I’ve written way too many ugly things about people in this space over the years. Mean-spirited, nonsensical rants targeting innocent media members that had no purpose except to exorcise my anger at an industry I couldn’t conquer on my own terms. (Though millions of you apparently loved every inch of it.)
With that admission, I confess that rarely has a column affected me the way a piece by Jason Whitlock on FoxSports.com affected me today. I was truly saddened to read his unprovoked, unexplained rage against a wide variety of his media colleagues.
Whitlock is one of the sports journalism’s most prominent originalists. A man who has parlayed true talent to the height of the biz. Yes, we warred for a very short time while broadcasting on Kansas City radio waves, but I have nothing but the utmost respect for what he’s done in print and the electronic media.
Whitlock’s piece today, designed to embarrass virtually every prominent media member whom he’s crossed paths with over the years, only served to permanently mar his own reputation as being an eminently fair, well-measured sports and cultural commentator.
His cowardly, unprovoked attacks were a direct contradiction to the guy we’ve grown to admire. A man who has shown unimaginable courage in standing up for the oft-times unpopular societal standards he believes in.
His lede in the FoxSports.com piece, comparing himself to Erin Andrews because both have now appeared on Oprah, was largely incoherent and came off as a flimsy excuse to unleash a torrent of toxic commentary aimed squarely at his sports media peers.
Perhaps some found it oddly amusing, but my takeaway was decidedly different.
The paradoxal paranoia that is Whitlock’s Foxsports.com work tells me that he has officially been broken down by a business he once owned. Less three years ago, Whitlock was one of the most prominent personalities occupying ESPN airwaves. Tony Kornheiser? Michael Wilbon? Jay Mariotti? Whitlock was bigger than all of them for my money.
But thanks to petty, public comments about largely anonymous colleagues (Scoop Jackson, really Jason?) that should’ve been beneath him, Whitlock was eventually shown the door by Bristol.
Amazingly, almost immediately following his ESPN firing, Whitlock was able to gain his most widespread acclaim yet - thanks to his courageous stand against gangsta-rap in the wake of Don Imus’ Rutgers-fueled firing.
But without all-encompassing ESPN behind him, Whitlock eventually faded to being the lead columnist for sports websites with a shadow of influence of ESPN-TV and ESPN.com.
Now re-read his piece today and tell me what you think.
It’s a sad day when a former titan of an industry is reduced to petty cheap shots fired from the margins of that medium. But that’s what we saw today.
Jason is still a very young guy. Hopefully he’ll learn that his talent and instincts will always trump his currently out-of-control, unjustified ego.