Woody Paige’s School Of Journaliffen: Chapter 3

Wednesday morning Woody Paige confirmed - a second time - to Denver’s Westword magazine that a 2009 Dan Le Batard plagiarism claim against him over a 1995 Super Bowl column was untrue.

Woody Paige: Around the Horn and Denver Post

With Paige now doubly certain that he did not plagiarize or fabricate his Jan. 29, 1995, Denver Post column despite multiple, unconfirmed factual details of the piece and and its striking similarity to Le Batard’s Jan. 27, 1995, article, in deference to verified denials made by the venerable Denver Post columnist I have decided to verify Paige’s own claims of unfailing accuracy in his past work for the Post.

Everyday.

As noted here Tuesday, a web-based search of the Denver Post archives between 1993-2010 for the term “iffen” yielded four search results - all Paige-penned local color pieces prefacing a major sporting event. Three of those were from past Super Bowls, including Atlanta in January, 1994.

To set the Peach State Super Bowl week scene for his Colorado readership, Paige claimed a Tallulah Falls, Ga., dateline on a Jan. 28, 1994, Denver Post column headlined, “Georgia Dome may as well be the Taj Mahal.

Tallulah Falls is located roughly two miles from the South Carolina border, in extreme Northeast Georgia. Paige chose that somewhat inaccesible, though tourist-friendly locale because the area was the setting for the 1972 movie Deliverance.

I’ve excerpted a selection of the Jan. 28, 1994, column published by Denver Post below, with Paige’s copy in italic and my comments in bold.

The Denver Post

January 28, 1994

Georgia Dome may as well be the Taj Mahal

Author: WOODY PAIGE

Edition: Final
Section: Sports
Page: 1D

Article Text:

“The river opened and was there. It was gray-green, very clear and yet with a certain milkiness, too; it looked as though it would turn white and foam at rocks more easily than other water.” - James Dickey

Woody Paige quotes the book Deliverance

Paige’s Denver Post piece is prefaced by the above quote, which can be found on Page 70 of the novel “Deliverance”. James Dickey’s best-selling work of fiction was the inspiration for the 1972 feature film.

TALLULAH FALLS, Ga. - Rain machine-guns the tin roof.

National Weather Service-verified weather reports for the Tallulah Falls, Ga., region reported zero (0.00) precipitation for the days Jan. 26, 1994, Jan. 27, 1994 and Jan. 28, 1994.

In contrast, rain emanating from overcast weather conditions was a prevalent theme throughout the fictional film Deliverance, which Paige directly references throughout his Denver Post column.

It’s so opaque sunlight probably has to be brought in by 18-wheeler.

It doesn’t matter here what kind of hair spray Jimmy Johnson uses or which Charles Dickens book Marv Levy is reading.

They could care less about Emmitt Smith’s shoulder or Troy Aikman’s concussion.

The Cowboys are just no-good Texas trash, and the Bills are Yankee carpetbaggers who don’t know spit.

There are no blimps, no corporate cocktail parties, no cluster-grab press conferences, no ESPN, no Bud Bowls, no canapes, no limousines, no thousand-dollar tickets for sale.

Ralph, with the bad teeth, down at the boat house, seems unconcerned that Buffalo has lost three straight Super Bowls.

The four main cast members in the fictional film Deliverance were Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox and Jon Voight, but perhaps the most-noted (and notorious) role in the movie was played by an actor named Herbert Coward.

Coward’s nameless character is officially referred to by the film’s producers as, “Toothless Man.

It was Coward’s “Toothless Man” who uttered the now infamous phrase to Ned Beatty’s “Bobby: “[grinning] He got a real pretty mouth ain’t he?

“Really?” he said. “Ain’t that somethin’?”

To most people in Rabun County, the Cowboys and the Bills are a couple of dueling banjos. The Super Bowl and the Middle East aren’t big news here.

“Dueling Banjos” was a chart-topping instrumental song heard in the film Deliverance

“Got work to do,” Ralph said. “Football games are for other folks.”

There are no Bills T-shirts and Cowboys caps at the Green Shutters Inn, only hot biscuits and sausage gravy and a cup of coffee that looks and tastes like it was poured out of a car’s crankcase.

Though the “Green Shutters Inn” in the Paige-referenced area no longer exists, there was a restaurant by that name in nearby Tiger, Georgia at the time Paige’s column was published.

Super Bowl is the homemade chili.

“I heard somebody was going to Atlanta for the game, but I’m not sure,” the waitress says. “Who’s playing? Maybe iffen it was Clemson and Georgia Tech, I might be interested. Might not. I work on Sundays.”

In 1992 and 1993, Georgia Tech’s football team went 5-6. In 1994, it went 1-10.

Georgia Tech's 1994 Record: 1-10

The University of Georgia is located 64 miles from Tallulah Falls. Georgia Tech is in Atlanta, 109 miles from Tallulah Falls.

I attended the University of Georgia, graduating in 1991. From living in the region for several years, I can confirm that the Tallulah Falls area is a very popular fall vacation spot for UGA students and alumni. (Along with tourists in general.) 

From that experience I can also verify that a reference to Clemson by the Paige-cited “waitress” from the Tallulah Falls area is very believable. But, in my opinion, for a Tallulah Falls local to specifically reference Georgia Tech football in any context, including a visit to Atlanta, is incomprehensible.

The northeast corner of Georgia, hard against the border of South Carolina and in the bowels of the rugged Blue Ridge Mountains, is a land time conveniently forgot to drag along.

Atlanta is in another country. “When I need new shoes, I go to Atlanta. I don’t go to Atlanta for no football. I ain’t lost nothing there,” the man at the arts and crafts village says.

David and Elizabeth are the innkeepers at the Lake Rabun Hotel, a polished, 16-room wood-and-flagstone lodge with rhododendron furniture and a fireplace. How much for a room and a bath?

“Including tax, that’s $54.50 for the room,” says David.

As someone who has visited the area myself, I was surprised to note Paige’s specific reference to a small hotel being in operation in late January. Most rural, overnight establishments in that region are well-known for being closed during the winter. 

Lake Rabun Hotel

A quick check of a current Frommer’s travel guide on the same “Lake Rabun Hotel” that was referenced by Paige in his January 28, 1994, Denver Post column reported that the hotel annually closes between December and March.

As I currently have a message into someone who will be able to verify whether the Lake Rabun Hotel was closed in January, 1994, I think we’ll stop there.

For now.

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