With 11 murders to his credit, Jacques Mesrine clearly is a busy fellow. Yet even in his diligent pursuit of infamy, the most-wanted criminal in France finds time to read the newspapers. Jacques didn't like some of the stories he read. Being the kind of guy he is, Jacques didn't write a letter of complaint to the editor. He took the offending newspaperman for a ride into the forest northwest of Paris. There he shot the newspaperman in the mouth.
"A bullet in the mouth for his nasty talk," is the way the literary critic put it while the newspaperman recuperated in a hospital this week. "Another in the right arm, a third in the shoulder, and the last through the shoulder blade -- in memory of the slanders he wrote."
Few things in life please a newspaperman more than the discovery of a person who has read his stuff. Imagine. Here is the French journalist now, telling his wife, "Ma cherie, zee azzazzin Jacques, he reads my articles, how bad can he be? He wants to tell me the whole story of his zordid life." So he goes for a ride into the forest where Jacques delivers a .38-caliber critique of the Frenchman's work.
Journalism ain't all cotton candy, folks.
This is to introduce Will McDonough of the Boston Globe, a sportswriter who did not wait to see what Raymond Clayborn of the New England Patriots thought of his stuff. When Clayborn, a defensive back, called McDonough a naughty name and shook his finger in the sportswriter's face. McDonough set to one side his store of vituperative adverbs and told his acerbic adjectives to take the day off.
McDonough simply decked the guy. With two good rights.
Legalists may argue that McDonough was as much at fault as Clayborn, for the sportswriter threw the first punch. But sportswriters as a class have risen up to canonize McDonough, the Will of Iron, a balding, 40-ish. tennis-playing former quarterback who is readily identifiable in a locker room full of football players as the one built like a bowling pin.
Part of a crowd around the Sunday game hero, McDonough was doing his job in the locker room when Clayborn, in the locker next to the hero, demanded the crowd of sportswriters give him room to dress. Some people need more room to dress than others, and Clayborn shoved people to accommodate his size 54 extra large ego.
"I'm gonna bury you, mother," he said to McDonough, who isn't even his father.
"You're not going to bury anbody," said McDonough, who didn't wait to be asked to go for a ride in the forest outside Paris. Legend has it that McDonough once punched out a Globe copy editor, which, if confirmed, would be one of the miracles necessary for canonization. We all could have St. Will statues on our typewriters.
Threatened with premature burial, McDonough threw a right at Clayborn. The fight went on from there, with McDonough declared the winner by a biased press, and the next day Clayborn apologized at a Patriot-ordered press conference. Next Tuesday the defensive back is to appear before NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle to explain what happened.
"Well, Commish," Clayborn might say, "I was lookin' for a simple declarative sentence memorable for its acid wit -- and he slugs me with his bare knuckles. What kind of journalism is that?"
Maybe it is the only kind of journalism athletes and coaches understand. Because the athletes are big and strong men in physical games, they deal in physical terms. Whatever respect an offensive tackle has for a defensive end, say, does not come from evenings spent in debate over Solzhenitsyn's Harvard speech. If you tear the guy's head off, he respects you. Save the words for birthday cards. Football is war.
But here come these sportswriters with their words and questions and they don't know a thing about football and they have no idea what a football player goes through to play his game -- no idea of the pain, the pressure -- and here they are, with their silly words and questions, crowding into my locker and I'm gonna bury them.
Only, here's this sportwriter who is fed up with spoiled brat athletes demanding reverential treatment. The sportswriter has kids to feed. Maybe he has a copy editor he'd like to punch out once in a while. Football players think they're the only ones under pressure. Let 'em try to raise three kids on a taxi driver's salary, they'll know what pressure is. Next time one of these football thugs rousts me around, he's got it coming.
Ty Cobb chased a writer with a bat, and Rogers Hornsby tried to throw a writer off a moving train. It is nothing new, today's mistreatment of men paid to ask discomfiting questions and write opinions of how big, strong men of no words are doing. The Clayborns will again abuse the McDonoughs because the quasi-adversary relationship of athletes and press, working with the peculiar natures of their jobs and the personalities that succeed in those jobs, guarantees it.
McDonough is filing suit against Clayborn, but what the Globe man ought to be doing is roadwork. Opportunity knocks.
The promoters in Las Cruces, N.M. are looking for an opponent for Ed (Too Tall) Jones, the former Cowboy defensive end who makes his professional boxing debut there Nov. 3.
Imagine. "In this corner, shaped like a bowling pin, undefeated in NFL competition, The Typing Terror, Will McDonough. . ."