Two sports columnists, one big book and movie deal for one of them and a case of mistaken identity for the other…
We’re talking Joe Posnanski and Jason Whitlock, the former twin towers in the Kansas City Star sports section.
For years – from the mid 1990s until three years ago – the rival sports scribes battled quietly behind the scenes for top sports columnist and paycheck honors. When Whitlock got a radio gig Posnanski wanted and got one (ever briefly). When Whitlock got offers to move to another market and pyramided them into hefty pay hikes, Posnanski followed suit.
Not that they were anything approaching two peas in a sports pod.
Joe was the kindly-seeming writer, dishing out metaphors and word pictures like there was no tomorrow and schmoozing the pants off both dead and undead local sports celebrities.
Jason on the other hand was the master of pimping readers, bragging about his momma’s cooking, referring to his king-sized self as a sex symbol and dishing out brickbats to heavyweights like former Big Chief Carl Peterson.
Neither was seen much around the Star offices. In a dozen or so years I can only recall laying eyes on either of them two, maybe three times each. For most Star staffers they were men of mystery with fat paychecks and sizeable egos, with Joe nosing out Jason as the kinder, gentler of the two.
But now that Posnanski is in the chips with a big book deal and major motion picture on his side of the ledger, all eyes turn to the Phat Man.
When Whitlock left Kansas City he made sure to leave the impression he’d cut something approaching a seven-figure deal. Former 610 Sports host Nick Wright got the exit interview honors and repeated as gospel a blog report saying that Jason was in the chips. Whitlock shrugged it off, leaving the impression he was off to LA, big bucks in hand.
However the expected TV and/or radio gigs never materialized and Whitlock remains mired in part time blogger limbo.
That brings us to the here and now.
Like last Sunday, when with Posanski poised to make some waves in Hollywood with an Al Pacino movie based on his book, Whitlock was about to get fingered by sports personality Bob Costas for still being a Kansas City dude.
Costas had quoted a line from Whitlock’s blog on national television the day after the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide. In it he referred to Big Sexy as “the Kansas City based writer Jason Whitlock.”
Get the picture?
Two years after Whitlock was supposed to be taking names and kicking butt in LA, Costas didn’t even know he’d moved.
CNN Reliable Sources host Howard Kurtz conducted an extended interview with Costas Sunday focusing mostly on the Manti Te’o and Lance Armstrong controversies.
Towards the end he asked Costas to re-explain his controversial anti gun quotes late last year.
Costas defended borrowing the quote from Whitlock, but more than a month later still didn’t know Whitlock was no longer a KC guy.
“When you delivered that commentary within the 90 second constraint that you had, you chose largely to quote someone else, columnist Jason Whitlock. Why did you do that as opposed to saying, here’s what I Bob Costas think,” Kurtz quizzed.
“I thought what Whitlock said was worthy. Plus, he’s from Kansas City…”
In fairness to Costas, Whitlock was already a part-time blogger on Fox prior to leaving the Star. So within reason it’s understandable he might not have noticed that Jason had left town and was two years in to the pursuit of a seven-figure paycheck (six-figure?).
All of that said, it’s clear Posnanski’s the undisputed winner of the Life After The Kansas City Star sweeepstakes.
My personal take?
Jason needs to find another writing gig with a local daily where he can shake things up and wreak havoc in a way that resonates with local sports junkies (and comes with a healthy six-figure paycheck).
That’s a possibility even in this day where print journalists are dropping like flies.There’s always room for a gunslinger sportswriter.
Even the Star still has a slot for a second sports columnist.