JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Has David Kirkau recovered?

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In the fall of 1996, I was wrapping up my days as a sports writer at The Tennessean. I had been hired by Sports Illustrated, gave my notice and spent the final few weeks going through the motions.

One of my final stories was coverage of a high school football game between Goodpasture Christian and David Lipscomb. The quarterback for Lipscomb played poorly, and in my story I wrote, “The Mustangs’ David Kirkau, meanwhile, had an up-and-down sort of day—as in, his passes either went up too high or down too low.”

I thought nothing of it, but in the ensuing days the phone calls were nonstop—How could you write such a thing? Who the hell do you think you are? Hence, the following Saturday night (for my last-ever Tennessean assignment), Larry Taft, my editor, sent me out to Lipscomb to cover its playoff game. “You always show your face after a story like that,” he told me. “It’s the professional way to be.”

Larry was 100-percent correct. I will never forget that night. In the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, with the game out of reach, I strolled down to the Goodpasture sideline to prepare for aftermath interviews. Suddenly, I found myself surrounded by a bunch of players. David So-and-so, the quarterback, stepped forward. “Don’t you ever come back here again!” he said.

The next day I left for Sports Illustrated. I’ve long believed David So-and-so thought he forced me out of town.

I bring this up because, last week, a paper in Colorado, the Montrose Daily Press, ran the above photograph. It’s of a running back named Dylan Markley, whose fumble contributed to Olathe High’s loss to Kent Denver in a Class 2A playoff game. In the following days, irate parents and community members called and e-mailed the paper, demanding an apology or retraction or rolled heads or … whatever it is irate parents demand.

To its credit, the newspaper didn’t flinch. This is the staff editorial, which reacted to the hubbub in a very impressive manner.

My take on this sort of thing has been pretty consistent. A newspaper shouldn’t go out of its way to rip or embarrass a prep athlete. However, if fans/coaches/players want coverage of their events, they have to expect—and respect—fair coverage. A big fumble is a big fumble. Period.

Dylan Markley will survive.