When Sports Writing Goes Very, Very Wrong


This isn't Mark Spitz.

I was surfing America Online the other day when I came across the tantalizing headline Worst Sports Comebacks. I’m a sucker for this kind of thing, so I clicked on the link — and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but this gem of an entry:

12) Mark Spitz: Twenty years after winning seven gold medals at the 1972 Olympics and spurned on by a million-dollar offer from filmmaker Bud Greenspan, the swimmer seeked to qualify for the 1992 U.S. team. Greenspan filmed Spitz failing to qualify for a return to the Olympics.

Okay, I can almost forgive the spurn/spur confusion. It falls in the same category as the flaunt/flout controversy (which I intend to explore in a future issue of Fun with Conan The Grammarian). But…seeked? I mean, seeked? Where, oh, where was the editor? And where, oh, where was the dictionary?

Most of the time, I mind my own business, laugh and move on. But this time I was spurred to action. I sent a helpful email to AOL Sports pointing out the mistakes. You’ll be thrilled (and amazed) to know I wasn’t in the least sarcastic or snarky about it. And now, four days later (as of this writing), the errors remain. The only thing I can figure is that AOL Sports has either sent their writing jobs off-shore or subcontracted to Wee Cutie-Pies Preschool.

Moral: Employ an editor. Use a dictionary. End of lecture.

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