As regular readers of this blog know, I have often wondered why Chronicle sports columnist Richard Justice is writing about sports. He is highly subjective in his views, does not back them up with objective facts and doesn’t reason well. Beyond that, he does just fine.
As a result of the foregoing, Justice is a controversial fellow among Houston sports fans. His blog is a rollicking place where mostly anonymous readers who comment on Justice’s blog posts regularly engage in competing insults with Justice. Not my cup of tea, but different strokes for different folks.
At any rate, after the Texans’ meaningless pre-season loss against Dallas a couple of weeks ago, Justice published this post in which he harshly criticized Texans offensive line coach Alex Gibbs — who is widely-regarded as one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL — for yelling at his players.
The post was odd, but nothing out of the ordinary for Justice, who had applauded the hiring of Gibbs this past January. Inasmuch as Justice noted that Gibbs has a policy of not talking to the media, many readers commenting on the post speculated that Justice’s criticism of Gibbs was simply sour grapes for Gibbs’ refusal to talk with Justice.
However, one particular reader who commented on Justice’s post was not interested in engaging in the usual name-calling that is common on Justice’s blog.
Stephanie Stradley, who previously blogged on the Texans for the Chronicle and who now blogs on the Texans over at AOL Sports Fanhouse, posted a comment to Justice’s post in which she challenged the factual basis of Justice’s assertion that Gibbs’ players were tuning him out because of his yelling. Stradley is a first-class blogger who analyzes the Texans much more objectively and effectively than Justice does.
In response to Stradley’s comment, Justice responded with shrill comment (since deleted) in which he reiterated his point about yelling and then insulted Stradley. Despite Justice’s insult, Stradley inquired in a subsequent comment about the basis of Justice’s contention that Gibbs’ players did not respond to him, to which Justice responded with another condescending comment. Tasteless, but again nothing out of the ordinary for the often childish nature of Justice’s blog.
But what Justice did next may very well have crossed the line.
Inasmuch as Justice’s criticism of Gibbs was so poorly-reasoned, readers continued to mock Justice in the comments to his blog post, prompting Justice to post a follow-up post to defend his position. But in so doing, Justice made the following comment (scroll down to comment at 9:49 AM) in response to a reader who suggested that he owed Stradley an apology for his earlier tasteless comment:
I don’t know what Stephanie’s real name is, but she creeps me out. She writes a little too often, wants to discuss and debate. She has her own blog, so why is she so interested in mine? Ask yourself that question. Maybe I’ve watched Fatal Attraction too many times. If something happens to one of my rabbits, she’s going to be in big trouble.–Richard
Incredibly, if that weren’t bad enough, Justice followed up that libelous comment with this one in responding to another reader’s comment (scroll down to comment at 10:13 PM):
Oh so you only use English when you feel like it? Be sure and put that on your resume. Listen, Cronkite, don’t get into an insult contest with me. You’ll end up in a fetal position whimpering and begging me to ease up. Find something you’re good at and dedicate yourself to that. I don’t know what that would be, but this ain’t it. Go hang out with that Glenn Close woman. She’d probably find you fascinating. Speaking of Stephanie Stradley, I woke up this morning and saw our rabbit cage was empty. ”Stephanie!” I screamed. Turns out, the little feller was sleeping beneath a chair.–Richard
In a patient and classy manner, Stradley recounts the entire bizarre episode here.
Beyond their utter tastelessness, both of Justice’s comments associating Stradley with a homicidal maniac appear to meet the requirements of defamation per se. As a result, Stradley has viable damage claims against both Justice personally and the Chronicle.
Ironically, Justice’s Monday blog post asserts that many Stros fans owe GM Ed Wade an apology. Absent the Chronicle and Justice heeding his advice and issuing an immediate public apology to Stradley, I hope she tees off on both of them.
The Chronicle has some very good reporters. But in these challenging times for newspapers, can the Chronicle survive the likes of Richard Justice?