Woody Paige wrote about one of his employers using a forum provided by the other one in "ESPN Empire One Great Story," published in Sunday's Denver Post.
Problem is, three quotes in the piece appeared word for word in a SportsBusiness Journal article from April written by John Ourand, who called out Paige on Twitter. Today, Paige is offering his apologies.
"It was not done maliciously or to take credit for something I didn't do," Paige stresses. However, he adds, "It was my mistake."
[Cable pioneer Paul] Maxwell recalls sitting in an Anaheim, Calif., bar with cable industry icon Bill Daniels, who helped convince Getty Oil to fund ESPN in the early years. It was right after Getty had invested in ESPN, probably 1980. Evey, the Getty Oil executive responsible for overseeing the network, approached the duo, with a look of worry on his face. He asked, "Are we ever going to make money?"
"It was the first thing he asked Bill," Maxwell said. "Bill knew it would work. We both thought it was brilliant."
These lines bear something more than a casual resemblance to this section of Paige's column:
In an Anaheim, Calif., bar (near a theme park), Daniels was told by a Getty Oil executive about the venture's problematical plans. Daniels had persuaded the company to buy a majority share of ESPN.
Stuart Evey was concerned Getty Oil had made a mistake. "The first thing he asked Bill was: 'Are we ever going to make money?'" Colorado cable pioneer Paul Maxwell said. "Bill knew it would work. We both thought it was brilliant."
The similarities prompted this tweet from Ourand:
The SportsByBrook post argues that Paige has committed such acts in the past. The item offers up this example from a 2009 chat with sportswriter Dan Le Batard, another familiar face from ESPN:
Submitted 09/14/09 14:02:46 by Adam from Minnesota
Q: Is Woody Paige a big goofball when he isn't on Around the Horn? or is it just an act for TV
Answered 09/14/09 14:05:04 by Dan Le Batard A: no, he's that....his career has kind of amazed me....my friend call him woody plaige....pre-internet, during a super bowl in miami, i went to ricky jackson's pahokee home....wrote scene.....described town....had a scene in which ricky was coming home with a big check for his family....a few days later, paige writes the same column....but he never went to the home and he just made up some bait shop and gave some black guy a quote in ridiculous black dialect....this was during denver news wars....the other denver paper called him out on it....even wrote a letter with both columns to the publisher, i think....but it was pre-internet so he never got in trouble...but the people at his paper have to know that he's pretty reckless
Paige denies committing this sin. "I heard that years ago -- that I didn't go to the player's hometown, which I did, and that I made up a conversation, which I didn't do."
However, he fesses up to an error in judgment regarding the quotes in the ESPN piece.
"We've agreed that the columns would be shorter, and my column was about six inches too long," he says. "So I cut six inches -- and in the final column I turned in, I improperly, incorrectly and unprofessionally cut the attribution to the SportsBusiness Journal.
"I knew Bill Daniels and wrote about him," he continues. "He was a friend, and he told me about that stuff -- but I didn't have a direct quote. So doing my due diligence, I found that quote from Mr. Maxwell, who I knew was from Denver, and I thought it added to the fact that Bill Daniels was very instrumental in helping ESPN, and also that ESPN was thinking very seriously about moving here years and years ago. So I put it in -- but then I screwed up the entire column by not attributing the quote."
How is he trying to make amends?
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"I talked to John and I apologized to him," Paige allows. "I told him it was a mistake, and he accepted that and said he enjoyed the column."
In addition, Paige shared the situation with the folks at the Post, "and based on my conversations this morning, there will be a correction run" in the print edition; the online version linked above now includes the proper attribution, as well as a note pointing out the change.
That's fine by Paige. "I don't know that I chose to be in this limelight, but I chose to be in this business," he says. As such, scrutiny over his every word "comes with the territory. And I know better."
More from our Media archive: "Woody Paige's suicide-plan column best piece to date about Bronco Kenny McKinley's death."