Raekwon is rich. Jeff’s a jerk. I wrote the first three words atop Wednesday’s front page to tease a short story on 1B on Raekwon McMillan signing his NFL contract. The second sentence, well, it’s my reaction to the response the first sentence generated. Consider it my mea culpa. My bad. My fault. I’m sorry. Blame me.
After all, as I’ve learned from social media, a whole bunch of folks didn’t think "Raekwon is rich" was a good choice of words. That includes coaches, teachers, family members and McMillan, whom I’ve never met because I was working elsewhere when he rose to gridiron greatness.
One Facebook poster even said Raekwon should get a lawyer and sue. Another said in affect I was an uneducated chump.
Some of those who vented online or to our Soundoff weren’t happy with Patty Leon, who simply pulled information from a Miami Dolphins website to throw together something for our readers. She didn’t dig up anything that wasn’t already dug up and on a number of football and sports websites, as are the contract details of other draft choices in most professional sports.
Patty’s blameless in this. And for what it’s worth, Patty wasn’t happy with my choice of words, either.
But I think both she and I agree it’s newsworthy when a local kid makes good. And if professional sports wasn’t so much about the money these days, then the money wouldn’t be reported. But that’s not an excuse.
Sure, I admit being puzzled at first by the negative reaction to the teaser. I admit to being puzzled by some of it now, though that’s neither here nor there. But I asked folks I respect for their take, and got some solid feedback explaining why I’m sometimes every bit as dumb as I look — and it was enough to make me rethink my initial reaction.
I could’ve found a better way to tease the story.
So I went online and apologized, probably badly, because I’m not good at social media.
But here’s what’s more important to me. Unintentionally, I caused folks at least some measure of distress for no good reason.
The fact Raekwon has so many people in his corner on this is, I think, proof enough that he is as good a young man as everyone tells me he is.
That means if he and his family find something I wrote childish, it’s my job to try to understand why, and, more importantly, respect it and not dismiss it.
I do respect it. I’m not dismissing it.
That’s why I’m writing this column.
And for the cynical among you, I’m an old reporter and I’ve been called every name in the book.
I’ve been threatened, cussed, stared at, mean-mugged, stink-eyed and, once was taken for a ride by someone who didn’t like my coverage of a sheriff’s race.
I’ve had screws put in my tires, right here in Liberty County.
I’ve also had people try to put sugar in my gas tank over high school football coverage, and I’ve been accused of everything from impersonating a reporter to being in somebody’s pocket.
I’ve got pretty thick skin.
But I’ve also tried to keep an open mind all these years.
And so it is that I, a middle-aged newspaper guy built like a used car with a fondness for the Three Stooges, and trying to grow tomatoes, am here to tell you that I have been schooled by a 20-year-old linebacker in something I should never have forgotten.
Words matter. Choose them carefully.