[posted 7/16/10 to http://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com]
The New York Times has published its long-anticipated major piece on Linda McMahon by reporters Raymond Hernandez and Joshua Brustein: “A Senate Run Brings Professional Wrestling Into the Spotlight,” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/16/nyregion/16mcmahon.html.
There are quotes from people saying Linda is mean. And there are quotes from Linda saying no she isn’t.
We learn that wrestler Eddie Guerrero was found dead in 2005, possibly because of steroids and painkillers. We also learn that Chris Klucsarits (“Chris Kanyon”) was found dead earlier this year alongside a suicide note, a number of years after he was cut loose by World Wrestling Entertainment and fell into depression. That, we are given to believe, was very mean of Linda and Vince McMahon.
Two people found dead. Nowhere else in the story can you find a single use of any form of the words “dead” or “death.” There is not one reference to the pandemic of early deaths in the professional wrestling industry over which Linda and her husband preside.
Nor is there even one mention of Chris Benoit, who sensationally committed double murder/suicide in 2007, prompting an investigation by Congressman Henry Waxman’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to which The Times gives the once-over-lightly treatment. (The story says nothing at all about the federal criminal investigation and trial of Vince McMahon and the company in the 1990s.) Benoit was around the ninth of around 21 industry performers to die before their 50th birthdays that year alone, but neither that fact nor anything in that area code of information or analysis makes the cut.
This is a remarkable document, stamping The Times as the Newspaper of UnRecord. It’s like a history of slavery without being bothered by the Amistad mutiny or the Dred Scott decision.
In one of his classic Baseball Abstract annuals in the 1980s, Bill James evaluated Chicago Cubs outfielder Keith Moreland thusly: “He tries hard, throws hard, and covers more ground than the Ayatollah Khomeini.” When it comes to covering Linda McMahon, The New York Times types hard, spell-checks hard, and stretches almost nothing into nearly 2,300 words.
Linda McMahon is getting some negative press these days; presumably The Times’ entry adds to that trend, and that matters to people following the horse race. In addition, I realize that the very decision by the Gray Lady to publish at length on the theme that Connecticut’s Republican Senate candidate might be somewhat callous and ruthless makes its own kind of statement, no matter how shallow and trivial it might be. Further, Linda does herself no favors with stultifyingly prosaic corporate rhetoric in response to every close-to-the-bone allegation.
But your humble blogger does not grade on the curve. The Weekly Standard’s Linda McMahon profile was very nearly a bull’s eye. The Times’ is an embarrassment.