We all have our pet peeves. Here’s one of mine: When sportswriters quote somebody – and don’t even bother to establish the validity of the statement. They just let the words hang there, completely uncorroborated. The implication being: The person said it, so it must be true.
Since when is every interview subject a Vessel of Veracity? Besides, isn’t that one of the jobs of a journalist – to serve as a filter and separate fact from fiction? Or are we too busy tweeting links to our stories these days to verify the information contained in them?
I ran into a couple of examples of this recently. One was in a fascinating piece by Serge F. Kovaleski (and others) in the New York Times about the Yankees’ Bartolo Colon reviving his right arm – and career – by having what the paper termed a “disputed” stem cell treatment.
About two-thirds of the way through, Joseph R. Purita, the Georgetown-trained orthopedist who led the team that performed the procedure, says:
“Colon said he wanted to get back into baseball. He could not throw the ball without horrible pain, but he felt he still had something left in the can, so to speak. I told Colon this will be a lot less painful than facing Derek Jeter. He said: ‘Derek Jeter? He has never been a problem for me. I always strike him out.’ ”
As my numbers-crunching son Danny points out: “Either the doctor is embellishing [or misremembering], or Bartolo is delusional. Here are Jeter’s career stats against him: 16 for 43 with four extra base hits and three walks. That figures out to a .372 batting average, .413 on-base percentage and .581 slugging percentage. To be fair, Bartolo has struck him out 10 times, but it isn’t exactly accurate to say Jeter has never been a problem for him.”
Does it affect the story? Of course not. But it would have been nice if the writer had inserted, parenthetically, that either Purita was a blowhard or Colon was.
Exhibit B: A recent Insider blog in the Washington Post by Mike Jones (who, in the interests of full disclosure, used to work here). Anyway, in his blog, Jones says that John Beck, the Redskins’ would-be quarterback, is “hoping to pen a storybook ascent similar to that of Drew Brees’ or Aaron Rodgers’ – both of whom endured inactivity at the start of their careers before becoming elite passers.” Then he quotes Beck thusly:
“I find myself in a similar situation [to Brees]… . Someone will say, ‘You haven’t been on a field for three years in a regular season game, how are you going to do it?’ Well, that’s the same thing they told Drew.”
Come again? Brees became a starter with the Chargers in his second season, at the age of 23. For a quarterback, that’s pretty early. Beck, on the other hand, is still trying to secure a job at 30. About the only thing Drew Brees and John Beck have in common at this point is that they’re both right-handed. Could somebody please set Mr. Beck straight on this?
Oh, wait. I just did.
OK, I’m done being a grumpy old sportswriter. For now.