Crying Wolf 

Dwight Lewis plays race cardÉagain

Dwight Lewis plays race cardÉagain

He writes like a petulant fourth grader. “BOO. BOO. BOO.” began a Dwight Lewis column in last Thursday’s Tennessean. He continues, “I’m sure you’ve heard them by now. They’re the boos that were hurled at Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair Sunday as he made his way back onto the playing field after injuring his ankle several downs earlier.”

If you missed his column—and it is to your intellectual benefit if you did— Lewis provides a theory as to why Titans fans booed their own QB. “I truly believe that it was simply racism,” he writes, “that the boos were hurled at McNair because the color of his skin happens to be black.”

That’s ridiculous. As Tennessean sportswriter Larry Woody pointed out in a later column, Tennessee fans cheer their hearts out for QB Tee Martin, who, to borrow the coy phrasing of Mr. Lewis, “happens to be black.” In any case, are we to believe that Vol enthusiasts are on the cutting edge of racial acceptance?

Football fans love a winner like Martin; in contrast, they typically don’t grant the benefit of the doubt to quarterbacks like McNair who have yet to win the big game. Growing up as a rabid New York Giants fan, I cringed when the home crowd booed QB Phil Simms, who for the non-football fanatics among us is about as white as mayonnaise. Only after Simms led the Giants to their first Super Bowl victory, winning the game’s MVP award in the process, did the hissing ease. Of course, it took only a few games for the booing to resume.

In a follow-up column last Sunday, Lewis didn’t make any counterpoints to Woody’s rebuttal. How could he? Woody, who isn’t exactly the George Will of the newsroom, thoroughly refuted Lewis’ contention that McNair was booed because of his race.

So instead, Lewis reveled in the controversy of his past column while insipidly writing that just talking about race is a worthwhile step in and of itself. Of course, dialogue is not inherently a good thing, and when it is debased by knee-jerk whining, it wastes everyone’s time.

Last week, outgoing Mayor Phil Bredesen criticized an independent study that found that minority businesses don’t get their fair share of Metro contracts. As usual, Bredesen sounded defensive and his statements a bit self-serving. Someone should have looked at the mayor’s argument to see if it really held up. After all, who do you sympathize with more—a struggling minority contractor trying to get part of a city contract or a millionaire athlete on the receiving end of a few boos? A decent columnist would have ignored the jock and gone for the meaty stuff. But by writing about a football game, Lewis looked at racism at a place where it does not flourish while quite possibly ignoring it where it does.

To say nothing of shortcuts

Why is it that The Tennessean continually panders to the baser desires of its readers? In last Sunday’s paper, Reader Editor John Gibson spends three-quarters of his column writing about—you guessed it—“why the Showcase section, which includes the TV listings, is not folded evenly in the Sunday Tennessean.” Gibson says that, in general, his column will be determined by what readers tell him each week. Does anybody think that their primary concern is the arrangement of the Showcase section?

First-name basis

The USA Today sports editors were nice to salute the Vanderbilt Commodores’ stirring victory against Ole Miss. Next time, they’d do well to get the star QB’s name right. It’s Greg, not Chris, Zolman.

Is Gannett Content?

This is probably not the kind of attention Frank Sutherland craves. The most recent issue of Content, a monthly media magazine, recaps The Tennessean editor’s appearance in a campaign video for Al Gore. Under the headline, “A Regretful Volunteer,” the piece points out the irony that it was Sutherland himself who helped write an ethics code for Gannett, The Tennessean’s parent company — a code that he concedes he violated. Not only has Sutherland’s admitted lapse in judgment been covered locally, but it’s been reported nationwide. The corporate big wigs at Gannett can’t be too pleased with this kind of press.

Matt can be reached at


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