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Wednesday, January 21, 2009
In a time of change, pledging a commitment to progress

By Scoop Jackson
Page 2

In honor of the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States, as a sportswriter, I pledge from this day forth to do my part. And then some.

I pledge to let the substance of a story, not just the success of an athlete, determine what I write.

I pledge to be more open to those who do not share my love for sports and do not find it in their hearts to understand that just as art is an imitation of life, so is sports.

I pledge to be better than what I've strived to be in the past when it comes to ideology; to give the BCS a chance, to give Notre Dame and Charlie Weis a chance, to give Bud Selig a chance, to give Michael Vick another chance.

I pledge to try not to pull for Mike Tomlin in the Super Bowl strictly because he's black.

I pledge to be less critical of those I do not agree with on sports radio and in blogs, and of those who do not agree with me; of those who seem not to have the points of view or passion I endear; of those who love to hate anything I try to stand for.

I pledge to stop trying to discover and label someone the "next" LeBron.

I pledge to see the genius in Sid Crosby and Evgeni Malkin the same way I saw the genius in Manny and Big Papi.

I pledge to be less critical of coaches who lose when management doesn't have a problem with them and less critical of management when a coach simply can't coach.

I pledge to no longer compare Eli to Peyton and Venus to Serena just because they are brothers and sisters.

I pledge to give Roger Clemens the same benefit of the doubt I've inherently given Barry Bonds.

I pledge to be more humorous and less cynical, to listen to those I disagree with, to be more inclusive in my approach to sports and my covering of them.

I pledge to no longer say something is a "white sport" or a "black sport" even if the sport is predominantly played by a specific race or culture.

I pledge to stop calling athletes ignorant when they do ignorant things.

I pledge to no longer make Plaxico Burress and Pacman Jones jokes.

I pledge to have in-depth conversations and open dialog with professional athletes about buying homes and living in diverse communities as opposed to living in secluded, gated neighborhoods that are devoid of anyone like them. (If Obama could remain in the same neighborhood before he moved into the White House, no athlete has an excuse.)

I pledge to never again use the word "war" when making a point about an athletic competition or sporting event. (Ravens versus Steelers was not a war; it was a hard, hard-hitting football contest.)

I pledge to be more open to athletes across the globe for the passion they have for sports we might not embrace in America.

I pledge to not always jump to conclusions when it seems that the color of someone's skin may be an advantage or play a role of favortism in their sport.

I pledge to try not to make a big deal over the fact that America elected a minority as president before a woman and before a person of color became a commissioner of a major sports league.

I pledge to maintain balance in my assessments of situations involving troubled athletes.

I pledge to have stronger faith in the sanctity of sports; to not let rogue refs, HGH, lies in front of Congress, spying, cheating, guns, drugs, gambling, ignorance, bad judgment, mismanagement, apathy and corruption interrupt or interfere with my belief in what the games mean and why they are played.

I pledge to report promise over peril when given the opportunity; to not always "lead with what bleeds" and fall into the trap that seems to have defined sports media in recent years.

I pledge to use on a daily basis poet Elizabeth Alexander's question from her inauguration poem: "What if the mightiest word is 'love'?" I will ask: What if the mightiest word is "sports"?

I pledge to try to inspire when I write and speak as opposed to always trying to prove a point.

I pledge to try to make other sportswriters do the same -- and in that, understand our role in this new change and know that the way people view sports just became a major part of the changing of America.

Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.