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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.

A sports fan who is sick of sports media