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Dan LeBatard: So, About That Time Woody "Plaige" Plagiarized Me ... [UPDATE]

woody paigeDan LeBatard’s marathon chats at the Miami Herald – they were a hit on our site last summer – usually reveal a delicious nugget or two, but today, a large hunk of gold emerged from the 3,824 questions he answered. LeBatard claims that Woody Paige, the ESPN talking head/Denver Post columnist who once referred to this site as “The Big Sidebar,” plagiarized him in the pre-internet era.

Q: Is Woody Paige a big goofball when he isn’t on Around the Horn? or is it just an act for TV

ANSWERED 09/14/09 14:05:04 BY DAN LE BATARD
A: no, he’s that….his career has kind of amazed me….my friend call him woody plaige….pre-internet, during a super bowl in miami, i went to ricky jackson’s pahokee home….wrote scene…..described town….had a scene in which ricky was coming home with a big check for his family….a few days later, paige writes the same column….but he never went to the home and he just made up some bait shop and gave some black guy a quote in ridiculous black dialect….this was during denver news wars….the other denver paper called him out on it….even wrote a letter with both columns to the publisher, i think….but it was pre-internet so he never got in trouble…but the people at his paper have to know that he’s pretty reckless

The question can be found here. If we still had access to nexis, the all-power research tool, we would have likely been able to prove Paige’s recklessness. Wonder if he’ll address this on ATH? We only ask because over the weekend, Cris Collinsworth responded to a 25-year-old video.

[Tip of the hat to Cortes, our Miami correspondent]

A kind reader with access to Nexis has found both stories, which date back to 1995. You be the judge:

LeBatard:

The Miami Herald
January 25, 1995 Wednesday FINAL EDITION
HIS SIGHTS ARE SET ON HOME
BYLINE: DAN LE BATARD Herald Sports Writer
SECTION: SPECIAL SECTION; Pg. 1SB
LENGTH: 997 words

San Francisco linebacker Rickey Jackson was done being famous, the television cameras and party tents having faded from his rearview mirror. He headed west on U.S. 441, nearly two hours from Joe Robbie Stadium. Dozens of buzzards circled above, searching the fields for something dead.

On one side of the road, factories spit out smoke. On the other, a migrant worker hacked at sugar cane while holding his young son’s hand. Jackson blew past the junkyards and tractors, straight ahead, sights set on home.

“If I finally win that Super Bowl ring, I’m not going to wear it,” Jackson said Tuesday. “I’m going to find a spot in Pahokee where all the kids can see that ring. Maybe I’ll put it in the wall of a bank, in glass, so people can see it without taking it. Just to let the kids know they have an opportunity to leave Pahokee and be a star.”

Rickey Jackson returned home Tuesday afternoon, which is always a big deal in this tiny town kissing the edge of Lake Okeechobee. A sign near city hall read, “Congratulations Rickey Jackson, Super Bowl Bound!” Two big banners hung on office
windows — “Rickey Jackson #57″ and “Go 49ers!” When Jackson is playing on television, like he will on Super Bowl Sunday, a blue tint shines through most windows, lighting streets dark and quiet.

There will be a parade for him here Feb. 18, Rickey Jackson Day. It will circle around the city, then stop at his high- school football field, where he will be presented with the keys to three cities (Pahokee, Belle Glade and South Bay). It is touching the way this area embraces him. Almost as touching as the way he embraces it back.

Shaquille O’Neal wears a bulky Superman Logo on his necklace and Deion Sanders wears his uniform number in diamonds and Chuck Carr wears a big gold dollar sign — all celebrations of self. Jackson wears a bigger message on the gold medallion. It says, in large letters, Pahokee, Fla. 33476. It hangs near his heart.

“People in San Francisco are always asking me what my necklace means,” Jackson says. “I tell them it’s home.”

He arrived Tuesday like a San Francisco Santa, carrying a duffel bag filled with gifts. He passed out 49ers shirts and hats to family and friends in his mother’s living room, gave five $100 bills to an uncle and passed out a dozen Super Bowl tickets with a street value of $1,400 each. A man knocked on the door, breathless, asking Jackson to sign his jacket. Jackson invited him in.

“I didn’t know him,” Jackson said later. “He must be new in town. I know everyone else.”

Lelia Pearl Lawson, Jackson’s mother, says it’s always like this when Rickey comes home — phone ringing, people knocking. “Can’t get no sleep, no rest, no nothing,” she says through a smile. Rickey, who turns 37 in March, is the youngest of her five kids. He says he will move back here and build a new house when his football is done.

Lawson has worked for 25 years as a bus driver here, even though Rickey has asked her to stop. He told her eight years ago he would buy her a new home anywhere in the world. She chose a house 10 blocks away.

“Did I tell you my baby paid cash for this house?” she says. “Did I tell you he paid cash for my BMW? He put it all in my name. He paid the 30-year mortgage on my other house, too, and now I rent it out.”

Jackson pulled out his checkbook Tuesday, borrowed a pen and handed his mother a check.

“Whoa!” she screamed. She kissed him on the face. She hugged him. “Lord Jesus. My baby!” she screamed. She kissed him again. Hugged him again, this time not letting go. “I won’t say thank you because that’s not enough,” she screamed. “Lord have mercy!”

“Don’t have a heart attack, Momma,” said Jackson’s sister, Carolyn Brown. “We’ve got a Super Bowl to go to on Sunday.”

Lawson wouldn’t reveal the check’s amount beyond saying she has never seen so much money in her life.

“And believe me,” she said, “he’s given me a lot of money before.”

Jackson earned an $838,000 incentive when the 49ers won the NFC Championship. He told his mother he was playing for $38,000, so she wouldn’t worry while watching the game. But the television announcers gave away his secret. She said she was so nervous she wanted to turn the television off.

They have always been close, mother and son. When she dropped him off at the airport, to go to the University of Pittsburgh, they both cried. Jackson was so homesick he ran up $500 in phone bills, calling his mother collect after midnight. But Jackson found a friend in Pittsburgh — quarterback Dan Marino.

He would often visit the home of Marino’s grandmother to eat “the best pasta in the world.” Jackson and Marino remain close, Jackson’s mother whispering that Marino is “a family friend” who has “showered in our house.” She has pictures of him. Jackson once took Marino to a Rick James concert, a vision that amuses him still. Marino visits Pahokee High annually as a favor, to do football camps and raise money for the school.

“I used to wear a towel on my uniform during games that said ‘Pahokee’ on it, but the NFL wouldn’t let me do that anymore,” Jackson said. “I’m going to wear that towel for the Super Bowl, though. They can fine me the $2,500. This week, no problem.”

His mother interrupted, saying maybe Rickey shouldn’t break the rules.

“Boy — that’s a lot of money,” she scolded.

Then she looked at her check.

“Never mind,” she said. “I can’t say nothing.”

Jackson excused himself after a two-hour visit, said he would be back later. He was going into West Palm Beach to see his attorney, then back to Belle Glade to eat his favorite meal: goat and rice.

“You can’t get that in San Francisco,” he said. “They’ve got everything but goat and rice.”

Sometimes a man grows up and gets too big.

Sometimes a man grows up and stays the same size.

PAIGE:
The Denver Post
January 27, 1995 Friday 2D EDITION
Action Jackson the Prince of Pahokee
BYLINE: Woody Paige
SECTION: SPORTS; Pg. D-01
LENGTH: 788 words

PAHOKEE, Fla. – There are two signs on the front door at Harold’s Bait Shop.
FRESH WORMS!
GO RICKEY J AND THE 49ERS!!

In Pahokee, sushi is what you put on the end of a pole to catch real fish, and San Francisco is on another planet.

But Rickey J – the J is for Jackson – stopped by this week. He is back in the neighborhood for the Super Bowl.

“Rickey J is living the dream for all of us,” says Harold of the bait shop, who has been out gathering fresh worms.

Jackson, a starter on defense for the San Francisco 49ers, earned an $ 838,000 bonus for winning the NFC championship.

“I am doubting I’ll make that much in my lifetime,” Harold says.

Pahokee, Fla., is a sluggish sugar-cane town two hours northwest of Miami and hard by Lake Okeechobee, on coarse and swampy black land that once belonged to the Seminoles. Ponce de Leon never looked here for the Fountain of Youth. But the University of Pittsburgh looked here and found young Rickey Jackson, who was as raw and sweet as the cane.

Now two months from turning 37, Jackson languished 13 years in New Orleans and “was beginning to figure I’d never get a Super Bowl ring. Then we got free agency.”

Before the 1994 season, Jackson joined the player migration to the 49ers and signed a one-year contract for the minimum salary – $ 162,000 – with one proviso. If San Francisco played in the Super Bowl, Jackson would get a million bucks. “I told my mother I was playing against Dallas for $ 38,000. I didn’t want her to worry.” She learned that there was an “8” in front of the number when it was mentioned on TV during the NFC title game.

“I didn’t worry about the money,” Jackson says. “The other players were thinking about it more than me. I heard (tackle) Harris Barton talk about it all year long. ‘Man, we have got to get you your money.’ The offensive line was saying ‘We’ve got to get to this Super Bowl for Rickey Jackson.’ I knew that this team had a good chance. If we made it, I would be rewarded. If we didn’t, I knew that I gave it a good shot.”

With a rare free afternoon, Jackson showed up at the neat and clean cinder-block house in Pahokee to see his mother, Lelia Pearl Lawson, and write her a check. “It’s the most money I’ve ever seen,” said the school bus driver. Jackson also handed out 30 Super Bowl tickets to his relatives and only requested: “I’d like to eat some goat and rice. You don’t get that in San Francisco.”

The veteran of football wars will return here on Feb. 18 for a parade in his honor and hopes to bring back a Super Bowl ring. “I’m going to find a spot in Pahokee where all the kids can see it. Maybe down at the bank. Just to let the kids know they have an opportunity to leave Pahokee and be a star.”

Most of the kids will end up at the sugar mill or being sentenced to work outside or inside the bars at the state prison on the town’s extremity.

While teammates flash their earrings and diamonds, Jackson wears a gold medallion inscribed with: “Pahokee, Fla., 33476.”

“People always want to know what it means. It means home,” Jackson said.

Sunday he intends to hang a towel from his uniform that promotes Pahokee. “They’ll fine me the $ 2,500, but it will be worth it.”

Especially after he already has picked up what probably was the biggest one-day check in the history of professional football.

“I felt like New Orleans was rebuilding this year, and I was too old for that. I didn’t have a lot of time left for rebuilding. I knew San Francisco could go to the Super Bowl, and that was all that mattered. Money wasn’t an issue.”

Jackson, a linebacker throughout his career, was signed as a designated pass rusher, but when end Richard Dent was injured, he moved in as a starter. Against the Broncos he had a sack and forced a fumble, and, in the Dallas game, he was relentless. “I thought it might be my last chance to go to the Super Bowl.”

Across the line Sunday will be San Diego tackle Stan Brock, the former University of Colorado lineman who played with Jackson in New Orleans for 12 years. The two friends went to dinner this week, then wished each other good luck. “We were kind of laughing that both of us wondered if we would ever get to the Super Bowl, and here we are, playing against each other.”

No matter the result Sunday, Jackson understands that his football career is almost over. “My policy has always been to pick out somebody with a head and try to knock it off. But it’s getting harder.” He eventually plans to return to Pahokee and build his own house and do some fishing.

Which would be just fine for Harold.

“Rickey J gets all the free worms he wants,” Harold says. “Iffen he wins the Super Bowl.”

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