Woody Paige repeats denial that he plagiarized Dan Le Batard, rejects claim by Norm Clarke
Update below: Last week, Denver Post columnist Woody Paige admitted using quotes without attribution from a piece by SportsBusiness Journal's John Ourand. In the same item, he also denied an old claim by sportswriter Dan Le Batard that he'd plagiarized him back in the '90s. Now, SportsByBrooks.com, the same blog that broke the Ourand story, attempts to prove that Paige did rip off Le Batard -- and its evidence includes correspondence with former Rocky Mountain News columnist Norm Clarke.
The previous SportsByBrooks.com piece included the following, taken from a 2009 chat with Le Batard:
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
Last week, Paige rejected that claim. "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," he said.
SportsByBrooks.com attempts to prove otherwise in the item "Columnist Confirms Paige Plagiarized Le Batard." The article compares Le Batard's article to Paige's -- there are numerous similarities, if not word-for-word repetitions -- and counts the number of times he used the quasi-word "iffen" in addition to referencing correspondence with Norm Clarke, an ex-columnist with the Rocky Mountain News who currently covers the celebrity beat for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Clarke writes:
"I recall the 1995 Miami Super Bowl column by Woody that LeBatard mentioned a couple years ago. A colleague from the Rocky Mountain News who was covering that Super Bowl called me and said Woody's column was raising eyebrows because Woody was seen on a media cruise the day he said he went to Ricky Jackson's hometown in Pahokee, about an hour north of Miami.
"Since Woody quoted Jackson's mother in his column, and after hearing that he was seen on the media cruise the same day he was supposed to be in Pahokee, I called Jackson's home to confirm that Woody had visited Jackson's mother or, at the very least, done a phone interview with her. I also asked about Le Batard.
"A woman who was taking calls for Jackson's mother at the time checked with her while I waited on the telephone. The same woman came back and told me that Woody had not visited with or spoken to Jackson's mother but that she had visited with Le Batard."
SportsByBrooks.com adds that Paige quoted Jackson's mom in this passage:
With a rare free afternoon, Jackson showed up at the neat and clean cinder-block house in Pahokee to see his mother, Lelia Pearl Lawson, and write her a check. "It's the most money I've ever seen," said the school bus driver.
This morning, I sent Paige the link to the latest accusation. His e-mail response was succinct: "Michael: I responded to you honestly. Woody."
I've e-mailed Clarke to get his take on the SportsByBrooks.com piece and Paige's reiteration of his earlier denial. When and if he responds, I'll update this post.
Update, 10:48 a.m. June 16: As noted above, I contacted Norm Clarke, a former Rocky Mountain News columnist now writing for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, in regard to his note to SportsByBrooks.com about alleged plagiarism by Woody Paige, as well as Paige's denial of these charges. His e-mail response: "I've decided I'm not going to comment beyond what appeared in the SportByBrooks.com report."
This note appears to confirm that Clarke stands by the statement above, in which he presents evidence that Paige attributed a quote to a woman with whom he never spoke.
In the meantime, I've received several notes from readers who remember a story suggesting that Paige had been assigned to cover the tragic 1986 launch of the space shuttle Challenger but instead ditched out to take his daughter to Disney World. Here's Paige's take on that infamous tale, which we first published in 2003.
Part of the Post's Columbia package was a column by sports scribe Woody Paige recalling that he and his daughter had been in Florida on January 28, 1986, when the Challenger space shuttle went up in smoke. This reference set off knowing chuckles among journalism-community veterans, because, according to lore, Paige had been assigned to write about the Challenger's launch, but missed the story of the year when he chose to take his daughter to Disney World instead. A version of this tale ran in Westword in February 1986 and was alluded to, without the mention of Paige's name, in a February 3 News article by Charlie Brennan, who was present when the Challenger shattered. The Post itself joined the chorus in March 1998, when reporter Jack Cox wrote, "After the launch had been scrubbed three or four days in a row, [Paige] had decided to follow it on TV" -- a decision that made him infamous, "to his everlasting chagrin."
But Paige insists that this infamy is misdirected. The way he tells it, he'd been asked to go to Florida by KNUS radio, where he was also on staff at the time, to helm a broadcast from Disney World. He planned to take his daughter to the shuttle liftoff while there, and since University of Colorado grad Ellison Onizuka was among the astronauts in the crew, Paige says he asked then-editor Tony Campbell if he'd be interested in a piece about the launch. As Paige remembers it, Campbell responded to this offer "by saying 'Fuck, no. Nobody cares anymore.... We don't want any fucking thing on the space shuttle." Paige didn't have a problem with that, so he headed to Florida sans a Post assignment. He and his daughter waited through one launch that didn't happen; then, on January 28, "I phoned the Cape and was told there would be a two- or three-hour delay. So I went to do my radio show." After the calamity, Paige got a call from Campbell asking for a column after all, and he came through with one about the reaction of folks at the Happiest Place on Earth that stoked more than a decade's worth of misunderstandings.
"I'm chagrined, all right," Paige says. "I'm chagrined that this thing has become an urban legend. And I'm chagrined that I did what the paper asked me -- which is a mistake I've made too many times in my life."
Talk about your disasters...
More from our Media archive: "Woody Paige's suicide-plan column best piece to date about Bronco Kenny McKinley's death."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.