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January 8, 2000
Indianapolis Doesn't Love Jason Whitlock, Either
By Mike Devitt
"I dont think he really has a concern about professional journalism. I think a lot of things that hes done and said indicate that. I think he uses journalism as a forum for entertainment for himself.
"During a game hes unbelievable. And the other thing is, whether the Star cares about it or not, he is completely and absolutely uninformed on football. The players just, you know, basically ignore him "
-- Kansas City Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson, when asked to comment on Jason Whitlock's style of journalism. Kansas City Sports and Fitness, August 1999* * *
It happens every once in a while.
There I was, all set to write an epic poem on the art of being a bad cornerback (not an easy thing considering how many words rhyme with "Burris" and "Dedric"), when along came something that got the creative juices flowing.
The something in question is an article written by Jason Whitlock, which appeared this past week in the online version of the Kansas City Star. (The article itself can be read at http://www.kcstar.com/item/pages/sports.pat,sports/37742281.106,.html.)
According to monseur Whitlock, now is a great time to be a Kansas City Chiefs fan. He also says that it's much more fun being a Chiefs fan now than it would being a fan of the St. Louis Rams -- or, heaven forbid -- the Indianapolis Colts.
Mr. Whitlock has his opinions; I have mine. And in my opinion, it's much more fun to be a fan of the Indianapolis Colts -- even way out here in Huntington Beach, California -- than it is to be a Chiefs fan in Kansas City (or anywhere else, for that matter). Colts fans -- and football fans in general -- have it much better than those in Kansas City.
Why, you ask? Simple. Colts fans don't have to be subjected to Jason Whitlock's column.
For those of you who don't know the man of which I speak, a brief biography. Raised in Indiana; attended Warren Central High School and played football on the same team with Jeff George; attended Ball State University on a football scholarship, then quit football his senior year to begin writing for the school's newspaper; wrote for papers in Indiana, North Carolina and Michigan before signing on with the Star in 1994.
Whitlock's allegiance to George is legendary. In September 1996, Whitlock wrote a series of articles in the Star urging the Chiefs to sign George, a close personal friend who had been let go by the Atlanta Falcons in a nationally televised argument with then-head coach June Jones. When the Chiefs passed on George, Whitlock wrote a week's worth of articles berating general manager Carl Peterson, calling him "a liar" and questioning the location of Peterson's head in relation to his rear end.
Whitlock's hatred for the Colts -- who traded George to the Falcons prior to the start of the 1994 season -- is also well-known. In January 1996, prior to the Colts' playoff game against the Chiefs, he described the franchise as "the most ineptly managed sports organization in America." He then ripped into general manager Jim Irsay, saying that Irsay " has no right handling the joystick of a Nintendo football game, let alone handling the checkbook of a pro sports franchise."
Occasionally, however, Whitlock's outbursts have gotten him into trouble. Two years ago, he was suspended by the Star because of allegations he heckled fans during an October 11, 1998 game between the Chiefs and the New England Patriots. Whitlock was accused of holding up handwritten signs, at least one of which insulted quarterback Drew Bledsoe and the team.
Now that you know who you're dealing with, it's time to look at what that person is saying about the Colts in general, and Indianapolis in particular.
Whitlock says early on in his article that he used to be a Colts fan, but he never says why he switched allegiances from the Colts to the Chiefs. Was it the money? Was there an extra space on the Chiefs' bandwagon that week? Was it because he was such good friends with George? Was it because the reporters get better food at Arrowhead Stadium than the RCA Dome? It's an interesting question which deserves an honest answer.
Even though the Colts finished the regular season 13-3, and the Chiefs finished 9-7 this year, Whitlock says he'd still rather be a Chiefs fan. He says he'd still rather be at Arrowhead Stadium than the RCA Dome. He even says he'd prefer Elvis Grbac, Bam Morris and Andre Rison over Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison.
Something tells me our dear Mr. Whitlock has been out in the hot Kansas sun too long. Maybe he took one too many hits to the head while playing at Ball State, and those postconcussion effects are finally starting to kick in.
Whatever the reason may be, somebody should wake Mr. Whitlock from his nap and tell the man what time it is. I was in Kansas City during Thanksgiving weekend, and Arrowhead Stadium looked the same on Thanksgiving Day as it's going to look this weekend -- empty. Why? Because Kansas City choked away a fourth-quarter lead against the Raiders last Sunday and missed out on making it to the playoffs.
But he's all too familiar with watching the Chiefs choke away big games. Remember that big playoff game between Indianapolis and Kansas City following the 1995 regular season -- the one where Lin Elliott missed three field goals and Steve Bono was intercepted three times? The one game which Mr. Whitlock all but guaranteed victory for the Chiefs and said that Kanas City would "whip the snot" out of the Colts?
Fact is, the Chiefs haven't beaten the Colts since 1985. Back then, Pat Beach was Indy's best player; Jeff George hadn't even thrown his first tantrum yet. But I digress.
Here's another gem from Whitlock's article:
"Indianapolis won't support a 9-7 football team," he says. "Let an injury befall (quarterback Peyton) Manning in the 2000 season, and the RCA Dome will empty quicker than a beer can at a frat party. Meanwhile, we've supported Chiefs teams led by Steve Bono, Rich Gannon and Grbac."
Apparently, someone forgot to check the Colts media guide. In 1996, a year in which the Colts finished 9-7, the team sold out five home games -- not bad for the second smallest market in the AFC, and the most games they'd sold out in one year since 1989.
The following year -- during which time, they were led by the likes of Jim Harbaugh, Paul Justin and Kelly Holcomb -- the Colts went 3-13 but still managed to sell out three home games. They also averaged more than 56,000 fans per game at the RCA Dome and attracted 13,000 more fans than they had the previous season. In fact, prior to this season, three of the four biggest home crowds in team history occurred in 1997.
Whitlock says that in Kansas City, "football is king." But would Kansas City's fans have shown that much support for a 3-13 team? Better yet, would Whitlock himself? That's a tough question, because from all accounts, he still hasn't learned what it's like to be a fan.
In 1997, a writer from Sports Illustrated once described Jason Whitlock as "the most provocative and controversial columnist in Mid-America."
I've got a better description.
* * *
Mike Devitt is a reporter for AllSports.com. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.