American sportswriters perplex a greater number of people than Jason Whitlock, the Kansas City Star and Fox Sports columnist.

Jason is very, very, very, very good at pissing people off. He writes a lot about himself, and often takes positions that leave me—and myriad others—scratching their heads. He has a lengthy history of writing about issues involving race, class, gender, etc. During my time at ESPN.com, Jason engaged in a public battle with Scoop Jackson, a fellow columnist at the website, that turned rather ugly (My take: Jason was right). I know many in the business who loathe Whitlock’s work, and loathe even more his apparent need for attention.

I, however, really dig the guy.

Whitlock, to me, defines what a great columnist should be. He’s passionate, strong-willed, stubborn, decisive, well-informed. While I strongly disagree with his take on Selena Roberts and the ARod book, he presents his case well. While I’m not in love with the way he often offers himself as some sort of guiding moralistic force, I do, usually, believe in his moralistic takes. His writing on the whole Rutgers-Don Imus controversy was brilliant. I didn’t 100% buy his take, but I was riveted by it. Absolutely riveted.maryannestahl

As many of you surely know, one of the biggest problems with covering sports is the cliche-ness of it all. Everything—absolutely everything—is a cliche. The scrappy underdog overcoming the odds. The arrogant high-priced veteran. The rookie having to wear some embarrassing outfit. “He’ll run through a wall.” “He’ll take one for the team.” “He’s a gamer.” “He’s a scrapper.” “I’d go to war with that guy any day of the week.” We reporters only accentuate the cliches by using them, nodding along with them, buying them, even becoming them.

Well, the best of the best—the Tom Verduccis, the Howard Bryants, the Jon Wertheims, the Steve Buckleys, the Mark Kriegels—see through all that. And nobody sees through it more than Whitlock. The guy simply does not allow cliche to enter his work. Especially when it comes to race. As one of the two or three highest profile African-American sports columnists in the country, Whitlock is supposed to (society says) take certain stands. He knows it, the public knows it. Yet Whitlock refuses to go along just to go along. I was mesmerized by his piece regarding Matt Vasgersian, the MLB.com on-air “talent” who recently had a really weird moment, confusing a black security guard at Coors Field for Donovan McNabb. Vasgresian apologized—a needless move that was dumb, uncalled for and, clearly, corporately mandated. Whitlock said as much—that, truth be told, the dude did look like McNabb; that confusing one African-American man for another isn’t always racist. That’s an uncomfortable point for a white guy like myself to make … and it’s even more uncomfortable for a black man to make. Yet Whitlock makes the points, PC be damned.

Anyhow, I’m babbling. After I mildly took Whitlock to task yesterday for the Selena column, he wrote a lengthy response, which I’ve posted at the end of this link. He later sent me a kind e-mail, making sure I wasn’t offended. I told him the truth—I wasn’t. Not even slightly. My admiration for Whitlock dates back several years, when I realized he was one of the few posters on sportsjournalists.com to write under his real name. The dude has guts.

Much respect.

•••

Let’s see…

I was suspended for the New England fiasco. Wrote an apology column. Since that 1998 incident, have never shied away from bringing up the incident in subsequent newspaper columns and on my own radio shows.

I’ve written numerous “I was wrong” columns about things I’ve been wrong about.

Do you still think the analogy between her Duke lacrosse columns and me getting into a taunting incident with fans still works?

Your analogy to your Rocker story is equally lame.

And as for Cyn’s mischaracterization of my opinion, I’ll restate it in full:

Social agenda does not trump truth. Al Sharpton was wrong when he let his social agenda to stamp out racism lead him to support Tawna Brawley despite contradictory evidence.

Selena was wrong to let her social agenda to stamp out sexism cause her to ignore the obvious truth in the Duke lacrosse case.

I say all of this much better in a foxsports.com column.

It’s late, I’m sleepy and I’m half looped on Stoli Dolis from Capital Grill.

Take care, Jeff.

Whitlock

3 thoughts on “Why I dig Jason Whitlock”

  1. Robert in Dallas

    Agreed: Whitlock is top notch in his field.

    Question: Where do the racial apology police fall on the issue of Dusty Baker referring to Laynce Nix as “that fair-haired boy” earlier this week? It is my understanding that it came up in the context of questioning about Baker continuing to play Chris Dickerson instead of Nix, who is off to a much better start.

    Such statements do not bother me, but I am irritated that if it had been an old fogey like Bobby Cox calling a black player “that curly-haired boy,” he would have been fired before the interview reached its conclusion.

  2. You’re fantastic Jeff, but there’s no more cliched writer in New England than Steve Buckley.

    Especially if he’s writing about a baseball player with local roots.

Leave a Reply