If you don’t like what you read, or the way sports is reported, don’t blame the messenger…but rather the indisputable facts of the story. And Buckeye Nation mourns the loss of one our best…Coach Earle Bruce.
I’m going to share something I heard yesterday (Thursday, April 19) on WLW radio from talk show host Ken Broo, a guy I’ve met, listened to for years, and generally admire for his style and candor on the air. I guess you could say he’s a little bit ‘old school’…like me.
Broo was talking about the firing of Reds manager Bryan Price, taking calls from listeners, and sharing perspective with a number of different people. And after a commercial break he came back on the air to share a text (or email) that he’d received during the break. He read it over the air.
“I think it would be nice if you quit saying that Bryan Price got fired,” said the listener who wrote in. “It just sounds so harsh, and ugly. I think it would be a better if you just said that he got ‘let go’ by the Reds.”
Ken Broo is a professional with a broad background of experience in both radio and television. He’s seen the elephant many times over bigger stories and bigger issues. He’s always faced the fire from those who find fault with his opinions, and he’s done it head-on. And he was quick to do it again.
“Let me tell you the difference in being fired, and being let go,” he shared to that listener over the air, without calling him or her by name. “When you catch a largemouth bass that you don’t intend to keep, you let it go. But when you’re the manager of a major league baseball team and they’ve had enough of you, you get ‘fired’!
It was brilliant. It was the truth. And it was an example of the declining backbone in culture to address reality. We want everything to be so ‘nice’ we can’t handle the truth, or even stand hearing about it, if there’s a negative element. It’s give me good news, or no news at all.
I bring this to your attention because at Press Pros we get at least one email, letter, or text a week from someone suggesting that we need not identify high school athletes (or even college athletes in some instances) that make an error in baseball, drop a touchdown pass in football, or miss a pair of free throws in basketball. One recently wrote, “That person already feels bad enough without you calling him out by name.”
I’ve actually had people bring this to my attention in person. And there have been instances when I’ve asked, “Is it OK to mention that person’s name if they hit a home run?”
“Of course,” people always say. “That’s a good thing.”
“So you just want to hear the good things, and not the bad. Is that it?” I ask. And almost without exception they turn and walk away. It’s a little hard to defend that position when you realize how ridiculous it sounds. And yet, those same people demand that their children grow up and always tell the truth.
The fact is…that I grew up in a generation reading reading the truth from sports writers like Furman Bisher (Atlanta Constitution), Earl Lawson (Cincinnati Post), Jim Murray (Los Angeles Times), and even Hal McCoy. And I learned a lot about what I still write in terms of style from those people, those recognized for being the ‘best’. They always told the truth about what they saw.
“You have to write it straight,” Ernie Salvatore once told me. Salvatore was the long-time columnist for the Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, West Virginia. He was nationally rewarded for his work countless times.
“The hardest things I ever reported were the events surrounding the Marshall plane crash that wiped out the football team in 1970,” he explained. “…and the games in those years following when they were trying to rebuild the program. You knew that they weren’t what they should be, but you had to report it straight because there were 20,000 other people there seeing it for themselves. It’s always that way when you write sports. They know who made the shot and who fumbled – they know the truth. So if you don’t write it straight you have no credibility as a reporter.”
There’s never been any mystery over who dropped the football in the infamous 1987 AFC championship game between the Browns and Denver. It was Earnest Byner who fumbled, the signature event of his career. For some odd reason, it was reported straight, as Salvatore called it, and it’s lasted 31 years as a part of Browns history. You can’t forget, even though Browns fans want to.
And I’ll add this. You’re also doing a disservice to impressionable young people who are someday soon going to learn the harsh realities of life through events more traumatic than an error at shortstop or a missed foul shot. Whether they ‘let you go’ or they ‘fire’ you, you know the truth…and it all feels that same.
Old habits are hard to break. And for that matter I highly approved of Ken Broo’s fantastic analogy. When you’re the manager of a major league baseball team, and you get ‘fired’, there is that feeling that you’ve lost something that you may never get again – one of only 32 jobs in the world. When you get ‘let go’, like that largemouth bass, chances are you’ll eventually get hooked again. It’s important to understand the difference when it’s your time to deal with it.
That’s why we’ll probably keep writing it straight on Press Pros!
Like many of you I was saddened to hear Friday morning of the passing of former Ohio State football coach Earle Bruce. In recent years I had gotten to know Coach Bruce because he usually sat right behind me in the press box at Ohio Stadium during football games. He was fun guy to speak with, and I found over time…a dedicated Buckeye at every level of Ohio football.
I actually did an interview with him about four years ago, and along with Lou Holtz, I’ll share that Earle Bruce is one of the most engaging, entertaining, and refreshing personalities I’ve ever met in sports.
Quickly, let me share a story from him, and one he swore to be one of his favorites. During that interview with Bruce, I asked him to tell me how the culture of football has changed during his more than sixty years in and around the game, as player and coach.
“OK,” he brightened, sitting up ramrod straight in his chair. “This is how things have changed. When I was coaching at Massillon (High School) my best running back one year got in trouble the week of the Canton McKinley game and actually got put in jail overnight, the night before the game. Of course, I was concerned because this young man came from a pretty rough home, didn’t have much outside of football, and if it hadn’t been for football it’s likely he wouldn’t have been in school at all.
“Anyway, the morning of the McKinley game I went down to the police department and met with chief and the judge about his situation, and they asked me if I’d be personally responsible if they let him out – that there really wasn’t much reason to keep him. I said OK, and signed for him, and at 11 am he walked out of jail. At 7:30 that night he started at running back, ran for 209 yards and scored both touchdowns in a win over McKinley. Now, I’m pretty sure that kind of thing wouldn’t happen today. That’s how much things have changed.”
Earle Bruce was 87 years of age, and Buckeye Nation will mourn his loss. O-H!