Monday, July 29, 2013

The letter . . .

   The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation has received a grant from the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation that will support a 2013-14 JMMF scholarship. The $5,000 award will be presented in August to a second- or third-year undergraduate journalism student as part of the JMMF's annual essay competition.
    “This gift from the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation will allow us to assist another journalism student with his/her college education and continue to honor Jim Murray and his ideals of truth-telling journalism," said Linda McCoy-Murray, founder and CEO of JMMF.
    With the addition of the H.N and Frances Berger Foundation to our list of generous contributors, we bring you a Monday's With Murray with a "Thank You" theme.
    In December 1975, Jim Murray wrote ‘It Wasn't The End,’ a column that shared a reader's letter with the audience. It wasn't just any reader, though. It was a former UCLA football player who had been lambasted in a column.



It Wasn't the End

    I have always blamed it on the fact that the game was one of those twi-night affairs, begun in bright sunlight and finished in total darkness, but in the 1969 USC-UCLA game a UCLA safetyman tackled a pass receiver on a play in which the pass was nowhere near either. Interference was called, the pass was ruled good. Since it was fourth down, it turned the game around. USC won it in the next few plays — on a desperation soap-bubble pass in the corner of the end zone. The Trojans went to the Rose Bowl.
    I happened to mention this in a column a few days ago, recalling that the citizenry chided me for calling attention to this unfortunate but understandable lapse on the part of a fine young athlete. Several cranky letters crossed by desk.
    The other day, I got another letter on this same incident. Here it is:
    "Dear Mr. Murray,
    It seems that one play has caused both of us quite a bit of hassle. The next day following the infamous incident when your article came out, I really didn't know how to take it. The last thing I was thinking about was how your column was going to affect the rest of my life since, at the time, my life had very little meaning after one of my goals in life had been lost on a very stupid play by yours truly. A great many people came up to me and said, 'How could that SOB blame the entire loss on you?' A few other people, one of them being John Jardine, who recruited me to go to UCLA and the coach I was probably closest to, came to me and said, 'That was a pretty nice article Murray wrote about you.' So it went, some for and some against.
    "I, too, received a lot of mail from alums and others saying what an injustice you had done me by your article. Well, I saved all those letters and brought them home. My dad got a gander at them and said, 'That's really nice of all those people, I think you should write them a thank you note.' All the while, I'm thinking these were just fan mail and my being a 'star' and all, why should I say thank you? Dad went out and bought me a couple of extra boxes of Christmas cards and said it would really be nice if you'd send those people a Christmas card with a short note attached.
    "Without wholeheartedly agreeing, I adhered to my father's wishes. I sent each a thank you note with a Christmas card. Today, I'm grateful for my father's advice. Your column, Mr. Murray, didn't make me a star, but it did make me grow up.
    "I found out since there's a lot more to life than playing in the Rose Bowl. Please don't get me wrong. I dearly would've loved to have played in it and am especially sorry for having loused up the season for my teammates and coaches. However, it's not the end of the world. Life goes on. My life and their lives. You were right when you said my life wasn't ruined. I have a beautiful wife and two beautiful daughters and not one, two or 10 columns can detract from that.
    "I have an insurance business and one year left in law school at Loyola. I don't know if I will end up as strong as my counterpart, Barry Wood; but you can bet one thing: I will be trying.
    "Finally, since I don't believe I ever sent you a Christmas card, let me wish you a very Merry Christmas. Thank you, Mr. Murray, and yes, I do agree that you've got to write it like you see it."

Danny Graham
UCLA 1970

Reprinted with permission by the Los Angeles Times.

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