A Cocked Pistol

Miami Herald sports columnist Dan Le Batard goes Cosmo and cements his reputation as the paper's gender-relations expert

The Miami Herald spared no newsprint in touting the recent literary efforts of two of its columnists. Newly published novels by Tananarive Due and Ana Veciana-Suarez have been treated to front-page mentions and unequivocally flattering reviews in the newspaper. But in the rush to promote the bejeezus out of the women, the extracurricular offerings of one of the Herald's favorite sons, wunderkind sports columnist Dan Le Batard, have been entirely overlooked.

In a current special issue of Cosmopolitan called "All About Men," the 28-year-old Le Batard demonstrates that he's not merely a scholar of unrestricted free agency and shooting percentages, but he's also a deft scribe who can thread his poesy through the squirrely thickets of love and relationships. In an 1800-word essay entitled "I Am the Hunter," the Herald sportswriter unflinchingly describes his modus vivendi relating to the opposite sex.

"Men like me travel in packs, pursuing perfume, and we find the chase more intoxicating than everything after it," Le Batard writes. "We dabble in relationships for the same reason we dabble in hunting: There's an incomparable rush wrapped in the search and discovery. But then, when the last bullet has been fired and the gun is spent, when the conquest is complete and the game is done and we get to see what we've done close-up, all that remains is the blood and the smell and a mess to clean up.

"Doesn't mean we won't go hunting again, mind you. We drink after a bad hangover, don't we?"

Though the Herald failed to alert its readers to Le Batard's Cosmo stylings, his efforts didn't escape the notice of his colleagues at Miami's Only Daily. Last week photocopies of the column were legion, and prompted heated debate. Even publisher Dave Lawrence, vacationing in Ireland, was faxed a copy.

By midafternoon Thursday, more than two dozen men and women had signed an angry letter posted on an intraoffice computer bulletin board. "While we support wholeheartedly the First Amendment right of Herald people to freelance in whatever publication they choose and to say whatever they want, we must ask whether a newspaper that takes such pride in its diversity policy will take a stand on Dan Le Batard's essay in Cosmo," the letter began.

It continued: "We must wonder, when Le Batard summarizes women as the 'blood, the smell and a mess' and sets them apart as a species by saying such degrading things as women 'hear only what they want,' how he regards the reporting and editing ability of his female colleagues.

"We must also wonder: What message is being sent to female athletes and female readers when a highly promoted sports columnist has such a degrading view of them. We hope management, which in the past has given Le Batard unprecedented public support in the pages of this newspaper, will have something to say to Le Batard and the Herald staff about this article."

The screed engendered a lively series of memos from other staff members, most of whom expressed support for Le Batard's rights under the First Amendment.

"I found Le Batard's piece hilarious," began one response, signed by "Action Line" editor Anne Baumgartner. "I laughed out loud. So I'm warped. Sue me. But what I do not find in the least bit funny is the way we howl for the blood of those unfortunate enough to say something we disagree with. You either support the First Amendment or you don't. You cannot have it both ways. If you think the man is a consummate jerk, tell him so to his face. Don't ask the company to lynch him for you."

Added photographer Carl Juste: "No individual man or woman can control the behavior or opinion of another. What Dan says or does outside the reaches and responsibility of the Miami Herald is his own business. Folks, let's not try to make it corporate policy. His actions will always be his own. If Dan killed 50 people do you think Joe Public would consider us murderers? Of course not."

This isn't the first time Le Batard has been the subject of debate at One Herald Plaza. Two years ago he was arrested on a disorderly intoxication charge at Johnny Rockets restaurant in Coconut Grove. (While New Times reported the arrest, the Herald initially chose not to, prompting an outcry from a group of University of Miami boosters who accused the paper of "an arrogant double standard" because it allowed Le Batard to write about UM football players' brushes with the law.)

Controversy number two resulted from a tongue-in-cheek column Le Batard wrote on the eve of the recent Miami Heat-New York Knicks NBA playoff series. Among other insensitive swipes in the piece -- which was entitled "New York Fans: Obnoxious! Overbearing! Unpleasant!" -- Le Batard described the typical Knicks fan this way: "He has almost as much grease in his hair as he does on his body, and he wears his baseball cap backward because, well, the hat didn't come with directions. He has pasty skin ... and he starts all sentences with the words, 'Yo, Vinny,' even when addressing his mother." Toward the end, the columnist wrote: "Then there's prehistoric Patrick Ewing, whose facial features were once used by cavemen to chase frightened woolly mammoths. The only reason Ewing isn't the ugliest person in all of sports is because a few years ago Washington imported Gheorghe Muresan from Triteni, Romania."

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