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Woody: Cheering By Press Has Always Gone On

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, March 2 2011

Trevor Bayne performs burnout after the Daytona 500. Reason to cheer? (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

SI.com’s firing of reporter Tom Bowles for cheering in the press box is absurd.

In case the suits at SI.com haven’t been following the sport for the past 40 years or so (that’s as far back as I can personally testify to) cheering by reporters in racing press boxes – and all other press boxes – has always gone on.

Usually racing reporters aren’t cheering for an individual as much as they are for an incredible triumph, which was the case when young Trevor Bayne became the most unlikely Daytona 500 victor in history.

I cheered too, and I imagine millions of others joined me.

I’m not saying lines are not sometimes crossed. I’ve heard my TV buddy Darrell Waltrip roundly criticized for cheering his kid brother Michael to victory in the closing laps of the Daytona truck race.

But that’s no different than Ned Jarrett, one of the sport’s greatest figures, cheering for his son Dale’s victory in the Daytona 500 several years earlier.

That’s the unique nature of a sport in which relatives of racers are working in the broadcast booth. It’s called human nature. Granted, sometimes they go a bit overboard, but it’s understandable in the excitement of the moment.

While serving a 40-year sentence as a newspaper writer, I covered Southeastern Conference college football and basketball in addition to NASCAR. Every press box had a rule against cheering.

But cheering still went on, especially among the media of the home team. Every time the team made a big play, an excited buzz would ripple through the press box. Sometimes the buzz was accompanied by a shout or a clap.

If it got out of hand, the sports information director would click on the PA mic and remind the media, “No cheering in the press box.”

I also covered the NFL for three years and the same thing went on in the pro press boxes all around the country. If anything, the cheering in NFL press boxes was even more boisterous than the cheering in the college press boxes.

Is cheering by the media unprofessional? Depends. Who gets to define “unprofessional?”

Personally I don’t care if the media cheers in the press box as long as they don’t cheer in their reporting. I’m a lot more concerned about the biased reporting I witness on every nightly newscast than I am about some sportswriter cheering a stock car winner.

In the case of Sports Illustrated, it’s OK to shamelessly gush about the Super Bowl champion in a glowing “special issue” that the executives hope to sell to giddy fans and earn a bundle of dough.

SI considers that kind of cheering-for-profit OK. But a writer in a press box can’t applaud an incredible feat by a bright young athlete. Absurd.

Trust me: if every press box reporter who ever cheered the accomplishment of a team/athlete were fired, the ranks of the ink-stained wretches would be riddled.

SI.com over-reacted by firing a good, professional reporter who made the “mistake” of showing a bit of passion for the sport he covers, and an appreciation of an incredible individual triumph.

Maybe SI.com should assign a robot to cover racing.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, March 2 2011
8 Comments

8 Comments »

  • DD says:

    I appreciate your opinion & defense of a friend. Displaying bias in person or in writing IS unprofessional. Commentators aren’t reporters, they are EXPECTED to add color during an event.

    SI.com said Tom wasn’t fired for just cheering, but I do believe after his public defense of it that was the last straw. I asked this question elsewhere, but I think he gets to keep his NASCAR press credentials & access via his website’s status as a Citizens Journalist participant, unless it gets revoked. So, if he decides to continue reporting NASCAR, nothing has changed except his forum & wallet!

  • RA Eckart says:

    It wasn’t the cheering in the press box. It was the Twitter response Bowles chose that got him fired. Just like athletes, it was social media he used to do himself in.

    Cheering is borderline, for sure. But when you lash out at people at tell them you have the right to do it in the press box, you’re on your own.

    He’s a young guy who had to learn the hard way, and it’s understandable why he left out certain details in his own account. Telling the whole story would not have put him in a good light.

  • James Mack says:

    Woodman, I applaud your honesty.

    Not obstreperously, of course; more like a low cheer that gains in intensity… “wooody, Woooody! Wooooddddyyy!!! WOOOOOOOODDDYYYYY!!!!”

  • Wayne says:

    Please don’t compare Ned Jarrett to DW, not even close. NED, one time only when ASKED TO cheered his son.That was it and other than that was professional and an excellent broadcaster.You can tell even today he feels bad about doing that. DW constantly on his own cheers and sponsor schils and would do more if he could.There are so many instances of his bias. One I remember well is when Carl Edwards won the race with the oil cover loose. DW on trackside and other shows was making wise cracking jokes about it and yet his buffoon brothers many issues go unmentioned and swept under the FOX/ SPEED rug. Just a reminder, cheating jet fuel, STOLEN part from other team, 2 alcohol related crashes which to me are very serious, he could have killed someone,illegal truck spoiler that won the race.I know DW is your friend but that doesn’t mean he’s a good TV broadcaster, because he’s terrible as a broadcaster. Please don’t compare him to Ned.

    • Carol Hudson says:

      Wayne,
      Totally agree with your comments about Ned Jarrett. To bad there are not more like him. DW constantly crosses the line, he is like a talking billboard.

  • SB says:

    Completely agree. As long as and bias doesn’t show up in what is presented to the public, I don’t see a problem. I’ve read several articles by supposed ‘professional’ journalists that obviously had a slant, while professing to be unbiased. Wasn’t it the late, great David Poole who said that NO ONE is unbiased. In fact, if some of those in the press box hadn’t said anything, would anyone have ever known what happened in the press box?

  • Marybeth says:

    Sometimes, employers, over a period of time, decide it is time to let someone go for a variety of reasons, & then pick some incident to lower the boom. I am sure that there are some people who will sleep easier now knowing that Bowles will not be able to use his position as an SI reporter any longer to keep belittling & coming after them.

  • Terry says:

    You get different reactions from different writers on this.
    But most of the fans are saying this was an EVENT a HAPPENING ….not just another outcome. An upset of a bedrock genesis team running
    MARTY McFLY in a FORD FUSION with a ” FLUX COMPACITOR ” in it.
    This should not set precedent or change press box protocol…..
    It is like someone tearing up watching the HOOTERS hauler roll out of BRISTOL that cold rainy Saturday morning. It was special….and if SI can’t tell it from a boring sponsor fest race in Chicagoland…then they should go back to being…
    let me see…how did DAN JENKINS put it….
    ” a slick cookbook for a 2 yacht family.”
    media Pro’s know or should know …WHEN and WHERE…..
    I will leave it to them.