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Dick Schaap

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by RazorShines, Oct 25, 2006.

  1. Cousin Jeffrey

    Cousin Jeffrey Active Member

    The next day I drove home. Before I left I called Dick and wished him good luck on his hip replacement that was coming up in a week or so. He was looking forward to it; he'd been in pain for months.

    I called him the night before the operation, and again the day after. He sounded great. He said the operation went fine, and he figured he'd be back on the set of "Sports Reporters" in a few weeks. He said he had to go, the nurse was coming in. "I'll talk to ya, kid," he said.

    I never talked to him again.

    A couple of days later I learned that Dick's body hadn't responded well to the surgery. There were heart problems, and later respiratory problems. He never recovered. All this time, and he never recovered. He never left the hospital, never walked out onto the streets of New York that he loved so, never went back to that office he thought was perfect for him.

    Dick wrote a million books with a million people. His last book, "Flashing Before My Eyes," was a memoir, a collection of stories about all the famous people he'd known. The byline was "By Dick Schaap as told to Dick Schaap," a self-effacing jab at the volume of celebrity biographies he'd co-authored. What tickled Dick most was that the book didn't have an index. "That way my friends have to read it all the way through to see if I mention them," he said.

    On the first page of the book Dick wrote, "Often I am asked what my favorite sport is, and I always say, 'People.' I collect people."

    I was one of them. And happy to be one of them. I love Dick Schaap.

    Schaap's subjects covered the spectrum -- from comedian Sid Caesar, who fought back from drug and alcohol addiction, to Bobby McLaughlin, a young man convicted of a murder he did not commit.

    But he always came back to sports, fascinated by the athletes and their accomplishments, intent on trying to find out what made them tick.

    His Sunday morning ESPN show "The Sports Reporters" was a lively debate with other journalists. And rarely did any of the panelists agree, which gave the show an energy that Schaap relished.

    The roster of people he interviewed included presidents and pitchers, governors and golfers. He was quite possibly the only person who voted for the Heisman Trophy and the Tony Awards.
  2. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    I'm getting wistful for the days of ESPN when I woke up every Sunday morning and turned on Sports Reporters which usually had a murderer's row of Ryan, Conlin, Lupica (back when he cared about his print job) and Kornheiser or Albom (back when they cared about their print jobs...) all hosted by Schaap, who was so revered, even Lupica kissed his ass...
  3. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    This is an interesting topic presented by the student and, as much as I liked what Dick Schaap did, it raises questions of an ethical nature because he was a journalist and yet, co-authored books by athletes he covered. If we substitute the name Dick Schaap and put in it's place Al Hirshberg, how does that affect the judgment of journalist vs. coauthor?

  4. RazorShines

    RazorShines Guest

    First off, thanks for all the suggestions. I'm in the process of trying to make some of the suggested contacts and I appreciate all the advice. Gold's comment really made an interesting point, though. If you set aside all of the obviously very good product, and set aside the quality of Schaap as a person, when you get down to talking about professional ethics, it seems that there are at least questions about the relationships Schaap had with his subjects, at least many of them. This is a point I at least want to consider, but how to substantiate it as anything but speculation?
  5. Shaggy

    Shaggy Guest

    I think Jason Whitlock knew Dick Schaap really well, but I have no idea how to get ahold of him. He's not big on attention.
  6. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    For a large chunk of his career Schapp was a celebrity journalist. I mean, that's what we was. He was a temendously gifted writer and schmoozer, he held a lot of courts, and rubbed shoulders with a lot of less than common folk. He liked it, too.

    So does Dominick Dunne. But he's written some good work.

    So did Tom Wolfe. But I'm damn glad The Right Stuff is out there, along with many of his essays.

    So did Truman Capote. My God, the autobiographies and movies say it clearly enough: He had an obsession with his subject, a killer. Would I trade In Cold Blood for a lesser work that had more appropriate, ethical lines? No, I don't think I would. Because then it ain't In Cold Blood.

    The truth is, we draw weird lines sometimes, cross them over here, judge people for it over there. Schapp lived a pretty high, lucky life, and I'm not sure he wrote for common people too much. I recall he had a show with Joe Namath, and Joe would go on there and curse Sports Illustrated up and down the block while Schapp just sat there, and smoked.

    And yet, all in all, his work was a credit to the profession, just like Jim McKay's pompous, preening work for 40 years was a credit for his Munich work, and Howard Cosell was a credit even though he an unrepentant asshole.

    The business is still about people. It can't always be about some mythical principle. Our president runs his administration that way. People die for it.
  7. Bubbler

    Bubbler Well-Known Member

    All clicks and whistles, Alma, all clicks and whistles ... (kidding, nice points) :D
  8. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Razor -

    I'm not sure how Mr. Schaap makes his way into an ethics class, but here we are. Pay close attention to Alma in any case. The moral and ethical quandary you describe is asked and answered in his post. It isn't simple, but objective truth rarely is.

    Also, keep in mind the age in which Mr. Schaap made his bones. In that long gone time, it was the rule, rather than the exception, that writers and athletes socialized together. They became friends. They shared far more in common than they do today. They earned the same income, were interested in the same things, came from similar circumstances. Mr. Schaap arrived in sportswriting just as that age of affability and fellow-feeling was coming to an end. Things weren't as clearly adversarial as they are now.
  9. RazorShines

    RazorShines Guest

    Thanks jgmacg, I actually just PM'd alma to attribute. Schaap found his way into the ethics class because Albom was taken and, I think, there are at least some questions there. And they're not easy questions, like writing about an event as if you'd been there when you hadn't. In my opinion, the reality of ethics is that there are more questions than answers, and the questions are just as important as the answers, if not more. I think I'm starting to grasp this idea that the relationship, particularly in sports, between the journalist and the subject has evolved since Schaap's glory days. I may be way off base, but I think in a way we sort of long for the closeness that guys like Schaap had. When cliches didn't spew forth from backup defensive linemen at D-I AA universities. When athletes were people, and acknowledged journalists as the same. I don't know...
  10. Cousin Jeffrey

    Cousin Jeffrey Active Member

    Covered is sort of a precarious term here. He wasn't a beat writer. By this time he was an author, not to mention a city writer, magazine editor, etc. As he quoted Breslin, "This is what we do. We're not in the lawn tennis amateurs." or something like that. it's a great quote, whatever it was.
    And his book is one big name-dropping event. But it works. He worked. His style worked beautifully. If he didn't pal around with Ali, he never would have gotten that wonderful story about Ali.
  11. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    Cousin Jeffrey... good point, but it is all journalism. If someone was a columnist, where would that fit in the scheme of things.

    As I said, it's not an easy line. I knew one managing editor who thought if you ever, ever in your life worked for a politician, that would disqualify you from writing for a newspaper on news side. That, of course, is ridiculous. Experience in politics would give the writer knowledge and if the writer is doing their job in a fair manner, the reader will benefit.

    I think the ultimate test is how is the reader affected. If somebody wrote a book with an athlete or coach and that writer wouldn't write thing questioning the person or covered things up, the reader is being treated unfairly. In the case of Schaap, I feel like I got insights about people that I might not have received otherwise - so there is a good result.
  12. he keeps a very low profile. friends describe him as a "recluse."
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