The power of the pen comes with certain responsibilities when you're writing about anything in a for-profit public forum — if you're known for forwarding agendas when objectivity is the aim, that's a problem. Prominent Minnesota football writer Larry Fitzgerald, Sr. has had to walk that line since his son became one of the NFL's best players in short order following his status as the third overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft. Since his son has been above reproach for the most part both on and off the field, it seems that the agendas of father and son haven't crossed in questionable fashion too often.
However, near the end of the Cardinals' 23-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last Saturday, the play that could have set up a tie or win set the younger Fitzgerald's father off. With 1:18 left in the game, quarterback John Skelton threw a pass in the vicinity of a wide-open Early Doucet, who promptly tripped up and fell down, missing the ball. The play was on a fourth-and-five from the Cincinnati 17, so that was basically the ballgame — the Cards got another series later, but couldn't get the ball in the end zone before time ran out.
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As a result, the elder Fitzgerald took to Twitter with this missive:
Doucet bombed this year he drops to many passes not a dependable No.2. Needs 2 work harder at his job. He dropped 5 TDs this year.
The tweet was soon deleted, but the damage had been done. It's understandable that the father's interest would overwhelm the journalist's, but how is it that Fitzgerald knew that Doucet doesn't work hard enough?
"I just know that Larry invited him to come and work out with him this summer and some guys take initiative and do it, some guys don't," the elder Fitzgerald told ESPN's Mike Sando on Monday. "But with the lockout, I thought he would have worked on it a little harder. That is me. People criticize me because they think I talk too much. That is just how I see it."
This should not be seen as an indictment of Fitzgerald the writer — even when the father and son crossed professional paths during the Cardinals' participation in Super Bowl XLIII, professionalism wasn't in question. It's just a tough balance for all involved, and that kind of criticism doesn't really serve anyone because of the specific circumstances involved — the elder Fitzgerald has to answer questions about his objectivity, the younger Fitzgerald will probably be hearing about it from the local media, and poor Early Doucet has to sit there and take it.
"I wasn't picking on him," Fitzgerald Sr. told Sando. "I track when he drops the ball in critical situations. They use Larry the way they are going to use him, so they know others are going to be singled [in coverage]. The Ravens game, he dropped one on the goal line. I remember other games. Now that they're out of the playoffs, I'm putting it out there."
But for what reason? Fitzgerald's situation is different that those of other prominent football dads like Archie Manning and Oliver Luck in that he's also got a specific job and a specific journalistic responsibility. Again, it's a delicate balance.
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