Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: shamelessly pandering since 2003

Everything is about the Steelers. If you don't see that, you're clearly lying to yourself. That's the only reason something like this is in any way okay.


For what it's worth, Gene Collier did the exact same thing in a column last week.


Among the common endings for the common occurrences that furnish any totally common Friday isn’t where you typically find the darkest hours of American history, so maybe it was the contrast that made it so indelible.

Sometimes lunch ends when the bell rings or the whistle blows. Sometimes lunch ends when you write down a tip and autograph a credit-card receipt, and sometimes it ends with the caloric blitzkrieg of pumpkin-spiced cheesecake.

And then, other times, lunch ends when the President of the United States gets shot.


I don't need to play editor to someone who's clearly an authority figure on all writing matters as Gene is, but that's not going to stop me in this particular instance.

The first paragraph of this column is, as Orson Welles would say, "unpleasant to read." Also, if that's the lede and I'm a reader 
— which it is and I am  I'm fucking out of there and onto something else before I even finish that 36-word sentence. Everything preceding it is inner monologue which serves only to slap the reader in the face with your dick.

Open with "Sometimes lunch ends..." That's your lede 
— or, as we say in the business, "kill your lede and make the nut graf the lede graf." See how graph is spelled with an "f" instead of a "ph?" Newspaper people are quirky like that!
“I was having lunch at the Roosevelt Hotel,” Steelers chairman Dan Rooney was remembering yesterday. “Someone came in and said that Kennedy was just shot, and that was the end of the lunch.”
Great story. 
Dan’s isn’t one of the better where-were-you-when-Kennedy-was-shot stories, not by a mile, but his next 48 hours were some of the most interesting in the history of both sports and the way sports impacts our national consciousness.

This is what's known in journalism as a "justification graf." In newsroom-speak, a justification graf is something you write in a column when you're about to make a completely preposterous argument. It's also something that I just made up. The king of justification grafs was former Pittsburgh Press columnist Phil Musick, who used to just take large swaths of text from other people's columns and reprint them verbatim as his own. But I digress.
Just as the Kennedy assassination is perhaps the most-told story every told, often along its most far-flung tangents, the looming 50th anniversary again compels the NFL to recount and perhaps regret the decision to play its full schedule two days after the kill shots crackled through Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

The NFL mishandles matters of decorum, propriety, etiquette, good taste, human decency and public relations on a near-daily basis. The most anyone has ever gotten out of the NFL is a Monday-morning apology along the lines of "Yes, that was a blown call, and yes, you lost the game because of it, but we're not going to do anything about it. We apologize for your misfortune and consider the matter closed."

I won't deny for a second the possibility that Pete Rozelle might have had second thoughts about playing games two days after the President of the United States was assassinated, but if you think the current NFL is going to use this or any time to think or reflect on anything, let alone something that happened 50 years ago, you're just not paying attention
The NFL "righted this wrong" by postponing its games immediately following the September 11th attacks, but there's no evidence that the decision not to play in that instance had anything do with basic human decency. Playing that weekend would have done irreparable damage to the league and its credibility. I'm sure Paul Tagliabue knew that, just as he knew that making the necessary security adjustments for football games in an immediate post-9/11 world couldn't be done inside of a week. Football couldn't happen that weekend for reasons pertaining to logistics — but decorum and decency provided a satisfactory excuse. After all, this is the league that plays games mere days after its players kill themselves on team property, in front of other players and coaches. This is a league that goes about business as usual, even when its up-and-coming stars are murdered at night in their homes. 
Nobody's bigger than the game, and the game is about one thing and only one thing.
“When we first talked, a couple of hours afterward, I told him, ‘I think we’ve gotta cancel the games,’ ” Rooney said after receiving that call from then commissioner Pete Rozelle. “He said he was going to call [Kennedy’s press secretary] Pierre Salinger, and Pete knew him very well; he went to school with him. He called me back, like an hour later, not long, and he said Pierre said that Jack would have liked for us to play, and that he felt this would be good for the nation and for the people, to get a diversion.

The two most important things one can glean from this paragraph are:
1. The Rooney response was the correct response.
2. Who the hell does football think it is calling Kennedy's press secretary within hours of the assassination and asking his opinion on whether or not the NFL should play. That's the most self-important bullshit in the history of self-important bullshit.

Think about that: the President of the United States 
— the same one who just the previous year had, by the skin of his teeth, prevented all-out, worldwide nuclear war  had his head blown off in clear light of day. I'm thinking that maybe, just maybe, this creates a rather substantial list of concerns pertaining but not limited to national security, the rule of law, succession, international relations — a lot of items, each of which impacts millions and millions of people, foreign and domestic, born and unborn. And while we're sorting through all that chaos, everyone in the country is hysterical, authorities are trying to track down the assassin(s) and nobody knows what's going on, one of the late president's top aides gets a call. 
It's from the NFL. They want to know if they should play this weekend. 
Never mind that this guy's boss was just murdered, that the entire country is panicking, that he's going to have to be the one to go on TV at some point and brief the press, and that there's absolutely no guarantee he's going to still have his job in a few weeks, given his new boss's well-known dislike of his old boss. 
The NFL wants to know if it should play its football games. What does the White House think? 
That's all anyone needs to know about the NFL. Were a similar situation to occur today and Roger Goodell were faced with the same decision, you think he's going to call and ask for someone's opinion? What evidence exists showing that Roger Goodell gives a fuck what anyone thinks?
“I said I thought this was too big a story. That what happened was just too big. Too big of an historical fact. I just felt we shouldn’t do it. We talked more, and he said he was leaning toward playing and finally I said, ‘OK, look, I disagree with you, but I’ll back you, whatever you do.’ ”
Dan was right, and Rozelle would acknowledge as much when he retired more than a quarter century later, citing that weekend in 1963 as the worst mistake in a career that saw very few. But Rooney’s better where-were-you narrative would came soon enough, within an hour, in fact, of the 1 o’clock Sunday kickoffs, all in numb stadiums, including Cleveland’s hulking Municipal, where Browns owner Art Modell had instructed his public-address announcer to refer to the visitors only as “the Cowboys” and to not under any circumstances say the word “Dallas.”
“I was on the roof of Forbes Field, I used to go there before the games, and I had this little radio I was listening to, and that’s where I heard about Oswald getting shot,” Rooney said. “And I thought, ‘What in the world is this? This is the craziest thing in the world. What kind of a country do we have?’ ”
From here, the column devolves into drivel about how the Rooneys helped the Kennedys out garnering votes Pennsylvania, then Rooney recalls how all of the other Kennedys died, and how weird that was for him. 
Point is, Dan Rooney was right then. If Gene Collier had contacted him prior to writing this column and said, "I'd like to write a column about the Kennedy assassination, but I'd like it to be about the Steelers," surely the old man would have at least tried to dissuade him.

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