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ncf_a_pryor_600Dear sports media,

I can’t sit idly by (on my couch) any longer.

I watch a lot of sports coverage. Too much. And I see this scenario all the time…

1) After a game, you reporters ask an athlete a question.
2) The athlete stumbles through an answer, and by the time he’s done talking, he sounds like a moron.
3) You spend the next week replaying that snippet and lambasting the athlete. (If they answer a hundred other questions appropriately, however, those answers don’t see any air time at all.)

Athletes are not public speakers. If you want to criticize their performance on the field or court, go for it. That’s what you get paid for, right? But come on, how many professions require someone to do an interview immediately following their day at the office? And how many of us would fare much better if this were required of us?

But hey, it’s great for ratings…and that’s what matters, right? It’s all about getting your sound byte—regardless of what that player intended to say.

Maligning an NBA star or an NFL linebacker is bad enough, but college students? The average college student is scared to death when they have to give an impromptu speech in speech class. Imagine how they’d feel if they had to do it in front of a microphone and video cameras. And imagine if they had to give that speech knowing that, if they screw up in any part of that speech, for the next week their words will reverberate throughout the blogosphere and be dissected by you analysts on ESPN.

Well, that’s exactly what’s happening to Ohio State’s sophomore quarterback, Terrelle Pryor. And I’ve heard enough out of all of you.

Yes, I’m familiar with the scenario: In last Saturday’s game against Navy, Pryor—in what appears to be the newest trend in college football—gave a shout-out by writing a name in his eyeblack.

Problem #1: Pryor gave a shout-out to Michael Vick.

Mentioning Vick’s name within a fifty-mile radius of the media, for anyone who hasn’t been paying attention for the last three months, is like dumping chum into a shark tank.

So after the game, naturally, you asked Pryor why Vick’s name was written in his eyeblack. (Actually, I’m shocked you didn’t track him down to pose the question at half-time.)

Here’s what I think Pryor meant to say: “Because I look up to Vick as an athlete. I’ve modeled my game after his. And even though he messed up, I think he served his time and he deserves a second chance.”

I think that’s what Pryor meant. I really do. But that’s not what he said. Which brings us to:

Problem #2: Pryor’s actual response:

“I know what happened with him and, I mean, I don’t want to talk much. I’m just going to be very short and sweet with it.” (But he wasn’t.)

“But I just feel he made his mistake and I think he just needs more support. Not everybody is the perfect person in the world. Everyone does—kills people, murders people, steals from you, steals from me. I just feel that people need to give him a chance.

It’s clear why you guys are drooling over this story. First of all, it involves Michael Vick—and since Vick is like the scarlet letter of the sports world right now, I can understand the interest here.

And, of course, if Pryor really believed that…if he really meant to say that everyone steals, kills, and murders…well, I can see why you’d report it. It would be newsworthy. And I would be glad you reported it if I thought Terrelle really believed that. If I thought for a second that Pryor could be that dismissive of murder, I would be shocked and disturbed.

But that’s not what’s happening here. I’ve seen the video, and Pryor is clearly stumbling through his words, struggling to put a coherent answer together. Under his right eye, he wrote “Mika,” which is his sister’s nickname. And he even stumbled through that answer. So clearly, he didn’t feel too comfortable answering questions. Here, watch it for yourself:

You guys couldn’t be happier about that response, could you? You probably salivated when you first heard it.

Sure, I wish Pryor had answered that question more appropriately. Even more than that, I wish Pryor had the wherewithal to say, “Hold up, that didn’t come out quite right. This is what I meant to say…” But most of all, I wish you guys had enough class to not exploit a non-story like this. Especially a non-story that maligns a kid. Because that’s what Pryor is—a college kid who just turned 20 years old.

So why don’t you find something else to “burn on,” Jim Rome. Save your self-righteousness and phony indignation for a real story, Jay Mariotti and Woody Paige.

Yes, I know you guys make a living by creating headlines. But this is unacceptable. Why don’t you climb down from your soapboxes for a second and quit sacrificing a kid who struggled to assemble his thoughts.

I mean, come on, I know none of you thinks Pryor actually believes that “everyone murders people.” Not even a serial killer or a psychopath would claim that everyone kills people. It’s ludicrous. Anyone with common sense can see this for what it is. (Well, unless they need a controversial headline for their sports column or a talk show.)

But hey, even if you keep dragging Pryor’s name through the mud, at least he’s likely to forgive you. He believes in second chances—which you would know if actually tried to understand what he was attempting to say.

But clearly, as you’ve proven time and time again, you don’t care. As long as it yields a story for you, everything else (including truth and intent) can take a backseat.

There are enough compelling stories in sports (enough real stories), why don’t you focus on those and quit manufacturing crap like this.

Sincerely,
A sports fan who is sick of sports media

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5 Comments

  1. I should add that I read Dan Wetzel’s column this morning, and I appreciate his perspective. He summed up Pryor’s comments by saying, “he offered the kind of clumsy comment you might expect from a 20-year-old touching a hot-button issue.”

    And then he went on to evaluate this as a “freedom of expression” issue. And he focused on Pryor’s support for Vick, not the “clumsy comment” which I believe should be a non-story.

    Apparently Wetzel feels the same. And I appreciate that.

    Here’s his column, if you’re interested:

    http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/news;_ylt=AlKtQiyN2hqJwQ.lFM7zvWwcvrYF?slug=dw-pryor090909&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

  2. On one hand, I agree with you. He’s just a kid. He probably didn’t mean what he said. On the other hand, just by putting Vick on his eyeguard he HAD to know it was going to get a rise out of the media. He knew it would be visible. He knew it would raise comments. And he probably knew it would get him some media attention – including questions. So knowing that, he’s also responsible for his response. He put the name on his face. He knew what would follow. While I agree they’re probably beating the story to death, I also think that part of him, kid and all, had some idea what was going to come of him putting Vick on his face in the first place.

  3. Kim,

    Thanks for the post.

    I see your point. I do. He should have thought about the fallout. He should have expected the questions. I get that.

    But holding him accountable for supporting Vick, or holding him accountable for not thinking through the ramifications of supporting Vick, would be one thing. It’s something completely different to take that quote and turn it into a story that says, “Pryor says everybody kills people.”

    If someone wants to say he shouldn’t be supporting Vick, that’s their prerogative. (Just as it’s his prerogative to wear the “Vick” to begin with.)

    But if he was trying to say “Vick deserves a second chance” (and I think he was), then I think he should be given a break. He misspoke. That’s all. It sounds terrible…but he’s a kid. He’ll learn.

    I hope.

  4. While I disagree with you and find Pryor’s admiration of Vick very sad, I think you wrote a good column.
    I can’t say the same of Dan Wetzel who in discussing Woody Hayes manages to skip over his propensity for physically attacking sportswriters, cameramen, officials and in the final straw which ended his career, a Clemson football player

    • Max,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you were able to enjoy my post even though you disagreed with at least some parts of it.

      As for Woody Hayes, you’re right, the end of his career was marred by that ugly scene. But every time Hayes is mentioned, do you think we should also mention that incident? I’m not trying to disagree, and that’s not a rhetorical question; I’m genuinely interested in knowing what you think. Do you think it’s impossible to view Woody Hayes as a great football coach because of that incident?

      I know a lot of baseball fans (Reds fans, anyway) who are willing to completely ignore Pete Rose gambling on baseball because they admired him as a player so much. I’m not saying it’s right; I’m just saying. Which sins are forgivable? Vick ran a dogfighting ring. Hayes hit an opposing player. Rose gambled. Rick Pitino cheated on his wife. Kobe Bryant did the same. Brandon Marshall beat up his girlfriend (more than once). Plaxico carried a loaded weapon into a nightclub (and accidentally shot himself). There are endless examples of times when athletes screwed up. Yet we forgive some of them, but not others.

      Overall, it seems the court of public opinion decides whether a mistake ultimately tarnishes one’s legacy. For the most part, I think public opinion has ruled that Woody Hayes’ legacy has not been tarnished. Pitino’s probably won’t be either. As for Vick, I think that jury is still out. But Pryor has cast his vote. And I think he has every right to do that. Even if most people disagree.

      But I also think we won’t see Pryor sporting the name “Vick” at all tomorrow when USC rolls into town. Pryor can support him all he wants, but I have a feeling he won’t be doing it publicly…


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  1. […] Tyler Charles I'm not as honest as I should be. But I'm trying. About MeWriting Credits « Open Letter to ESPN and Others Maligning Terrelle Pryor […]

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