March 12, 2011

Philadelphia Sportswriter Encourages Fans To Throw Batteries At Drew

Some mainstream sportswriters are quick to denigrate the work of bloggers. Besides living in basements, bloggers have no professional training, they fail to adhere to any code of ethics or standards of accuracy, and they make accusations without evidence and accountability.

Of course, these same statements can be made against a fair amount of professional sports journalists (radio, TV, print). And most readers can judge the level of professionalism and accuracy of information whether they are reading it on an established group website, a personal blog, or an actual inky newspaper. There is good and bad work being done in all venues.

On March 5, 2011, Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter T.J. Furman suggested that his readers "show [their] love" for Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew, who may retire at the end of this season:
But fear not: You'll get one more chance to let J.D. know how you feel about him when the Sox come to town June 28-30. Get your D-cells ready.
Furman's suggestion (or encouragement) that Phillies fans commit assault was removed from the paper's online version (web cache here). An editor's subsequent note claimed that Furman had made "a regretful attempt at humor" and insisted that the Inquirer and its staff fully understand that "Any reference to throwing batteries at a player is neither funny nor acceptable."

Former PI wine columnist Sam Hughes sent a letter to the editor:
Does The Inquirer not edit stories anymore? This may seem funny to T.J. Furman, but given that Drew could have been seriously injured by the cowardly thugs who threw batteries at him a dozen years ago - and that the city's reputation took a serious hit from that action - there's nothing funny about it. If people want to boo Drew for not signing with the Phillies, fine (even though as far as I know he has never publicly criticized the team, fans, or city). But for a writer to openly encourage fans to throw batteries at him in a major newspaper just defies belief.
The game in question occurred on August 11, 1999, when Drew was pulled off the field by his manager (Tony LaRussa: "They were throwing batteries."). It took nearly 10 minutes for the debris in center field to be cleaned up.

Throwing batteries has a long history in Philadelphia. In the 1960s, Phillies fans tossed ice, garbage, and batteries at the extremely talented Dick Allen, who had the misfortune of being one of the team's few black players. I can't say whether the newspaper men of that day condoned that abuse -- though they did often refer to Allen as "Richie", which Allen felt was a little boy's name. I'm sure their continued use of "Richie" was merely a coincidence.


laura k said...

Having lived in both Philadelphia and New York, I've always known that the stereotypical New York sports fan actually lives in Philadephia.

Then some of those fans become sportswriters. Or, sports "writers".

Brad said...

This is unbelievable to me.

I like humor and / or sarcasm in a writer and sometimes think we are too sensitive to these kinds of comments by writers. But - especially given Philly's history - this is neither humorous nor witty sarcasm.

Shame on you.