By T.J. Simers
We all know Bill Plaschke is only a shell of the columnist he once was.
He’s always been No. 1 columnist in sports at the Times because the newspaper has never had a legit No. 2.
Remember the days of Murray, Downey and Ostler—all in the same newspaper!
Sometimes the nation’s sports editors name Plaschke the best in the country coming to that conclusion by reading five columns that he chooses to submit from the hundred-plus ambulances he chases.
The Times has tried to produce a quality No. 2 columnist with boring failures such as Diane Pucin, J.A. Adande, Helene Elliott and Kurt Streeter. Dylan Hernandez shows promise, but I’d like to see him write more.
Plaschke is writing less and less as well, and I hope it has nothing to do with his health. If he’s just lazy, OK, he has no one pushing him to write more as ineffective as the Times’ sports editor, Iliana Limon Romero, has proven to be.
She hired a sports columnist in October. He’s written once since then, so maybe Plaschke thinks that’s what the newspaper wants; columnists who don’t write much. Wouldn’t we all like a boss like Iliana?
Apparently, Patrick Soon-Shiong does, the owner paying her to get so little out of the Times’ new columnist.
Plaschke has always been a flowery writer, big words written like some kind of poetry, but sometimes just gobbledygook. But it works for him, in the estimation of some I imagine who never heard of Jim Murray, the greatest sports columnist in Times’ history.
I always said Plaschke could hear an ambulance a 1,000 miles away, dropping everything to write if a punter lost a leg or there was gunfire—real or imagined—-heard at an inner-city football practice.
While standing for the National Anthem at a long ago Super Bowl, Plaschke told me he had just talked to a girl who couldn’t type, using a stick attached to her head to write about baseball. Easy joke there if you have followed the Angels’ coverage in the Times.
But Plaschke was genuinely excited.
I told him he should pack his belongings and leave the Super Bowl to go write about her. I even trolled my colleagues.
He said he would never write about her, and I laughed because it was like seven days later that he did, a sure-fire contest winner.
He’s won a ton of awards getting judges to cry, and God help us, journalism students now think you should write a sentence, repeat it and repeat it again to write effectively., Everything in threes.
There are days when Plaschke is the No. 1 sports columnist in the country, just not as many as there used to be, and yet there are fewer and fewer writers to compete with him. It might be a good idea to re-invent himself on occasion.
There are also days when he’s just horrible, and Thursday comes to mind.
He went to a Dodgers’ day game because there are no deadlines to fret and jumped at the chance to diss Max Scherzer. Plaschke likes to think of himself as the people’s columnist, the people being done wrong he says when Max didn’t pitch the sixth game of the playoffs against the Braves two years ago.
So what—they would have just been beaten by the cheating Astros in the World Series.
It’s silly criticism of Scherzer and off base in its fundamental accuracy. Scherzer came in relief in Game 5 and he threw in front of pitching coach Mark Prior the day before Game 6 and appeared ineffective. Scherzer told Prior his arm was “fried” after Game 5. Prior’s choice to start Game 6 was Walker Buehler.
If Scherzer had taken the ball and demanded to pitch and then lost, Plaschke would have labeled him selfish.
Plaschke often rejects facts, especially if they get in the way of making his point. I remember when he called L.A. a Bruins’ town while USC was starting to reel off a ton of victories. Now he’s locked his lips on USC.
Wednesday’s effort to work up a good temper tantrum was just absurd. Scherzer getting tossed Wednesday and Plaschke linking it to a game he couldn’t pitch in 2021 have nothing to do with each other. There is nobody in town and certainly not at his own newspaper who will challenge Plaschke to be better than that.
We got the three-sentence pitter-pat in paragraph No. 3 of his column: “It was pleadingly loud. It was deeply controversial. It was poetic justice.”
Whatever he was talking about.
I wrote at the same newspaper as Plaschke and never came close to writing as well. But the way he views sports was often beyond me.
Plaschke wrote in his latest column: “There was indeed more than a good chunk of schadenfreude roiling around Chavez Ravine on Wednesday afternoon.”
I’m a little surprised they didn’t evacuate the place with all that schadenfreude roiling around, but then I looked up the big word. It means taking pleasure in the misfortune of others and I guess Plaschke was suggesting Dodger fans are really sick.
As a former columnist, though, I share Plaschke’s love for schadenfreude.
But in this case, it’s one big yawn trying to tie together a pitcher’s sore arm two years ago with sticky rosin on Wednesday. Plaschke should be better than that.
If the columnist they hired six months ago, who has chosen not to write for the paper so far, ever shows up, maybe he’ll put some heat on Plaschke. But some guy writing once every six months is just the kind of non-threat the Times has come to love in partnering with Plaschke.
My apologies to Hernandez, who has written some great stuff, but he has to write more to challenge Plaschke.
As for Scherzer, Plaschke finished his much ado about nothing column with a typical overwritten flourish: “It was a choice that will forever resound in the darkest corners of Dodger history.”’
Prior’s decision to go with Buehler, or Sherzer’s decision not to employ his fried-out arm?
I suppose I could read it again to better understand, but why punish myself?