Good Sport’s Bad Sport

Dan Wetzel is a sport’s journalist and shouldn’t be. His biography begins with two wonderful facts;

“The closest Dan Wetzel ever came to major-league sports was hawking popcorn as a 14-year-old at Fenway Park. The main sport then was conning Yuppies out of their change.”

All that needs to be said to that is; and it shows. I’ve just read his account of the Florida, Ohio State Championship football game. It is a nasty, mean, bitter little piece that demeans Wetzel and his profession. He uses literary tricks to put down and humiliate Florida’s win. I just hope he never reports the efforts of any swimmer I’ve got anything to do with at a national championship or Olympic Games. His form of reporting has little to do with the values good competitors hold important.

I think it was Kennedy who said, “You will never make a weak man strong by making a strong man weak.” Obviously that uplifting thought has never occurred to Wetzel. In his first seven lines he promotes Boise three times – the “Peoples Champion”, “America’s Team” (note the incorrect use of capitals in an effort to formalize his opinion) and “full of national respectability”. In the same seven lines he delivers four insults to the Florida game, “lowest-rated”, “buzz-less”, “America would rather have seen” and “that took place too far after the other bowl games”.

As if the first seven lines weren’t bad enough he begins the next paragraph with the classic put down; “No offence to Florida”. Anyone who uses that phrase is as offensive as their writing. He says Florida’s win will be “instantly forgotten”. No it won’t Mr. Wetzel. Forever and a day Florida will be the 2006 National Champions; not Boise or Ohio but Florida. As they say about an Olympic championship, no one can ever take that away. If someone didn’t turn up or didn’t make it through their trials or got injured, it is of no concern. On the championship day against the competition that was there, you were supreme.

I’m not sure whether Wetzel’s motive is to find anyone – and Boise will do – who’s better than Florida or he actually believes Boise could beat Florida. Either way he reminds me of those critics who used to argue some African tribesman could have won the 1500 track championship at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games or the 5000 in Melbourne in 1956. Subsequent events have proven Africa can produce magnificent runners. That in no way diminishes or alters the value of Lovelock or Kuts who did win those two events.

Boise may have had potential but Florida had reality and that is all that matters. Wetzel says Florida’s coach Urban Meyer laughed in relief at the suggestion Boise should play Florida. No he didn’t; he laughed at the idiot asking the question. What do you want Florida to do Wetzel, go on playing pretenders to the throne until they are beaten and you can say, “See, I told you they’re no good.”

He concludes his article the way he began, with insults and invective. The suggestion is made that Florida only won because Ohio State had 51 days off and because the game was played in a non-traditional campus and in the desert and in an architecturally disastrous building; for bad losers any excuse will do. Oh, to make him self look good Wetzel throws in a few lines praising Florida’s speed and execution. That’s only done because he wants his real point to appear more valid; a sort of, believe me because I write a balanced opinion. All it does is make his writing even more dishonest. After the other stuff I doubt anyone believes him anyway.

Wetzel, you are wrong. The debate will not rage. No questions will remain; Florida has nothing to prove. The best game – the championship game – was last night. Florida, like Jack Lovelock and Vladimir Kuts, are Champions.

Your writing and your person would be the better if you had simply recognized and applauded that fact. I do hope your employers keep you away from Beijing in 2008. God knows how you will describe the unusual lattice-maze architecture of the Olympic Pool if your pick of a winner happens to have a bad swim.