Outing Wie Won't Win Any Awards for Journalism

By George Solomon
Sunday, October 23, 2005

Couldn't wait to read Sports Illustrated this week, to savor senior writer Michael Bamberger's piece on Michelle Wie, whom Bamberger outed to the LPGA for a penalty drop Saturday that was 12 to 18 inches closer to the par-5 seventh hole than her original shot at the Big Horn Golf Club in Palm Desert, Calif. On Sunday, after Bamberger notified the LPGA of what he had seen, the LPGA disqualified Wie from her pro debut in the Samsung World Championship, costing her $53,126 and a fourth-place finish.

But the magazine included no story about the 16-year-old Wie by Bamberger; rather, there was a congratulatory story by Alan Shipnuck about Bamberger, stating that "third parties -- even reporters -- who point out rules infractions are protecting the field and preserving the integrity of the competition."

"Since he'd [Bamberger] become part of the story, we thought it appropriate to have someone else write the piece," said Jim Herre, an assistant managing editor at SI who directs the magazine's golf coverage. Herre said he approved Bamberger reporting Wie's violation to the LPGA, and Shipnuck even ended his story with Wie's father congratulating Bamberger.

Their boss, managing editor Terry McDonell, said Bamberger acted "within the ethics of golf" but the magazine's top editor added that he "wasn't aware of the situation" until after the fact. Bamberger "should have gone to Wie beforehand," McDonell said. "That's what I would have preferred. But he [Bamberger] didn't want to swallow the whistle."

So we won't nominate Bamberger for the George Polk medal for courageous journalism. And no awards for SI, which sent him there to write a story -- not to enforce the rules of golf and become the story. He was there to write about what he'd seen. That's what SI pays him to do.

Nevertheless, if Bamberger is inclined to continue his vigilante sports journalism, I have some suggestions for future assignments:

Hang out at Al and Alma's charter-boat dock at Lake Minnetonka and wait for Vikings.

Go up close and personal at the San Francisco Giants' training camp next spring when they conduct drug tests.

Play a round of golf with Mike Tyson and keep the scorecard.

Sit behind the bench at NBA games and make sure the dress code is followed, which includes measuring the size of gold pendants.

But, please, Michael, stay away from the Stonewall Golf Club at Lake Manassas or Whiskey Creek in Ijamsville, unless you're willing to dodge golf balls thrown by at least one hacker from the woods. Go ahead, out me to Golf Digest.

Our Guys Are Undefeated

Love those Virginia Tech Hokies. Our Hokies. They are Our Hokies now, of course, being ranked third nationally at 7-0 after beating Maryland, 28-9, being the largest university in the Commonwealth of Virginia, located in College Town, USA (Blacksburg), with nearly 30,000 registered alumni living in the Washington metro area.

Here are some more reasons why they're Our Hokies now:

Of the 54,838 fans at Byrd Stadium Thursday night, did you see how many fans were wearing Virginia Tech stuff? How did so many Hokies fans get tickets? If Maryland ticket holders were selling tickets to Hokies fans, should the Redskins Ticket Police be alerted? Aside: Why did Maryland students wear all black? Do they think they live in Oakland?

How can you not love a team named by a student in 1896 for something that doesn't exist? It's like a Hoya.

How can you not love Marcus Vick, brother of Falcons phenom Michael Vick? Marcus ran 16 times against Maryland for 133 yards, scored a touchdown, and was 14 for 23 for 211 yards. Marcus afterward said he was terrible because he'd thrown three interceptions that the Terps turned into zero points. I think Marcus is great. My friend, the scout, believes Marcus throws better than Michael. Wow. Better than Michael?

How can you not love Frank Beamer, who has been the head coach at Virginia Tech for 18 years? He has a 184-100 record, but more important, appears weekly on John Thompson's radio show on WTEM. Thompson admits he doesn't know much about football, and Beamer doesn't get Thompson's act. But when Beamer starts throwing around cliches, as he did after the game Thursday night, it's fun. Such as: "Marcus can beat you running and passing; we're not a turnover team; the other side played hard; we're happy but concerned."

Here's my cliche: The guy can coach. He also recruits local kids.

Maryland's Ralph Friedgen said it best about competing against his close friend: "I don't like playing against Frank."

Who does?

Renaissance Man

Wizards 6-foot-9 forward Etan Thomas's speech to a large crowd at the Sept. 24 Operation Ceasefire rally on the Mall brings to mind a time more than 30 years ago when athletes regularly spoke out on social issues. Whether you agree with Thomas's anti-war views, or his belief that the Bush administration is dismissive of the poor, it's refreshing to see a pro athlete's concerns go beyond the NBA dress code.

"It was a big honor for me to speak before so many people on the Mall," said Thomas, 27, who has written a book of poems ("More Than an Athlete") and is active in the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and other causes. "I try to proceed with caution in what I say, but there's a lot going on in the country that I have an opinion about. And I would like to take the Bill O'Reillys of the world to the other side of the tracks, to show them the problems of the poor."

Thomas, who graduated from Syracuse, said he gets reaction from the left and right, but doesn't feel any pressure from the NBA or Wizards over what he says. Playing for a team in Washington "is a perfect fit, with so much going on, so much happening.'' And of the new dress code, he says simply, "they want us to look professional and I have no problem with that."

Give Young Freddy a Break

It seems D.C. United was a bit harsh in suspending Freddy Adu on Friday over comments he made last week saying he was unhappy about his playing time and would consider playing elsewhere next year. If teams suspended all players who whined about playing time, there wouldn't be enough players to field teams. Besides, Adu is only 16 and maybe deserves some slack from his bosses. Meanwhile, another star seeking more playing time, LaVar Arrington, may get some today against the 49ers. All this while the Caps' Alex Ovechkin is making the most of his playing time, with six goals in his first nine games, the best start for an NHL rookie. He deserves at least the same attention as Freddy and LaVar.

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