Monday, September 19, 2011





NOVEMBER 29, 1961, SPORTS
Copyright 1961/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Living Color
   Listen. Before you read another line of this column, there is something I think you ought to know about me.
   I'm (and here I quote from my mail of this past week) "Communist, Red, Moscow Rat." I got a "yellow streak a mile wide running up and down" my back. I am a "left wing pinko." "Comrade Murray." I am "doing more for Communism than all the Reds in Russia."
   So there I am, in living color. How do you like to start your day out being called that? By total strangers? Or even friends?
   You've heard the old expression "called everything but a white man?" Well, I now know what it means. One guy even suggested that my father ("if I had one," he qualified it) was Negro, which sure would have amused my father if he were alive to read it. Another guy hinted darkly my name wasn't really "Murray." Confidentially, I wish it weren't. I wish it were "D'Artagnan" or "Sackville-West" or "Count Aus-Bei-Mit-Nach Zeitvonzu" so I could wear a monocle and BE somebody or be in the USC backfield.)
Mess on Spring Street
    Another guy offered to come up to The Times and throw me out the window. You can imagine what a mess that would make on Spring Street. Cause a sigalert too. There may be some places where you can get a police permit for this kind of, on the whole, imaginative form of lynching. But not L.A. Interferes with traffic.
   All this was occasioned by the fact that I tried to be helpful a few columns ago. I took the trouble to point out in print that if a Southern team were invited to the Rose Bowl, its supporters had better be prepared to put up with a few inconveniences — like they'd have to take pot luck with the rest of us at the drinking fountain, the water was integrated, that the buses were very careless in their seating and let just ANYBODY sit in the front, and that you might even sit next to a you-know-what at the football game.
   I tried, in short, to warn them that we don't live very graciously out here. Our kids don't even get to go to school with an escort of paratroopers.
Majority Against Archaic Social Customs
    I also said that, from what I observed, the majority of the thinking people in the South did not really hold with the set of archaic social customs and legacy of hate their politicians had passed on to them and that they didn't like living in the charged atmosphere of hate and distrust anymore than anyone else did.
   Frankly, I expected an outpouring of abuse when I wrote it. My only surprise was really that there was so little of it. I think at last we're perfecting a cure for the cancer of bigotry.
   There were even wonderful letters of agreement — like the one from the Rev. Warren C. McClain of the Westminster Presbyterian Church.
   There were even thoughtful letters of disagreement. And then there were some who pretended not to be motivated by bigotry but by the unshakable belief that the sports page should be just a kind of adult comic section in prose and should not concern itself with any issue larger than, who won the javelin? To the sneer of these people "Get out of the sociology business," my answer is "I'll get out of it when YOU get in it."
Setting One Thing Straight
    But I would like to set one thing straight: I'm no crusader. I'm not bucking for any bloody brotherhood lunches because they kind of bore me. I mean, why do you have to get a plaque for believing in the Constitution?
   To tell you the truth, I'm really a conservative politically. I don't like this crummy 20th century any better than Barry Goldwater does. I'm about as Communistic as Daddy Warbucks. Or Little Orphan Annie. And it must amuse the hell out of the colleagues who have known me for a long while to hear me called "Communist." If I had my way, I would have been born in the 17th century — provided, of course, I could belong to the aristocracy. My notion is the dark ages began with the invention of the electric light.
   However, like it or not, I do belong to the 20th century. And I am a journalist. Of sorts. Recently I went down to a state in the South which also belongs to the 20th century. Only, it not only doesn't like it, it doesn't know it. Or won't admit it.
   A writer — even a sportswriter — is supposed to cover news. The real news of the game I covered had very little to do with the score. It had to do with the smell of roses and the color of the players.
   That's what I wrote about. That's what this business is about. That's the way I intend to play it. Now, if you'll excuse me, my other phone is ringing. Probably Moscow on the line.

* Reprinted with permission by the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation | P.O. Box 995 | La Quinta | CA | 92247

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