Single page view By Skip Bayless
Page 2

Each replay I saw of Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers going after that TV cameraman -- 50? 100? -- seemed to bring back another memory of another clash with an athlete or coach.

I've had my share. Every sports journalist has had his or hers. Yet most of the confrontations between writers and the athletes they cover don't wind up on "SportsCenter." Many times, the TV cameras aren't around to record how it looked and sounded.

I've been bumped and shoved, but never punched. For me, some of these discussions got very loud and settled nothing; others cleared the air and created mutual respect and productive working relationships.

I wish I could say I've always remained calm and professional with an athlete or coach in my face, but … well, you be the judge.

Doubting Thomas
I walked into the visitors' clubhouse at Cleveland's Jacobs Field at 9:30 on a 35-degree Sunday morning. The Chicago White Sox were opening there the following day, and a team PR man had told me their marquee acquisition and Opening Day starter, David "Boomer" Wells, would be available for an interview before the White Sox worked out.

Frank Thomas
You'd be a little intimidated by Frank Thomas, admit it.

Several players had arrived, but no media.

I planned to write my Chicago Tribune column on Wells. But before I could get to his locker, the one man on the team bigger than the 250-pound Boomer blocked my path.

"What are you doing in here?" Frank Thomas asked.

"Uh, I'm going to interview David Wells," I said.

"No, you're not," he said. "You're leaving."

"No, I'm not."

I knew exactly what this was about.

Thomas had shown up for a team meeting on the first day of spring training, then ducked out the back door. Teammates were mystified. At first, speculation swirled about an illness in his family. Then it came clear that Thomas was simply holding out for more money.

His timing couldn't have been more revolting.

He had several years left on his contract, and he had been heavily criticized the season before for refusing to play with what team insiders suspected was a fairly minor injury.

So you'd better believe I blasted Thomas in print. But I wasn't alone: Just about every columnist and talk show host took him apart. Maybe my piece was a little too harsh. But the Big Hurt had become a big pain for a team with big plans.

I tried to explain to Thomas how bad he had made himself look. But he was in no mood to discuss it.

He said something like, "You hurt me and my family, and you are no longer allowed in this clubhouse."

I told him he had a right not to talk to me, if he chose, but that I had a right to be in that clubhouse.

"No, you don't," he said, starting to move me toward the door with his sheer mass. I felt like Steve Nash trying to guard Shaq.

At one point, I asked Thomas if he had actually read what I wrote. He said he had, but he wasn't too convincing. Many times, wives or girlfriends tell a player what a column said -- or at least what they want the player to believe "that no-good so-and-so" had written about him. When that happens, you usually have no chance for a constructive conversation.

Continued...


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THE CLASH