Yesterday evening, shortly before boarding a flight from New York to Los Angeles, I re-read an interview Jason Whitlock, a columnist for Fox Sports, conducted with The Big Lead. Here is the link. Not 100-percent sure why, but the whole thing really rubbed me the wrong way. Part of it (admittedly) was his slaying of Richard Deitsch, SI’s media critic and someone I’ve known and respected for many years. Part of it was his “bojangle” line toward Rob Parker—a man I’ve never met, but who didn’t deserve such an extreme and deliberate takedown (Somewhere, Bill Robinson is floating on a cloud, thinking, “Me again?”).
Mostly, though, what irked me (I think) was the apparent lack of awareness of the whole thing. On Twitter, I regrettably compared Whitlock to Jordan Knight, the New Kids on the Block lead singer, without context or explanation. Several years ago, when NKOTB was dead and Knight was floating from nowhere to nowhere, he slogged through a season of VH1’s “The Surreal Life.” He spent the entire show talking about how great he was, and how awful everyone else was. He had the best voice. He was on the cover of Rolling Stone. He was the brains behind pop music. If management had promoted him better, he’d be in the midst of an enormous solo career. On and on and on. He came off not as a guy who’d enjoyed a friggin’ great run, but as a bitter person who—instead of embracing the successes of others—let jealousy consume his thoughts. He never admitted such, because he couldn’t see it, but, well, it was obvious.
That’s how I read Whitlock’s interview; that he was the smartest guy in the room (maybe world), and these fleas needed to step back.
But here’s the thing …
I don’t know Jason Whitlock. I don’t believe we’ve ever met in person. Last year, post-Sweetness, I appeared on his podcast to talk about the book. That’s it, that’s all. So how the fuck can I place motivations in the guy’s head? How can I assume what he was thinking/feeling, when I didn’t ask? For all I know, he and Deitsch have a long, personal history? Maybe Parker did so-and-so with so-and-so at so-and-so …
I have no idea.
Truth be told, I love many of his columns. I really do. The guy gets killed, but keeps coming up with these thoughts and concepts that make people go, “Hmm … not the initial way I thought of that.” It became trendy to bash his Rutgers-Imus stuff, but—being completely honest—I applauded it; considered it to be (without question) the best take out there on the subject.
I feel like Twitter (and the whole Information Superhighway thing) brings out the lazy in many people. It certainly can bring out the lazy in me. And the unprofessional in me. And the petty in me. Just because you disagree with someone’s behavior doesn’t mean you should mimic it. My career dream was to become a long-form writer, not a guy who zings out quick thoughts in 140 characters. If I really wanted to take on Whitlock, or dispute his Deitsch thoughts, or try and understand what he was writing, I should have called him first. That’s what journalists do—or did. They gather information before spewing; they try and grasp the behavior’s roots before playing therapist.
I know this isn’t a big deal, and I can’t imagine Whitlock gives two shits (I certainly wouldn’t), but I’m mad at myself. My dad used to say people will judge you, first and foremost, on how you carry yourself.
I carried myself like a baby.