Chicago Sports Columnists Spar Over Alleged Bears ‘Boosterism’

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By: Anna Crane

Two Chicago sports columnists have found themselves in a cross-town battle of words.

Chicago Tribune Sports Columnist Rick Morrissey fired the first shot in his column on Tuesday, complaining about the Sun-Times’ use of a graphic of a Chicago Bears helmet propped against a palm tree in its nameplate on each issues’ front page. The image, wrote Morrissey, unfairly plays with readers’ emotions by suggesting that the Bears will make it to the Super Bowl in Miami this year. Currently, the Bears are 6-0.

He also wrote that the use of the Bears’ helmet sent a message that sports writing was not journalism. He called it an insult to San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams currently on trial as a result of their sports writing.

Today, Sun-Times Columnist Rick Telander fired back, defending the Sun-Times and alleging some hypocrisies in Morrissey’s article.

Attributing the Sun-Times increased sports coverage to the topic’s popularity and reader demand, Telander wrote that the paper cannot be blamed for trying to increase the content that is going to sell the paper.

He cited examples of Sun-Times coverage that could not be construed as “pro-Bears” as Morrissey suggested, including several articles that Bears management had actually complained about for being unflattering. He also compared his paper’s coverage to the Tribune’s special sections on the White Sox’s World Series win last fall.

Morrissey told E&P today that he sees a difference between the Sun-Times’ Bears coverage and the Tribune’s coverage last fall.

“We started those special sections in October, when the White Sox were already in the playoffs,” said Morrissey. “[The Sun-Times’] nameplate with the Bears helmet is starting two weeks before the midpoint of the regular season, and we’re not even close to the playoffs yet. To me, there’s a line between ‘boosterism’ and reflecting the excitement of a town, and I think they’ve crossed it.”

Morrissey noted that although he disagrees with Telander on this issue, he still has a lot of respect for him as a columnist. Telander expressed a similar feeling in his column, calling Morrissey ” … a man of no little writing skill and a person I consider a friend.”

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