Let’s protect players from selfish columnists

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John Canzano is a selfish journalist, a man who is more concerned about good copy than in doing what is right.

He’d rather publicly embarrass a young kid in order to get a great column than let the University of Oregon deal with the situation. Canzano also rips into this poor player’s mother for running to his defense. Is that how a columnist is supposed to act, betraying a school he is charged to cover and, subsequently, causing intense scrutiny for a family?

After all, it wasn’t the player’s fault that he had inadvertently been arrested twice for driving under the influence of intoxicants. It happens. It’s college. Kids drink. They drive. They miss classes with hangovers. Remember? Good times.

Plus, universities know how to deal with this. A month ago, Oregon suspended a receiver indefinitely for what it called a ‘violation of team rules.’ The university has also suspended two basketball players over the past two seasons. Even the mascot, a duck, could not escape punishment after a fight with a Houston Cougars mascot. Oregon is not afraid to do what’s right.

Canzano should have known the university would have suspended Luke Bellotti had this been a major violation. That he is the coach’s son is irrelevant. Sure, the team may have altered the truth (with fingers crossed) when it said Luke missed fall football for a ‘digestive illness,’ which probably was not entirely incorrect. How else would you expect this young man to feel with a second DUII case pending? Agida city, baby.

Let’s re-set the situation here:

Luke Bellotti, a part-time kicker for Oregon’s football team, pleaded guilty earlier this month to driving under the influence of intoxicants. Luke, whose dad is Ducks’ head coach Mike Bellotti, had been arrested in February. This was Luke’s second conviction, something the team kept quiet, knowing it is better to protect these young kids from an evil media contingent. (You can now see what happens when journalists learn about a slight lapse in judgment. Kids will be kids, you know. Let them learn – privately – from their mistakes.)

It’s not like Luke was one of the 16,885 people who died in alcohol-related driving fatalities in 2005. He had not slammed into anyone, thus he had not added to the 254,000 people who get injured from crashes involving alcohol. One person may be injured every two minutes, and killed another 31, but that’s not Luke’s fault. He would have arrived home safely. So why would a columnist, a person who is supposed to comfort the afflicted, attack this young man? A person with a blood alcohol level of .08 is 11 times more likely to get in an accident than someone who is sober, but that number can’t possibly include athletes with lightning-quick reflexes like Luke. Give this kid a friggin’ break.

So Luke’s mom rushes to her son’s defense by chastising Canzano, tapping him on the shoulder during a game last Saturday and mustering just enough strength to explain how his column had hurt her family. Apparently, she had been so intimidated by Mr. Canzano that she needed to take a drink or two before entering the press box. And you can imagine how hard that must have been after her son’s embarrassing misadventures. She managed to blurt out: “You’ve dragged our family through so much hurt and pain…” That’s the kind of courage one expects from a devoted mother.

So what does this columnist do? Oh, he couldn’t resist. Canzano decided to be the story, smugly recounting this private exchange and characterizing her comments as a hissy fit, which, of course, tarnished one of the biggest victories Oregon has had in decades. Now all the attention is on John, Luke, and his mom. (Did I mention she was so shaken that she even brought her children into the press box where Canzano was supposed to write about the Ducks’ win over Southern Cal?) Instead, he wrote the following post on a blog that has circulated across the country, from the New York Times to Deadspin.

She leaned in, grabbed by my suit lapel, and lit into me with a string of expletives, asking me if I have children, and telling me, “This is going to come back on you tenfold.” And she threatened to slap me, which I thought was not such a nice example to set in front of the kiddies.
I told her that it played especially poorly to me that she would approach me in the press box, with a strong smell of alcohol on her breath, hissing and spitting mad, talking to me about alcohol abuse.

Canzano is clearly a callous man. You can tell this by reading another story where he ‘outs’ a family that has trouble making ends meet. Dad just can’t cut it.

“His name is Jason Taylor. He’s 29. He has three perfect children – a boy and two girls, ages 5 to 11. Six months ago, he was laid off from his job manufacturing airplane parts. After that, he was forced to sell his house to avoid a foreclosure.”

We also find out the kids have to pick out ants from cereal, are forced to ride along late at night while Jason delivers newspapers, and that the family was on food stamps. This dad even hides in the closet to cry. Talk about public embarrassment. But Canzano did not give a damn. It was good copy, not social commentary on spoiled, selfish Blazers fans.

I can’t imagine why journalists go to the trouble of writing about misappropriation of funds, illegal defense contracts, rapes that go unreported, and alcohol infractions from young men. It’s not like it will make a difference. People will only get angry. Commentors on Canzano’s blog, like RushDuck, are trying to correct him: “This is National Enquirer material here! The great head football coach conspiracy of trying to keep private matters private.” Duck99pdx wonders: “If nobody got killed when Luke Bellotti was drinking and driving, I don’t see what the big deal is. No harm, no foul.” We all know it’s columnists who really cause problems, not the people they write about, something that is clear to Bbroich: “Are you nuts? It’s attitudes like yours that gets countless people killed every year. You need to grow up.”

We all need to act more maturely. Let’s let government do its job without any interference from columnists, reporters, or citizen advocates. Let’s let universities decide how to deal with unruly kids who rape or attack one another. Let’s let athletic departments decide what’s best for their players. I’m sure none of these institutions would ever abuse this power. Wouldn’t you agree? Let journalists investigate more important matters like Paris Hilton’s driving adventures and whether Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have split (or reconciled?) That’s what we need for a more informed citizenry, not some story about an alcohol-related arrest or a cover-up at a state university. Where’s the fun in that?

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10 Responses to “Let’s protect players from selfish columnists”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I disagree entirely.

    I think it’s too bad that people given DUIs aren’t punished MORE harshly. The only time they are punished is when someone dies.

    This, unfortunately, is what is referred to as results-oriented analysis. But this guy COULD have killed somebody by his actions, and he’s just lucky he didn’t.

  2. Drew Says:

    I cannot discern from your tone whether or not you are being facetious with your comments about drinking and driving and “kids will be kids”.

    How can you say that “it wasn’t the player’s fault that he had inadvertently been arrested twice” for DUI? Who the hell was at fault? Should the Eugene police look the other way when someone says “I’m a Duck football player”?

    And what kind of idiot dismisses statistics that you already know, such as the stat that says an intoxicated driver is 11 times more likely to be involved in a wreck by stating that a backup kicker has “lightning-quick reflexes”?

    The problem with student athletes and DUI offenses is that when coaches, administrators, or reporters sweep these incidents under the rug, it sends the message that the athlete is protected from consequences. As you note, kids will be kids, and if you give a kid freedom from public embarrassment, he will drink and drive again, but the next time, he may kill someone.

    In case you didn’t notice, the first time Luke was arrested, it didn’t seem to deter him from getting caught again. If it takes a selfish bastard of a columnist to shame this irresponsible, selfish, kid into not doing it again, I hope there are many more John Canzanos in the world than there are apologetic, spineless enablers like Joe Gisondi.

    The best college football coaches not only teach their players how to play better football, they teach them how to be men. Kids will make mistakes, but you can’t honestly say to the 16,000+ families who lost a loved one to a drunk driver last year that “kids drink. They drive…good times”.

    I hope that your blog post is an demonstration of a poorly thought out response to a column. I hope that you hold this up as an example of the kind of lazy and arrogant column writing that you are trying to discourage by criticizing John Canzano. Otherwise, I must assume that you are not a very good journalist, nor a good journalism professor.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Wow, pot meet keetle. It’s a blog, just like yours. He didn’t publish it in his column. CB was way out of line, she has a horrible reputation and Luke deserves what he gets. Two DUI’s, that’s two DUI’s!It’s called the law, he broke it twice and the University handled it wrong by giving him special treatment keeping it quiet.

  4. Joe Gisondi Says:

    sat·ire [sat-ahyuhr]
    1. the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.
    2. a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.
    3. a literary genre comprising such compositions.

  5. Howard Says:

    If you ever sit in a real traffic court where actual cases are brought in for trial you will be struck by the almost unanimous multiple offenses committed by those accused of DUI. One can only ask themselves, “how many times has this drunk been behind the wheel while intoxicated and not caught?” Two DUIs is a lot and the almost sure sign of an alcoholic, a person who cannot “leave it alone.” Sounds like Mrs Belotti has taught her kids how to cope. She should deal with it.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    You are a cocksucking douchebag. I hope a drunk driver kilss you and your entire family now!

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Presumably you were trying to be sarcastic. Big swing and a miss. Try writing fewer words that make more sense next time.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Agreed. Swing and miss.

  9. Brett Says:

    I think I see why people have a problem with this story.

    I’m not a columnists, but I think the problem is that it is hard to tell it is sarcasm until the “lightning fast reflex” comment. Perhaps starting with that would help to set the tone.

    Right now, your lead is about how media people are selfish, something many people believe.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    I am curious if the reports of Mr. Canzano’s recent DUI arrest have percolated to the top of the wires yet?

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