Maybe the worst sports column ever

You’re a newspaper columnist. You’re on a deadline. You have to find something worthy of 800 words and you’re stumped. What do you do? Why, you use a horriffic 18 year-long child abduction, rape and imprisonment as a hook for a rehashed “aren’t those athletes just nutty” piece!

It doesn’t sound as if Jaycee Dugard got to see a sports page. Box scores were not available to her from June 10, 1991 until Aug. 31 of this year. She never saw a highlight. Never got to the ballpark for Beach Towel Night. Probably hasn’t high-fived in a while. She was not allowed to spike a volleyball. Or pitch a softball. Or smack a forehand down the line. Or run in a 5-footer for double bogey.

Now, that’s deprivation

Can you imagine? Dugard was 11 when she was kidnapped and stashed in Phillip Garrido’s backyard. She was 29 when she escaped. Penitentiary inmates at least get an hour of TV a day. Dugard was cut off from everything but the elements. How long before she fully digests the world she re-enters? How difficult to adjust to such cataclysmic change? More than that, who’s going to explain the fact that there’s a President Obama?

Dugard’s stepfather says she’s going to need a lot of therapy — you think? — so perhaps she should take a respite before confronting the new realities. So, Jaycee, whenever you’re ready, here’s what you’ve missed:

The writer, Mark Whicker of the OC Register, then proceeds to bullet point a couple dozen “oh, how times change” sports zingers. He ends the piece with what I guess is a pun of some kind: “Congratulations, Jaycee. You left the yard.”

Classy, Whicker. Now please go die in a fire someplace so I can use it as a hook for a “who’s hot, who’s not” bit.

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14 years ago

As an on-again off-again reader of the OC Register, Whicker has never been great.  He’ll have an occasional solid column, but usually they’re full of dumb puns.

This, however, is ridiculous.  The Register’s struggling pretty badly already and I can’t imagine this tripe is helping.

If I can make an appropriate tragedy-related analogy: It’s like if someone started taking dumps all over the deck of the Titanic as it sank.

14 years ago

i can’t believe it wasn’t plaschke!

14 years ago

This pantload is even worse when you consider that she was apparently an active part of her kidnapper’s print company and computer literacy was a part of that.  So none of the stuff he talks about is news to her.

14 years ago

I’d rather have wanna be writers (e.g. the aforementioned Whickers) plagiarize stories written by well established writers (e.g. Posnanski, McCoy) than be left to their own ideas on interesting stories/angles for stories. 

Stolen quality copy is always greater than original crappy copy.

Jason @ IIATMS
14 years ago

So Mr. Author, it’s OK to trivialize an 18 year abduction by showing her all the groovy changes in sport? yeah, that makes some sense.

I hear it’s nice and cool in Hell these days.

J. McCann
14 years ago

As soon as I saw that headline, I thought for sure it was something by Rick Reilly.

But OK, I guess this is worse.  At least the OCR will be toast soon, and this guy will be unemployed.

Greg Simons
14 years ago

Hey, September 11th is only two days away.  I wonder what clever tie-in Mark Whicker will come up with then.

Travis M. Nelson
14 years ago

The biggest irony is that among the requirements for people to comment on his column, there’s this:

3. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked.

Does this mean that they’ll block Mark Whicker from writing any more of this irrelevant, disrespectful dreck?

Jeff Polman
14 years ago

Dear Mark Whicker:

Thanks for those wise words today.  Guess I’m off the hook.

C. Manson

Greg Simons
14 years ago

I sent this e-mail to Mark Whicker:


Wow.  Just…wow!

“Now, that’s deprivation.”


“Congratulations, Jaycee. You left the yard.”

That’s possibly the most revolting article hook I’ve ever read.  September 11 is only a couple days away.  Are you going to do a tie-in with that, too?

He replied thusly:

The revolting thing is that you would equate a column that celebrates the release of Jaycee Dugard, and tries to put the length of her 18-year
kidnapping in a context that everyone can understand, with a terrorist attack that killed 3,000 people. And then you draw a value judgment about me based on such a preposterous parallel.

Wow, indeed.


I replied with this:

You call your article a celebration of her release?  More like an exploitation, trivializing what she went through by connecting it to the world of sports.  And I say that as a sports fan.

And where did I equate the two?  Since you were exploiting one tragedy, I just wondered if you would be doing so with another.

And we’ll see what happens next.

14 years ago

my letter to the editor:

Dear Mr. Brusic,

    Have you read Mark Whicker’s column which uses Jaycee Dugard’s 18 years of rape, torture and abuse to chronicle athletic events?

If you have not, might I suggest that you do so immediately. Mr. Whicker’s bizarre ramblings are without question the most vile and offensive that I have had the misfortune to read in any mainstream publication. Why you have seen fit to employ a despicable person like Mr. Whicker completely escapes me. There are many, many unemployed sports writers who are excellent writers and journalists, who would never stoop so low as to smear filth over an unfortunate female who was imprisoned in squalor at age 11 and raped by her kidnapper and his wife for 18 years. I sincerely hope that you don’t think it is either clever or appropriate for any journalist to describe the child’s imprisonment and torture by listing the sporting events she missed while being raped and tortured.

I am only sorry that Will Leitch did not have a copy of this execrable example of “journalism” to wave in the face of Buzz Bissinger when he was decrying the lack of “professionalism” of Those Dreadful Bloggers. He could have pointed to this article as an example of the unprofessionalism of supposedly “professional” journalists, an example which far, FAR outweighs anything obnoxious ever printed by Deadspin or any other blog.

You can’t and won’t stave off the decline and fall of print papers by allowing the Mr. Whickers of the journalism community to publish, well, I would say “dreck” but that column is an insult to perfectly good dreck.

Yours sincerely,

Lisa Gray

Wooden U. Lykteneau
14 years ago

Keep us posted, Greg. His tone reminds me of Gordon Edes when I took him to task for screwing up the name of the team that Ken Ray returned to the majors from the Can-Am League:

But I have a question for you;[sic] Why point out that it could have been verified by a visit to the website, which implies the mistake was one of laziness or inattention to the job? Sometimes it’s just a matter of making a mistake, pure and simple. The club sent me an e-mail last Friday, heralding Mr[sic] Ray’s debut against Bonds and the Giants. I’d already filed my Sunday column, but thought the item was notable enough to include in my Sunday column. I’ve always thought it great when an independent league
player makes it to the bigs, a la Kevin Millar. Somehow, I got Rox on the brain, and wrote that it was the Rox and not the Spirit. I had the info
right in front of me…I didn’t have to check anything. I just messed up. It happens.

14 years ago

Craig, my only issue with your take is including the word “Maybe” in the title.  This was truly revolting, and I appreciate your bringing it to our collective attention so that some good may actually come of it.  Wow

Jorge Says No!
14 years ago

That’s just brutal to read.

Not good, at all.

Greg Simons
14 years ago

Here’s what happened next.  From MW:


Most people can’t comprehend how long 18 years of imprisonment is. I was illustrating it through sports, by showing how much things had changed. If
you just say “18 years,” that’s abstract. If you say that it happened before Michael Jordan won his first NBA championship, then it’s relevant.

I agree this kidnapping was a tragedy. I treated it as such. I also recognize that it’s something the girl can possibly recover from. I don’t think any of the World Trade Center victims have that opportunity. Talk about trivializing something.


Your wall of self-denial is impenetrable.  I give up.

Honestly, I figured this fight just wasn’t worth it.  For those who’ve looked, he’s been lambasted in the comments section there, too.

Bill @ the daily something
14 years ago

Wrote to Whicker. CC’ed Brsic. Asked him to save the energy that he’s been putting into those pompous and self-defensive responses and turn it toward getting started on his apology.

That’s just sick.

14 years ago

Greg – I completely agree with you. Whicker’s reaction to what you said just shows how completely wrong he is. He both refuses to acknowledge the way he completely inappropriately trivialized a tragedy, and then accuses you of doing the same thing when you in no way did so. So, he recognized it in others when it’s not there, and can’t see it himself. Wow indeed. -Alex

14 years ago

This, to me, is deserving of some kind of suspension w/o pay.  I don’t know the guy’s writing at all, so I don’t know if this kind of stupidity is his schtick, but even if it’s a one-time lapse, the editors at the newspaper should respond.

14 years ago

I couldn’t find the comments for this column.  My guess is that they’ve been removed because they were so appropriately voicing their displeasure for this horrid column.

14 years ago

TC, Whicker’s editors are to blame as well. I’m a newspaper editor, and if this had crossed my computer screen, I would have hit DELETE immediately, called the columnist, and asked him what the bloody hell he was playing at.

14 years ago

Brian, the comments are still there. The sad thing is, the comments over there are probably nicer than the stuff Craig gets over at NBC for daring to say something negative about Pete Rose or the Boston Red Sox/NY Yankees.

14 years ago

I can’t believe that that got published, and I really can’t believe his responses to Greg Simons’ emails.

I can, if I try really hard, see that he might have meant the article in the way he claims: attempting to explain the length of her captivity in terms of how the world has changed. But to steadfastly refuse to see that everybody else in the world is interpreting it as trivializing the brutal treatment Ms. Dugard suffered is beyond all understanding.

What an abominable man. If the OC Register has any sense, they’ll suspend, or better yet sack, him and publish a front-page apology.

Chris H.
14 years ago

That was very difficult to read.

Very, very difficult.

14 years ago

Copy of the email I sent:

Dear Mr. Whicker,

Wow.  I must tell you that the article you wrote trivializing the kidnapping and repeated rape of an 11 year old girl was revolting.  I would try to come up with a stronger word to describe how utterly offensive your article and subsequent “apology” were, but frankly, I’m not sure if the English language has such a word.  Certainly my thesaurus isn’t helping.

I have also seen as least one incident of correspondence—written by you, Mr. Whicker—that questions the sanity of someone who was offended at the disgusting article you wrote.  As a courtesy to you and your superiors, I have attached a png. file of the response in question.

Mr. Whicker, in order to show some class in this situation, I would recommend resigning immediately.  I wish you luck in finding future employment—perhaps in the mail room, where your incredibly offensive viewpoints are not shared with the public.

Yours most sincerely,

My Name

14 years ago

This is pretty funny:

I don’t see how that is that any better than Whicker’s garbage?

14 years ago

SoSH U—you’re right, it isn’t.

14 years ago

Craig! You got mentioned on the AVClub! My sports blog reading and my non-sports blog reading got combined! Whatta day!

Craig Calcaterra
14 years ago

Sweet!  My only regret was that it wasn’t in Dan Savage’s column.