The sad economics of the worst sports column of all time

Using Jaycee Dugard's rape and imprisonment as a story hook is bad enough. Even worse: Selling ads off the horror

Published September 10, 2009 2:09PM (EDT)

Like seemingly every journalist interested in sports, I could not resist following a tweet this week asking the question "Worst lede in the history of sports journalism?" And thus found myself reading a column by Mark Whicker in the Orange County Register that used Jaycee Dugard's 18 years of torture and rape as a hook to talk about all the sports events she "missed" during her long nightmare.

There is little doubt in my mind that from beginning to end, Whicker's piece is the worst sports column of all time. But as I perused my blogroll this morning, noting links to the story from Andrew Sullivan, Megan McArdle and countless other bloggers, it occurred to me that were it not for the Internet, the vast majority of the world's reading population would never have enjoyed the opportunity to be exposed to Whicker's moronic insensitivity.

But today, simply by virtue of being labeled the "worst ever" by the Web masses, I'm betting Whicker's column has a good chance to the most read thing he's ever written in his two decades as a sports writer. And by my count, there are at least five different advertisements being served on the Web page containing the column. Which means that the O.C. Register is probably generating some revenue from the column's notoriety. Whicker apologized for his column, but if the O.C. Register was feeling any real shame at all, it should strip all the ads off that page in perpetuity.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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