A–head

The above video has nothing to do with nothing. It’s Ronald Reagan praising unions. Which is funny, since so many modern Republicans cite our 40th president when it comes to the GOP’s current union-thrashing fever.

But I disgress. A few minutes ago I was thinking about an odd moment from my journalistic career, and I figured I’d share it.

Back in the mid-1990s, when I was a crummy reporter for The Tennessean, I wrote a genuinely awful opinion piece about high school sports parents, and how—in Nashville at the time—they were especially ruthless and obnoxious at the local Christian high schools. I cited the behavior of one woman in particular, who sat in front of me during a boy’s basketball game. Her kid was playing for the home squad, and throughout the night she kept screaming, “Hey, that guy’s an ass head!” about a certain oppsoing guard. I led my column with her bellowings, but The Tennessean—trying to exercise judgement—wrote “a–head” instead of “asshead.”

Well, at the time the local alternative weekly, The Nashville Scene, employed a media critic named Henry Walker. Walker’s joy was thrashing The Tennessean—and with me around, there was much to thrash. He took me left, he took me right, he bopped my atop the head and slammed me in the gut. He was pretty much dead-on—I was genuinely and uniquely awful.

In the aftermath of the asshead thing, he also wrote this piece:

If there’s one cow-pie in the field, The Tennessean’s Jeff Pearlman will manage to step in it.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxAbout a year ago, the novice reporter wrote “Not-So-Chosen Athletes,” a bizarre piece lamenting the shortage of Jewish sports figures and criticizing Jewish parents for pushing their children to become doctors and lawyers. Two months later, Pearlman infuriated the managers at Starwood, a big advertiser, by writing an uncomplimentary and error-filled description of the amphitheater’s 1995 lineup. The paper apologized profusely and temporarily assigned Pearlman to the police beat.

“People are stupid,” Pearlman wrote last fall. “They are stupid enough to rally around a leader, be it Hitler, Stalin, Bill Clinton or the Pope”—a memorably stupid line that turned mild-mannered readers into fire-breathing letter writers.

A sportswriter (for now), the paper’s enfant terrible found the cow-pie again last week, charging that “private, Christian-run schools are a bad idea” because Christians commit “insensitive” acts at games like praying to Jesus and heckling opponents and referees. As an example, Pearlman described the mother of an Ezell-Harding student who kept shouting at opposing players, “Hey, you A-Head!!! That’s right, you’re an A-Head!!!”

Pearlman admitted he had no idea “what exactly an ‘a-head’ is” but implied it must be some obscure, sectarian curse.

On Sunday, Tennessean editor Frank Sutherland apologized for Pearlman’s “prejudice against Christians” and said the reporter’s column “should have been edited” to make its point “without being so offensive.”

Sutherland failed to explain, however, the meaning of “a-head.” Witnesses report that a woman of loud voice and thick drawl was berating the opposing team for running up the score against hapless Ezell-Harding. “Hey, you’re ahead,” she yelled repeatedly. “That’s right, you’re ahead!”

•••

Again, the column was terrible, misguided, etc. But the woman was, factually, screaming “Asshead! Asshead! Asshead!” at teenager student-athletes. Walker clearly didn’t get it, then lied to score funny points. I’m certainly not mad—I once asked him about it via e-mail, to which he responded that I was surely mistaken. Which I wasn’t—he fabricated the piece to KO a kid reporter.

Anyhow, I’m babbling. Just thought I’d share.

Leave a Reply