Time failed to get facts before taking cheap shot

This Just In...

September 03, 1999|By Dan Rodricks

THAT Time magazine story on Baltimore and the mayor's race was sneering in its tone, but what do you expect from a New York-based weekly? New Yorkers sneer when they're sleeping. "Everything outside of New York is Bridgeport," Fred Allen said years ago, and that attitude prevails today. In this case, the subject of New York media scorn happens to be the Queen City of the Patapsco Drainage Basin.

It was our turn, hon. You expect this stuff now and then.

But Time should at least get the facts supporting its cheap shots straight, don't you think?

As hatchet jobs go, this one was sloppy.

A caption next to a photograph of Lawrence Bell referred to Druid Hill Park as "David Hill Park." (Who was Dave? Calvin's brother?)

Time said voters elected Kurt Schmoke to "restore the power of the mayor's job." (Oh yeah? Anybody remember William Donald Schaefer? For most of his 15 years, he was to Baltimore what Richard J. Daley was to Chicago.)

Of Martin O'Malley: "A former councilman and federal prosecutor." (O'Malley is still a councilman from the 3rd District, and will be until December. He's never been a federal prosecutor.)

Of Lawrence Bell: "The repo man came and got his Mustang a couple weeks back." (Bell's car was sold at auction in January 1998.)

Time declared: "Middle income residents are fleeing at a rate of 1,000 a month." (The Census Bureau, which provides the annual population figures, makes no reference to the economic status of people leaving Baltimore. Given the rate of demolition in the inner city, it's likely many people who left town were poor. Hot neighborhoods -- Canton, Federal Hill, Fells Point, the Patterson Park area -- continue to draw middle-class to upper-income residents.)

Time declared: "Baltimore, which has a population of 630,000 ..." (The city population, according to the 1998 Census Bureau estimate, was 645,593.)

Time declared: "One of every 10 citizens is a drug addict." (The operative estimate of drug addicts in Baltimore is between 55,000 and 60,000. That's about 1 in 11, really, if you use the higher population number from the Census Bureau.)

The magazine's characterization of Baltimoreans -- one in 10 of us being a junkie -- was only a minor exaggeration. You can't beef about that much. But the thing the magazine didn't tell its readers was that the addiction rate here is comparable to that in other major cities, including good ole New York.

You see how it gets complicated?

Baltimore's investment in drug treatment has doubled in the past two years, too. Of course, that perspective -- a city trying to deal with a seemingly intractable problem of drug addiction -- wasn't offered in the Time piece. Why pretty up a grim picture with too many facts?

I just got a subscription to Time. I want my money back.

Will coach make the cut?

When "The Replacements" finally makes it to the big screen, and should the final cut include an actor playing a football coach, and should this actor/coach utter the words, "Curt, send him in," I want this known: The "Curt" in that line is retired Pikesville High School coach Curt Boushell. There, it's on the record.

Boushell, for whom the football field at Pikesville is named, got a role as a "featured extra" in the Warner Bros. movie, and he's been hanging around with Gene Hackman, Keanu Reeves and the boys during filming at the stadium where the Baltimore Ravens play. (Yeah, I know what the stadium is called, but the Ravens, not me, got the money for the naming rights. I don't have to use it.)

Boushell coached Pikesville football for 27 years. He was also a terrific wrestling coach, with a record of 159-74-3.

In "The Replacements," he plays the assistant defensive coordinator of a team composed of scab players during a strike-marred NFL season. Art Lafleur, who's been in a bunch of films, plays the defensive coach. He's the one who says, "Curt, send him in."

Here's hoping Coach Boushell makes the cut.

Fun film facts: "The Replacements" cast and crew return to the stadium Tuesday for 12 hours of overnight filming. ... Rhys Ifans, the Welsh actor who was hilarious as Hugh Grant's scraggly roommate in "Notting Hill," plays the team kicker.

For forgetful bankers

If you're downtown for the Ravens game today, you're apt to see an airplane pulling a sign with a message for Allfirst Financial Inc. "It'll say, 'We dislike Allfirst,'" says Jerry Greeff (pronounced Gref), owner of One Stop Auto Parts in Waverly. "I'd have put 'strongly dislike' in there, if it fit." What's Greeff's beef with the former First National Bank of Maryland? Greeff holds a grudge from a complicated financial dispute that goes back several years; he claims Allfirst owes him some money. His business is thriving these days, but he didn't want to let his old bankers -- in case they're watching from a skybox -- think he'd forgotten the matter.

Well worth the trip

"If I Should Fall Behind (Wait for Me)" is one of Bruce Springsteen's sweetest, most insightful love songs. It's on his "Lucky Town" album from 1992, but I'd pay cash money for a recording of the ensemble version from the current E Street Band reunion tour. I heard it for the first time the other night at the MCI Center, and it blew me away. I can die happy, now that I've heard it. One at a time, Steve Van Zandt, Nils Lofgren, Patti Scialfa and Clarence Clemons stepped from the darkness into a spotlight and sang the refrain, accompanied by The Boss on acoustic guitar. The arrangement showcased each band member's rich, unique voice, and you got the idea, if you hadn't before, that these people really love each other. Middle age isn't so bad, as long as you take your friends along.

TJIDAN@aol.com is the e-mail address for Dan Rodricks. He can be reached at 410-332-6166. Letters should be addressed to This Just In, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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