For Deadspin, Jeff Pearlman has written a remarkable piece, “The Fallout From Sportswriting’s Filthiest Fuck-Up.” Pearlman dives deep into the story of how an incredibly obscene paragraph managed to get slipped into a sports article in the Gallatin (Tenn.) News Examiner in 1997. In the middle of an otherwise routine item on the local high school soccer team comes this shocker:
Dixon sucks donkey dicks and doesn’t wipe the shit off before practice. We like to keep him at the sweeper position so his sperm breath will stop people from penetrating to the goal. Speaking of penetrating, he prefers tall, red-headed guys. Told me to tell Kris he said ‘hello.’
A couple of years ago, I looked into the early history of taboo words like shit ending up in mainstream newspapers by accident or through intentional mischief: “When Shit Hits the Newspapers.” My examples in that post are pretty tame by comparison, as when The Wyoming State Tribune left in some rude filler text in 1920:
xzﬁﬂﬀBull shit Jocko now is the
Now Jack you are wull of sit
you are cmuck full f the shit
Pearlman’s account of the Gallatin News Examiner fuck-up is instructive in understanding how such things can end up in a newspaper. In the Gallatin case, an inexperienced staff writer inserted the offending paragraph to get a rise out of an equally inexperienced sports editor. And due to the time crunch of getting a newspaper out with a small staff, the paragraph was never spotted and went out to the local community in all its unexpurgated glory.
The repercussions in this case were enormous, leading to two libel lawsuits, as Pearlman explains. In the closing argument in one of the court cases, the attorney representing Garrett Dixon (he of the donkey dicks and sperm breath) declared that the paragraph in question represented “the most outrageous, violent, filthy language ever printed in American mainstream news media.” That might sound a bit hyperbolic, but the paragraph would certainly rank near the top of any list of obscenities published in the mainstream U.S. media. And keep in mind this was 1997, a year before news outlets had to grapple with the Starr Report, and two decades before Anthony Scaramucci introduced us to Mooch Mouth.