SPORTS WRITING is getting to be dangerous work. It's not safe to roam the football fields anymore.
Take last Saturday night, for example. A reporter was mugged on the rug in Rice Stadium by a University of Utah football player, who seemed to be a trifle upset about something. Some observers thought he just didn't like the reporter's tie, which he yanked on repeatedly like a yo-yo, but I think something else was bothering him. Something tells me that if the reporter wrote something bad about the Utes, he was going to kill him."If you write something bad about us, I'm gonna kill you!" said the player (obscenities deleted), complete with a shove to the chest.
This was right in front of the locker room following a lopsided loss to Fresno State. It was not a pretty sight. Sports writers left and right were turning in their word processors.
Mind you, Utah is the same place where a handful of players staged a boycott of the media (two years ago) and shouted obscenities at reporters in the locker room (last year's season-finale).
There seems to be a minor trend here: When the going gets rough, blame the reporters. It's sort of like what you did when you got knocked down by the neighborhood bully - you went home and hit your little brother.
Some players' journalistic philosophy seems to be, we can play badly, just don't say it.
In the interests of equal time and preserving lives - my own, for instance - I've agreed to turn the game coverage of last week's Fresno State-Utah game over to a player - Louie Lineman, an aspiring tackle and journalist who weighs 345 pounds and can bench press Cuba.
Take it, Louie:
In a football contest with Fresno State Saturday night in Rice Stadium, the University of Utah came in second place.*
The game could easily have gone the other way if not for bad karma, blind referees, years' worth of negative publicity, four touchdowns and several extremely fast Fresno State wide receivers and running backs.
The game see-sawed back and forth, with Fresno State scoring first, and Fresno State scoring second, and Fresno State scoring third, and Fresno State scoring fourth, then a Utah score, then a Fresno State score.
Except for the first, second and fourth quarters, the Utes didn't allow a single touchdown. Not one of Fresno State's four touchdowns was longer than six yards.
The Utah defense held the Bulldogs to 128 yards and one TD in the second half.** They weren't able to get any sacks, but that was because the Fresno linemen kept getting in the way.***
The Utes also held Fresno State quarterback Mark Barsotti to just 13 completions in 30 pass attempts**** and intercepted two passes. While it's true that five of his passes covered anywhere from 36 to 78 yards, it was only because his receivers faked out Utah's defensive backs.
The Bulldogs managed just one field goal.
They also had more penalties than Utah.
On offense, the Utes fumbled twice, but didn't mean to. They netted 53 yards rushing despite the fact that the Bulldogs kept trying to tackle them. Utah quarterback Jason Woods completed one pass for nine yards and no interceptions. He was replaced - just for fun - by Mike Richmond in the second quarter. Richmond threw for 217 yards. He also fumbled and threw two interceptions, mainly because the Fresno State rush wouldn't leave him alone.
The Utes, who have won two of their last three games, next play the University of Hawaii Saturday night in their conference opener. The Utes are expected to finish no worse than ninth in the Western Athletic Conference.
* The score was 31-7.
** One minor clarification: FSU had 386 yards/24 points in the first half.
*** The reporter was sacked after the game and therefore didn't count.
**** Barsotti also threw for 334 yards.