Woody Goes Limp

Post columnist Woody Paige's big shtick shrinks in chilly Utah.

• Wisconsin. On January 16, 1998, prior to the Broncos match-up with the Green Bay Packers, Paige offered up "All to Know About State of 'Scansin," which included the following highlight: "There are more cows in 'Scansin than badgers, which are rats with an attitude. And the cows have a higher per capita IQ than the people."

• Jacksonville. Paige went out of his way to deride the Jacksonville Jaguars (he dubbed them the "Jagwads") in advance of the team's 1997 playoff game against the Broncos. After the Jaguars handed the Broncos an ignominious defeat, Paige filled his January 10, 1997, column with insults directed at him by Jaguar fans. His retort: "I apologize. I'm sorry I didn't know rednecks and tealnecks could read and write."

• Atlanta. On January 28, 1999, just before the Broncos were slated to meet the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl, Paige asserted, "Gen. William Sherman did Atlanta a favor by burning it down in 1864."

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• Miami. The Broncos-Falcons Super Bowl was held in Miami, which allowed Paige to bash two cities at the same time. "Most people never get out of here alive," he wrote. "Miami, where the slogan is: 'Your CD player, your money and your life, por favor.'"

• Detroit. On May 1, 2000, Paige, writing about a match-up between the Colorado Avalanche and the Detroit Red Wings, dropped a typical depth charge on Motown: "Detroit is a third-world, fourth-class city.... It's my second least-favorite city -- to Lincoln."

• Canada. On April 12, 2001, prior to the Avalanche's playoff run, Paige impugned the toughness of Canucks by noting that they "still bow to a queen who lives on a distant island. Canada may be the world's second-largest country in land mass, but a U.S. invasion and takeover would be finished by brunch."

• New Jersey. In "Avs Make Return to the Dark Side," published June 6, 2001, Paige wrote, "The Devils are the only team in sports that represents a sludgy, slimy, stagnant swamp and a turnpike toilet stop.... And to the millions of Jerseyans who are reading this online, don't waste your e-mails. In hockey, I don't give a flying puck what you think."

• London. On July 5, 2001, while covering Wimbledon, Paige had the following to say about the denizens of one of Europe's most cosmopolitan cities: "They drive on the wrong side; they talk funny English; and they've never gotten the concept of a shower in the bathtub or a washcloth."

Granted, Paige has occasionally flattered burgs other than this one. During the last Winter Olympics, in 1998, he expressed pleasure that the host town, Nagano, Japan, wasn't destroyed by an atomic bomb during World War II, which isn't quite a compliment, but close. More often, though, he trounces communities and then shrugs the whole thing off as failed comedy if the heat is turned up too high. An excuse printed on May 8, 2000, is a case in point: "Sure I ripped Detroit. But it was meant (mostly) in jest, just as when I make fun of Jacksonville, Nebraska and Tucson. Anyone who reads me regularly knows I shouldn't be taken seriously."

The folks in Utah don't fit this category, so Paige has had to answer back with as much earnestness as he can muster. In addition to his Post column, he expressed remorse on Channel 9, among other apology tour stops -- and he says that interviewers in Utah, particularly, have been consistently two-faced. "It's amazing to me how the media eats their own," he says. In practically every case, they've told me, 'I agree with what you wrote. I thought it was funny. I don't know why you're apologizing.' And then after that, they've gone after me -- which, to me, is hilarious. There's a strange thing going on in Utah -- a strong fear factor. I think what's different between them and me is that I write what I actually believe.

"This is the way I chose to be a writer thirty years ago or so -- and I knew I was never going to be a safe writer," he notes. "I have gone through probably seventeen editors at the Post and another three or four at the Rocky Mountain News, and there have been editors who have not liked what I've done and tried to rein me in. But if I'm going to be fired or run out of town some day, it'll be on the terms of me being the type of writer I am."

He's right about that. You can bet that in two years, when Paige is covering the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, he'll trundle out a column filled with gripes about crumbling ruins and stupid gods, and how baklava is bakla-awful.

In other words, we'll be reading from the same old Paige.

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