On Tuesday, Orange County Register columnist Mark Whicker came up with a new angle on Jaycee Dugard's brutal kidnapping and rape: she missed so many amazing sporting events! He's now apologized for his insensitivity... kind of.
For those of you who missed Whicker's truly bizarre effort, here's how it opens:
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.
Actually, we think being deprived of your freedom, your family, your childhood, and your control over your own body is probably worse than missing Beach Towel Night, but those things wouldn't make a very fun listicle. Whicker continues:
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?
Why does "the fact that there's a President Obama" need extra-special explaining? Because of his race? His name? Then again, maybe it's pointless to look too deeply into a column that lists about thirty sporting events and trends Dugard should familiarize herself with in between, you know, therapy sessions for her almost unimaginable trauma.
Unsurprisingly, criticism of Whicker has been intense. Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post calls the column "the odds-on favorite to be the Worst Newspaper Column of 2009." Matt Welch of Reason and termed it "quite possibly the worst sports column ever written." Twitter is abuzz with outrage, with one user calling Whicker "the crowned king of assholes."
Whicker did issue an apology in the Register today, which states in part,
For Tuesday's Register, I wrote a column that clearly offended and outraged large portions of our readership.
It was not my intention to do so. But it's obvious that I miscalculated the effect the column on Jaycee Dugard, and the events that she might have missed during her captivity, had on those who read, buy and advertise in our newspaper.
Maybe Whicker is truly sorry "for this lapse of professionalism." But his direct responses to critics suggest otherwise. When Michael David Smith emailed him to ask about the column, he wrote back,
I don't think writing about something in a sports context "trivializes" it at all. The idea that sports writers should ignore the outside world went out a long time ago.
He also said, "I think the intent of the column was still valid. I could have changed some ways of expressing it to make it more palatable, I suppose." With other correspondents, he was less cordial. When Greg Simons, a commenter at the blog ShysterBall, wrote to call the column "revolting" and ask if Whicker's next effort would be about 9/11, Whicker shot back,
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.
Brooks of SportsbyBrooks says the fact that Whicker's column ran at all shows "how valuable since-purged copy editors were in covering for columnists over the years." And it's clear that nobody — or nobody with a brain — really looked at Whicker's idiotic article before it ran. Whicker does still answer to some editors though — at least, somebody made him apologize when he obviously wasn't very sorry.
Many Odd Things Have Happened In Sports The Past 18 Years [Orange County Register]
Author Of Column Ripped As Worst Ever 'Quite Surprised' By Reaction [AOLFanHouse]
A Sports Column Unlike Any Other [The Awl]
Whicker Responds With Regret Over Dugard Column [Orange County Register]
Sportswriter Mark Whicker Makes Light Of Dugard Kidnapping [Watching the Watchers]
Mark Whicker Quite Unapologetic Before Apology [SportsbyBrooks]
Orange County Register Publishes The Single Most Tasteless Sports Column In The History Of Written Language [Huffington Post]
Maybe The Worst Sports Column Ever [ShysterBall]