The Five Best Reporter-Athlete Feuds of All TimeApril 15, 2011
The Five Best Reporter-Athlete Feuds of All Time
Everyone loves it when you go to a sporting event and violence breaks out. Sometimes, such as hockey, that's the sole reason you go. Sometimes, when you're a Philadelphia fan, you need a few projectiles (batteries, snowballs, small animals) to get the ball rolling. Maybe you need the guy batting eighth in your lineup to get buzzed by the pitcher during a phenomenal 0-15 streak or maybe you just need to be in Europe attending a soccer match.
Regardless of the how or why, violence permeates sports. Whether it's the sole object of the sport, like boxing or MMA, or whether it's secondary to the skills being displayed—see Malice at the Palace—it is nearly impossible to have physical people amped up on adrenaline highs with hyper-competitive attitudes and not see some sort of agitation break out.
That's to be expected. It's what they get paid for, partially.
What happens, however, when the hostility spills over, when the final buzzer is only the starting point for the vitriol?
You get a feud between a reporter and an athlete, that's what happens. Sometimes they're great, sometimes they're awful. Sometimes it's a slow boil, and sometimes it's like a bright star, burning quickly and brightly.
What were the best ones ever? Read on to find out.
Jay Cutler vs. Jason Whitlock
The first spot on our list goes to the recent Jay Cutler versus Jason Whitlock feud. During the 2010 NFC Championship Game, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler suffered a knee injury. However, like one would expect a bumbling front office to do, nobody informed the media that he was injured. Therefore, after coming out from halftime to lead the Bears on a comeback and off into the Super Bowl sunset, fans were treated to the site of Cutler walking around on the sideline, throwing a football a few times, and then sitting/pouting through the rest of the game.
Immediately afterwards, athletes from around the league took to their Twitter accounts to blast Cutler and his lack of toughness in 140 characters or less. Frowny faces ruled the day as disgust was everywhere.
Then, as the post-game press conferences started, it came out that the Chicago Bears PR department didn't actually release a memo to the press, but Cutler was injured. He was due for an MRI the following day, which ended up showing proof that he had sprained tendons in his knee which prohibited him from being able to plant his foot and shift his body weight, something that might be useful for an NFL quarterback.
Afterwards, however, not everyone bought the excuse. Some people still clung to medieval versions of manliness derived from Old Spice commercials and old re-runs of World's Strongest Man on ESPN2 at midnight on Tuesdays.
One such person was Jason Whitlock. Whitlock immediately started attacking Cutler for his toughness, telling anyone who would listen that he knew from all his experience of watching NFL football that Cutler was lying about his knee. This became a personal crusade for the reporter, and over the course of a week, he started to get access to multiple media outlets, including radio shows and even interviews with ProFootballTalk.com, the mecca for armchair quarterbacks.
The crusade culminated in a fantastic interview given to one of the Chicago radio stations where Whitlock was essentially completely unable to justify his irrationality, falling back on game film from when Cutler was in Denver and his own playing days at Ball State University.
Time will tell on this one, but it seems this feud will die the first time Cutler steps onto the field and does anything involving leadership. This feud is only on the list because of the sheer popularity of Whitlock's opinion, and will surely dissolve the moment one side is seen to be in error.
Jason Kidd vs Bob Ryan
Back around the turn of the decade—the last one—Jason Kidd played for a team called the New Jersey Nets. Now, if you haven't heard of them, that's to be expected, since nobody currently watching the NBA even knew they existed until a Russian billionaire bought the team.
Anyway, back when they were actually a good team, regularly going deep into the playoffs, Jason Kidd was their star point guard. One day, however, an ornery man by the name of Bob Ryan—who is still covering New England based teams—decided to mouth off about the family of Jason Kidd in the stands during their playoff series at Boston. On the show, Ryan said that Kidd's son was simply a prop for them, and that someone should slap Kidd's wife.
Immediately, the host of the show asked Ryan if he'd like to take that back, saying that he couldn't possibly mean what he just said, and Ryan immediately responded by asking why he should take it back.
You see, it was common knowledge in the sportswriting community that Jason Kidd's wife previously had been the victim of domestic violence. So the idea of going after a player by calling his kid a prop and then saying that his wife needed someone to slap her in order for her to really know her place well, you can see why that's somewhat of a no-no. You don't talk that kind of smack on the court during the game, to say nothing of that in a common radio interview.
This rivalry burned bright but faded fast. While Jason Kidd took the ol' "Kill 'em with kindness" routine, and basically said that Ryan was entitled to his opinions, his coach and teammates immediately stepped up and invited Bob Ryan to say that in the locker room to him.
Bob Ryan's employer, The Boston Globe, however, took a somewhat different approach, summarily suspending Ryan without pay for a month. The suspension was nothing to the ostracization that came from the national media as Ryan was universally scorned even after he served his suspension.
Judges decision? Jason Kidd.
LeBron James vs Skip Bayless
Almost immediately I regret putting Skip Bayless on this list. The simple fact of the matter is that Skip has done everything he could to forge this feud when absolutely nothing exists. Every morning on The Show Formerly Known as Cold Pizza (TSFKCP), Skip goes on with his usual debate segments, called 1st and 10. The format serves as a reason for Skip to create arguments and then support his point of view, as much of ESPN has been accused of doing.
So, on the surface, yes, this feud is phony. It's mainly phony because LeBron doesn't really pay much attention to his detractors, and if he does he certainly doesn't do it by name.
Yet I'm going to go on the record and say that this feud deserves some respect, simply because Skip has carried this battle for years with absolutely nobody caring about it, and for the most part he does make some fairly good points. Yes, winners want the ball. Yes, Michael Jordan never purposely threw a series in the playoffs just to spite the owners and jump towards free agency. Yes, yes, yes. He is right on almost all counts.
I'm not negating the validity of his arguments. If anything, I'm giving weight to it as best as I can, because I'm fairly certain he doesn't even believe in his fake feud and he's still trying to create it. That's a commitment to excellence that you only see once in a sports-writing generation. Or a commitment to excrement. I'm not sure which.
Either way, through sheer force of will, Skip Bayless has pushed his feud into my Top Feuds Ever.
And who wins? Nobody. We all lose for having to suffer through his unbearable phony arguments. Don't want to continue reading? Well, you should. It gets far better.
Bobby Fischer vs Jeremy Schaap
This isn't your normal feud. This is a feud about love, about respect and ultimately about betrayal.
Dick Schaap was a sportswriter during the 1950s when he took chess phenom Bobby Fischer under his wings. There's a lot of story there, but ultimately Schaap treated Fischer like his own son, trying to keep him out of trouble, taking him to basketball games, etc.
Then one day Fischer disappeared. Now, remember that Bobby Fischer was no ordinary chess phenom. This guy was the best player in the world. Arguably still is today. Yet still he disappeared and was nowhere to be found. Now and again he'd pop up somewhere in the world and play a few matches, and then he'd disappear again. He was dodging the law throughout various countries, giving speeches and press conferences denouncing the United States, and ultimately turned his vitriol into anti-Semetism, even resulting in his coming out of hiding to show complete jubilation at 9/11.
Dick Schaap, late in his life, then wrote about what a tragedy it was that the once bright Fischer, who had an IQ of over 180, now seemingly has no sane bone left in his body, as his rants essentially were boiling down into gibberish combined with zealotry.
Well, Dick passed away, and his son Jeremy had become a fairly well respected sports writer.
Then Bobby Fischer showed up in Scandinavia to give a press conference. Guess who was in attendance.
Almost immediately Fischer started going after the younger Schaap, insulting him and his father, calling them Jews and accusing them of trying to essentially "infect" Fischer. Repeatedly he'd interrupt other reporters to go back at Jeremy Schaap and ask him questions, insult his father, and insult his country. Finally he called Jeremy's father, Dick, a "Jewish snake," for the things he wrote about him. Schaap immediately interrupted him and said, "Yes, Bobby, and you've done absolutely nothing here today to disprove anything my father said about you."
Judges score? Jeremy Schaap. Outwitting a bigot is always good for a win, but when that bigot is Bobby Fischer and he's making anti-semetic attacks against your deceased father? That's a good win.
Click next for the grand champion of our feuds.
Jim Everett vs Jim Rome
This is the final nail in the coffin, and honestly, did you expect anything else?
You have a whining, punk sports writer harassing an NFL quarterback for years by comparing him to a female tennis player. You have the quarterback openly admit that it infuriates him.
And then you have the two sitting across from each other on a television show for the first time since the feud started.
Watch the video to see how it turned out.
Judges decision? Jim Everett. Every athlete in the world dreams of getting to punch their detractors in the face, and Everett got to do so with virtually no repercussions. Jim Rome still went on to be one of the top sports journalists in the nation, and Everett is still retired at home doing wood-working or running a landscaping company or whatever he does. But does any of that matter? Everett got to punch a snot-nosed jerk in the head after pushing him down stairs, and that's the kind of comeuppance you only see in movies.
Like the one above.