Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Jason Whitlock is my hero

How about that for a title?

He's one of my biggest influences. From ages 8-24, I read every single Jason Whitlock article. From Dr. B.A. Homer to Jeff George to King Carl, I read every single word. And I loved it. I didn't agree with everything, but his prose and style was (and still is) amazing.

Jason Whitlock got a lot of grief from Kansas City Star readers. I'm not trying to imply anything about the Kansas City demographic, but I'm pretty sure Whitlock made people uneasy because he was opinionated, brash and black. To some people he had an agenda. What that agenda was, I'm not sure. But I'm pretty sure he was one of the first media members to spearhead the "Fire Carl Peterson" movement. He was the first to question the Buddy Bell the press conference announcing the hiring of Buddy Bell. He was the first to call for Allard Baird to be fired. He sees right through the NCAA and sees a corporation just as corrupt as Fannie Mae and Goldman Sachs. He saw right through Larry Johnson and saw an immature punk with serious psychological and anger issues. He exposed people in the right way. He is intelligent, savvy, smooth and most importantly, he brought KC to the forefront in national sports journalism.

Pardon the Interruption, Around the Horn, The Sports Reporters, Fox Sports, all featured Whitlock for long periods of time. You don't get to that point unless you're damn good. ESPN is the NFL of sports journalism, reserved for the top .01% of journalists in the world (although it may not seem like it when Chris Broussard or Joe Schad come on).

He is a big time player in a small market. KC had been a backwards thinking town up until a few years ago, Whitlock brought some panache and style to the town. When he wrote, people read. People read and they talked about it. "Did you see what Whitlock wrote today?" How many times have you heard that in your life?

That's what a great journalist does. They inspire discussion, debate, controversy and entertain. Jason did all of those things and was undeservedly criticized for it. To me, it seemed people often confused Jason Whitlock: the journalist, with Jason Whitlock: the person. Jason Whitlock the person may be a diva, primadonna or whatever. But Jason Whitlock the journalist is a man who is an equality rights activist. Whether for immigrants, homosexuals or those who are victims of prejudice.

Just like people are able to seperate Kanye West: the man, from Kanye West: the rapper, you must do the same with Whitlock. Kanye: the man, is an arrogant moron who thinks he is the second coming of John the Baptist, while Kanye: the rapper is perhaps the greatest lyricist of our generation. You have to seperate the two in order to see where I'm coming from

I have never met Jason Whitlock. I read his column for 16 years. His work has influenced me in so many ways. He and Joe Posnanski taught me how to captivate (or at least try to) readers. Draw the reader in with shock value, and trick them into reading a great story. Sure, some people couldn't seperate the shock value from the meat and potatoes of the actual column. But then again, some people don't have the capacity to seperate opinion from journalism.

I will miss Jason Whitlock.

1 comment:

  1. I used to read Whitlock. I used to enjoy listening to Whitlock.

    All of that changed in 1999 or 2000. It was the fist time I watched Whitlock on a nationwide program... Representing the Kansas City Star, representing the sports fans of Kansas City.

    I cannot recall the program, most likely long dead and gone. I do remember it was a multi-panelist platform on Fox Sports.

    The topic being discussed was the Tour de France.

    I'm paraphrasing - Whitlock went on to tell America that "Tour de France Cyclists are not athletes." He then asked, "What are they even doing over there? Swimming? Rowing a boat? Running?"

    I am not positive if Whitlock was trying to be funny, sarcastic, honestly had no idea what the Tour de France invloves... or, like most of his "POV," simply going against the grain to get a reaction.

    Since that moment, Whitlock has viewed himself as bigger than the story he was covering. He intentionally "took the other side" to get a reaction. It is impossible that Whitlock was on the other side of public opinion on 100% of the stories he wrote.

    People will argue on both sides; that he was "racially fair" in his writing. I agree that he was, but he inevitably was able to make race a part of a large chunk of his writing when it was not necessary, in turn, adding a racial charge to nearly everything he wrote and every time he appeared on a broadcast.

    I could care less about race, but I always get a racial overtone in Whitlock's work.

    Some Kansas City sports fans get excited when Whitlock fills in for Jim Rome, etc... I, on the other hand, turn the dial...