July 1, 1991: Headlines: COS - Liberia: Journalism: Sports: Cursing: Humor: Columbia Journalism Review: Liberia RPCV Dick Haws writes on Sports and Cursing

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Library: Peace Corps: Humor : Humor and the Peace Corps: July 1, 1991: Headlines: COS - Liberia: Journalism: Sports: Cursing: Humor: Columbia Journalism Review: Liberia RPCV Dick Haws writes on Sports and Cursing

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Liberia RPCV Dick Haws writes on Sports and Cursing

Liberia RPCV Dick Haws writes on Sports and Cursing

Liberia RPCV Dick Haws writes on Sports and Cursing

#!@* YOU, TOO!

by Dick Haws
Haws teachers journalism at Iowa State University, in Ames.

Sports reporters don't flinch from the raw facts of life, right? They're used to the blood, sweat, and tears of sports, used to hearing rough language, even to seeing grown men patting each other's hindquarters in public.

Maybe sports editors are more delicate. At any rate, it seems that strange things happen to what might be called locer-room prose between the time a reporter hears it and the time a reader reads it in the paper. Take coverage of the Barry Bonds-Jim Leyland dispute last spring, for example. As every sports fan knows, Leyland is the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates and superstar Bonds was furious because the Pirates wouldn't renegotiate his contract. During spring training the two got into a shouting match.

Exactly what they said was, in several cases, left to the reader's imagination. The Milwaukee Journal reported that one of Leyland's comments was that Bonds could "get the . . . out of here." What word was so shocking that the Journal felt obliged to resort to dots? Could it have been the F-word? Not according to accounts that appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Omaha World-Herald, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, The Atlanta Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and others. According to them, the unutterable word was "hell."

Leyland also apparently made reference to both his and Bonds's buttocks, which again posed problems for editors. The Milwaukee Journal, for instance, reported that Leyland said, "I've been kissing your . . . for three years and I'm not going to do it again." Had the A-word been used? Not if accounts in USA Today and The Des Moines Register were accurate, because they used the same Leyland quote with the word "butt" in the appropriate place. But were those papers' accounts accurate? Not according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which used the same quote but quoted the manager as using the A-word.

The biggest mystery surrounds one of Bonds's words describing how he thinks others perceive him. In the Minneapolis Star Tribune, his quote became, "They've been saying for four years that I'm a (jerk)," with parentheses indicating editorial activism; the Atlanta Journal-Constitution chose to use [a problem]; the Omaha World-Herald used three dots for the mystery word; The Denver Post used two dashes; The Des Moines Register, three; the Quad City, Iowa, Times, four.

Those dots and dashes used by many sports page editors raise a lot of questions. "I've taken you -- -- -- for three years," The Des Moines Register quotes Leyland as saying. What do those dashes mean -- that Leyland had used a naughty three-letter word instead of the four-letter one that may come to mind? Dots can be just as confusing. "Let's get the . . . show over with or go home," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoted Leyland as saying. In the same story, Leyland is quoted as saying of Bonds that "he's not going to run this camp. . . . He can just go home." Does this second set of dots stand for yet another obscenity or is it simply an ellipsis? The bewildered reader is left wondering, hey, what are they leaving out this time?

And, in general, hey, who do sports editors think they are protecting from what when they shy away from using words that are no rougher than the games men play?

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Story Source: Columbia Journalism Review

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Liberia; Journalism; Sports; Cursing; Humor



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