April 9, 2004

Strangest Damn Sports Columnist, Period

As some of you know, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been my favorite sports team since the Captain was just a small cabin boy. My dad took me to games at Dodger Stadium, one of the few temples of baseball, back when Wes Parker played first base, and I went to several games a year there until I moved to Minnesoooooooota in 1997. We're talking 30 years of bleeding Dodger blue, people.

So one of the ongoing symptoms of this chronic disease is that I read the Los Angeles Times on line every day to catch up with any news from the Blue Crew and to find any hope at all that we'll win our first playoff game since 1988. Now that the season has started, I aim for the LAT Sports section with a laser focus, as Dick Clarke would say on his American Grandstand tour. These days, the Times employs a certain T.J. Simers as a sports columnist. Today, Simers' column shows two good reasons the LAT may want to start taking resumes.

Last things first. At the end of today's column, Simers shares this e-mail from a reader with his response for which, had I been his editor, I would have fired him:

TODAY'S LAST word comes in e-mail from Carlos Morales:

"As you may or may not know, the Dodgers won it in the 11th [Wednesday night]. Glad you left in the ninth and weren't able to see it happen. I just happened to see your column and noticed you only wrote up until the ninth inning. Jerk! If you're so negative toward the Dodgers, why even bother going to the game? Oh wait, you probably get paid to go."

Not enough to stay 11 innings.

It's bad enough that a significant percentage of LA fans leave the game before it's over (the same contingent, I suspect, that show up around the third inning). Sportswriters are paid to be there -- it's their job! Especially a sports columnist, who gets paid more and has to produce less in real news. If a sportswriter isn't interested enough in a game to stick around through extra innings, which means it's a tie game and doubly exciting, then why be a sportswriter at all?

In Simers' case, the answer would be to start family feuds in the LAT's sports pages. In the first two segments of this column, Simers takes the opportunity to humiliate his daughter and her husband by referring to him as the Grocery Bagger, insulting his family, and sharing with his audience their sexual habits:

The daughter who got married says she wants to get pregnant now, which raises the question of why she married the Grocery Store Bagger.

I mean, I can't imagine going near the guy.

The Bagger tells me, "Practice makes perfect," and that's certainly more than what I wanted to know ...

Us too, T.J. And I don't think the idea of your daughter getting married is for you to imagine going near him. If that's your standard, you need serious help.

You just know that every time Shaq steps to the free-throw line, one of the Bagger's weird relatives is going to want to know, "Why doesn't the Big Guy shoot free throws better?" Or "Doesn't the Big Guy practice?" And then without waiting for an answer, you know they're going to tell you what they think, making it the fifth time in five meetings with the same weird relatives they're going to tell you the same thing.

The daughter got married. I didn't get married to the Bagger's parents or any of his weird relatives. I don't see any reason why we have to talk when we get together.

After reading this column, the Bagger's parents are probably hoping that Simers' daughter doesn't reproduce either, for entirely different reasons.

So to recap, the Times has a sportswriter who leaves games before they're over and who spends the first half of his columns obsessing about his daughter's sex life, ragging about her husband and her in-laws, and displaying seriously anti-social tendencies. Either they need to fire Simers or put him in charge of their election-year coverage.


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