In writing about the victory of Rory McIlroy in the U.S. Open golf tournament this weekend at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, how do two of the country’s biggest newspapers come up with the same compelling metaphor?
Well, it’s because the New York Times and The Washington Post both talked to the same compelling source, but handled the attribution differently. And the metaphor was just too good not to use.
Post sports columnist Sally Jenkins and Times golf writer Larry Dorman both spoke with Golf Digest contributing editor Tom Callahan about the breath of fresh air that McIlroy represents for golf after the years of Tiger Woods scandals.
Jenkins put it this way: “Have we ever seen a player with his combination of youth, craft, and approachability? I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a new champion who doesn’t treat the world as his spittoon.”
Dorman wrote it with attribution: “Tom Callahan, a Golf Digest columnist and the author of ‘His Father’s Son,’ a book about Woods’s father, Earl, has been to many United States Opens. He said Sunday at Congressional that this was the first one in years that had thrilled him. McIlroy is the reason. ‘He’s the one who’s been on the horizon, the guy everybody has been hoping would come along,’ Callahan said. ‘I’m ready for a sports hero who doesn’t treat the world like his spittoon.’ ”
Dorman credited Callahan and Jenkins didn’t. Why?
Jenkins and Callahan have been friends for years, dating back to when Callahan was a columnist at The Post. They had lunch together at the Open on Sunday when Callahan used the spittoon metaphor while chatting.
“Tom’s an old friend who said he didn’t need attribution,” Jenkins said. “I said, ‘Can I have that line for my column?’ He said, ‘It’s all yours, I have no one to write for today.” Jenkins said that she has given Callahan funny lines, too, over the years.
I spoke with Callahan and he confirmed the story.
Callahan, a popular and veteran sportswriter formerly with Time magazine, said he felt bad for giving the same line to Dorman later the same day, but he said he did tell Dorman he had also given the line to Jenkins. Either way, Callahan said he was not upset with Jenkins for not attributing the line to him nor at Dorman for also using it. He said he gave it away fair and square.
Callahan said had he been writing on deadline about the Open for his publication he would have used the line himself, but because he wasn’t, he offered it up. “It’s no big deal,” he said.
No harm done to Callahan, the originator of the metaphor, but if I were Jenkins I would have attributed it to the source.
Kudos to two Post readers for pointing this out, one of them Alexandria reader Elaine Cassel; the other preferred anonymity.