First disclaimer: I've been drinking. Not a ton, but enough.
Second disclaimer: I only decided to write this post tonight -- I should probably research and link, but then I wouldn't have the courage to write this at all. Do your own web research on this one; I'm running this post linkless.
Third disclaimer: I don't follow the "real" news one bit -- I'm way more ignorant about whatever kidnapping happened than probably any of you.
Now, properly disclaimered, let's begin:
Item the first: Mark Whicker is an OC Register sports columnist who wrote a despicable piece -- what in essence was a "Let's measure 18 years by chronicling OC sports history" column was derailed by its horrific premise -- the column was directed towards a kidnap / rape / mindfuck victim that had recently shown up in the news.
There's so many problems with the intro to the article that I really can't go through them all -- the internet has already done a lot of that for me. The fact that I was shocked has to say something -- hell, I read Rudy Kelly all the damn time -- Whicker attempted a punchline that was beyond disastrous. Hell, it could be career-ending.
And I've got nothing against sympathy for kidnap victims nor against outrage at insensitivity -- everybody who writes in a public forum should get a grasp on what you can write about and more importantly, what you CANNOT write about. Whicker had no such grasp on this one -- it's obvious from his stupid article and it's obvious from his even-more-stupid retraction (which may have hinted at regret).
Fucking Whicker was wrong -- I get it, you get it, everybody but Whicker gets it.
Item the second: Mark Whicker is an OC Register sports columnist that I've somewhat grown up with -- now those of you who know me can attest I don't follow any sport well except hockey; I'm very blind to what happens in other sports. But, for more than half my life, I have been an OC Register subscriber, and still am today -- I got my Whicker shock in print, not online.
And I know Mark Whicker -- not that I read him terribly, as he has a fascination with "popular" sports, but I've seen his face on the front page of the OC Register sports section forever. He's a staple -- I've never known an OC Register without his commentary. And he is, to the best of my knowledge, a sports-roundup guy. He'll touch on all the big sports stories in SoCal -- of course focusing on the favorites (Lakers + college football), but he makes his rounds. And as such, he's developed a voice of the observer -- he provides cheap commentary to what happens in SoCal sports.
And that's almost the issue -- if you look at what has been termed the "Worst Sports Article Ever" (I'm misquoting), if you ignore the awful-joke premise, there's actually a lot of content in there -- this guy is pulling from a lot of sports to tell what has turned out to be the worst joke in printed media. Here's a guy, one I have to think is awfully rare, who can sort through 18 years of assorted sports history and pull together a tapestry of the sports landscape, one that otherwise would appeal to Joe SoCal SportsFan. Ignoring the brutal premise, it's actually a pretty insightful piece -- I wouldn't have the wherewithal nor the perspective to be able to construct it myself.
In fact -- aside from the terrible joke, it's actually a valuable piece from a valuable perspective -- a guy who's seen and covered and experienced it all, recounting his collected memories in the worst setting ever.
Item the Third: There really is no third item, but here's the question -- how bad should we crucify a good sports guy for a joke gone terribly sour? Is it over for Whicker -- can we really not find forgiveness for this guy?
I mean, I don't vouch for him that well -- I don't know him much more than his byline photo, but seriously -- the guy fucks up one joke, and it's off to the unemployment line? I don't know -- it's definitely possible I'm misreading the tea leaves here, and perhaps all I've been reading is angry comments from people reading Mark Whicker for the first time.
But here's the thing -- if the OC Register is interested in having a sportswriter with a handle on sports history in SoCal, one who can bring a lot of that history together, and one who can write to the SoCal sports fan, I don't think they'll ever find one more suited to the task than Mark Whicker. I mean, we'll probably see the guy fired, but isn't that my loss? Aren't I about to lose a valuable and unique voice because of some stupid joke?
Yeah, newspapers are dying, and probably, Mark Whicker's out of a job soon anyways -- but that's not my drinky point tonight. I guess my real problem is seeing what outrage can occur from one joke-gone-bad. Twenty years gets pushed out the door in a second -- and that's tough to watch.
Mark Whicker is not a bad guy. Well, probably he's not. He got caught in a bad moment by a Twitter-machine designed to prey upon bad moments. He fucked up, and it's going to cost him. And it depresses me.
Why? Well, I'm a guy who makes bad jokes on the web. It has to be an inevitability that at some point, if I write long enough (and drunk enough), I'm bound to cross some stupid line -- I'll make the joke that nobody in their right mind makes. It will be horrible, it will be public, and it will demonstrate some inherent flaw in my moral code. I suspect someday I'll be the web's latest "Whicker-bitch", and whatever credibility I've mustered (admittedly, very little -- I'm still using a fake name) will get thrown out the door like yesterday's newspaper.
(See? "Yesterday's Newspaper" is a fucking horrible joke that only vaguely incorporates the relevant issues.)
Item the Fourth: In closing, I'll say this -- I think we all need to show a little more forgiveness to Mark Whicker -- not even because he deserves it so much as someday I'll deserve it. Fucking up is a part of the writing process, whether you're a rookie or a veteran, and no matter how deep-end one article goes -- what matters is his larger body of work, not the worst example available.
Mark Whicker, I'm only one subscriber that only half-reads your articles, but you are still welcome in my newspaper. No more jokes about pervert-current-events, please, but for sure I'll take the seen-it-all-in-SoCal insight. I can definitely sympathize with a joke-gone-sour, dude, because some day I'll overstep that line, too.
Hope you'll forgive me then, too.
Feel free to offer your comments, drinky or not. Sobriety starts tomorrow!