By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Holly Mullen's story "Losing by decision" [February 20] contained factual errors that need correcting.
First, Mullen reports "a few girls were allowed to wrestle at state, but their matches were exhibition only." That's incorrect. The Texas Interscholastic Girls Wrestling Association (TIGWA) held its first state championship matches with 17 girls participating. The results were reported in The Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and other newspapers.
Second, Mullen reports that "...Texas continues to stand against female wrestling." Again, that's incorrect. In countless interviews with the media and in my interview with Mullen, I made it clear that we do not oppose female wrestling. We're against female vs. male wrestling. No one that I know in the Texas Interscholastic Wrestling Association, the Texas Wrestling Officials Association, or any other organization opposes female competition.
Third, Mullen reports that "On December 10, the referees who make up the TWOA finally gave up altogether on the coed question. They had walked out on previous matches. They had raised the 'groping' issue dozens of times." Again, that's inaccurate reporting.
Prior to December 10, no official had walked out on a match (referees walking out happened only one time all season, Dec. 14 at St. Mark's School). Also, no official had spoken to the press prior to December 10 except for me, and I did not raise the groping issue. I have the clips to prove it.
Fourth, Mullen--referring to the formation of the TIGWA-- reported that "Tom Harrison, a longtime Arlington wrestling booster, appointed himself executive director." Once more, inaccurate reporting. I know. I was there. Harrison was nominated by others present and accepted the nomination.
Fifth, Mullen reports that I've "blustered and ranted" on the topic of "inappropriate groping and contact" for months. Again, she's wrong. What I've ranted about for months is being sued for discrimination while I'm an unpaid volunteer giving up hundreds of hours of my personal time and donating tens of thousands of dollars toward college scholarships for deserving student-athletes.
I've done over 50 media interviews, and I've mentioned the sexual harassment issue on six occasions. I can produce news clips to back this up. The caution I've raised far more often is potential injuries to girls who wrestle boys. I've repeatedly warned about serious shoulder, neck, and elbow injuries.
Also, she describes me as "stocky" and a person who "runs his own public relations business." Both are untrue. I'm not at all stocky, and, as I told her in our interview, I run an advertising agency.
Mullen should also have referred to a story that came out on the news wire on February 7 regarding a proposal to allow inter-gender sports in Texas public schools that was "floored by a skeptical State Board of Education."
Board chairman Jack Christie called the idea "dangerous." Board member Donna Ballard of The Woodlands said, "I will be adamantly opposed to it." Are these two also part of the "good ol' boys" that Mullen repeatedly refers to? Why was this article not mentioned in her story?
It should be noted that had Courtney Barnett not seriously injured her elbow wrestling in a meaningless junior varsity exhibition match against a male teammate (with non-certified, inexperienced officials present), she would have competed in the first girls' state wrestling tournament and would likely have won the championship in her weight class.
That's the irony of the whole story. My question is: Why did that escape the reporter's attention? Was it because her entire story would have collapsed under its own weight of misstatement and sanctimony?
Finally, we've won both court decisions against the plaintiffs in this case. If they continue to pursue the matter in court, we will continue to win, just as I have repeatedly predicted in the press.
Texas Wrestling Officials Association
Staff writer Holly Mullen responds: Mr. Rizzuti's letter continues in the tone he set during our interview. Regarding his specific points, he is one-for-five in objecting to the story's accuracy.
First, Mr. Rizzuti apparently misread the story. It stated that girls who attended the state competition last year (at the close of the 1995-'96 season) were only allowed to wrestle in exhibition matches. This is confirmed in copies of minutes from Texas Interscholastic Wrestling Association meetings. Mr. Rizzuti refers to this year's tournament, where 17 girls wrestled in an all-female category.
Second, Mr. Rizzuti has chosen to hide behind a semantical dodge. In the paragraph he refers to--and in the context of the entire story--it is clear that the term "female wrestling" refers to male-female matches. As Mr. Rizzuti states, he and his fellow referees are decidedly "against female vs. male wrestling."
Third, it is simply true that referees, TIWA representatives, and many parents have raised the 'groping' issue dozens of times. They have also cited fears of girls claiming sexual harassment and inappropriate touching. If I missed the date of the officials' walkout at St. Mark's School by four days, I apologize for the error. But the overall point of my story remains correct.
Fourth, I have learned that Mr. Harrison was nominated as association director by others present for an early meeting of the Texas Interscholastic Girls Wrestling Association. I stand corrected.
Fifth, Mr. Rizzuti has often held forth on the topic of inappropriate touching for months, and several newspaper clips bear this out. Nowhere does my story disparage Mr. Rizzuti's commitment to high school wrestling.
Yes, Courtney Barnett injured her elbow in a junior varsity match--rendered "meaningless" to Mr. Rizzuti, I assume, because his association was not there to officiate it. He makes a leap of logic and concludes that Barnett was injured because she wrestled a boy. But as I pointed out in the story, numerous boys were also nursing injuries going into regional and state competition. It's a rough sport. Had Barnett been allowed to wrestle an opponent equal in weight, it is possible she would have escaped injury altogether.
Finally, "stocky" is not generally considered--and was not meant as--a pejorative. During our discussion, Mr. Rizzuti identified his business as an "advertising and public relations agency."
Wrestling with progress
It came as no great shock to learn that it was "the good ol' boys" who are battling to prevent Courtney Barnett and other girls from being able to participate in high school sports ["Losing by decision," February 20].
If these "good ol' boys" had their way, we would still be a slave state with rigid segregation and with no woman allowed to vote. They would also have daily prayer and Bible study in public schools. This type of mentality resists any and all changes. It surprises me that they are riding in vehicles and not perched atop camels.
Thomas Korosec's recent article on Cheyenne Turner and the "Eclectic Viewpoint," was a case of such amateur journalism that it is likely to have a negative effect on prospective attendees ["They came from Plano," February 13].
Skepticism is always healthy, but the use of exaggeration--and a deliberate tendency to distort the facts--makes this one of the most pitiful attempts at journalism I have ever encountered.
To begin with, Korosec's assertion that this is the "wackiest" lecture group in Dallas immediately creates negative connotations. In light of Turner's advice to listen to her guests' information objectively, taking or rejecting it on the basis of personal beliefs, these connotations are unfounded.
Having personally attended Turner's lectures for two years, I have never noticed a "slightly higher-than-average number of white beards." In fact, the crowds who attend these lectures consist of all ages and backgrounds. This is an example of the way in which Korosec twists the facts in order to set his own agenda.
While Korosec gleefully lists the topics covered by recent speaker Stan Deyo--such as the Face on Mars--he neglects to mention that Deyo was in fact arguing against the case for an artifact on the planet's surface, as was the case with his theories on Hale-Bopp and (surprisingly enough) on cattle mutilations, all of which he claims have rational, earthbound explanations. Korosec conveniently forgot to mention this rational and scientific approach because it would detract from his moronic attempts to sneer at metaphysics and at theories beyond the paradigms of conventional science.
There is very little about Deyo that is "science fiction performance art," whatever that may be, and though some of his material is questionable, it in no way justifies the criticism which Korosec imparts. Most insulting of all, though, is Korosec's horrific attempts at humor. He just couldn't resist the opportunity to exploit an already tired form of comedy which relies on mocking ufology (done with much more class and humor by virtually anyone other than the aforementioned journalist.)
When his humor fails to strike a chord, Korosec's article becomes nothing more than smug, arrogant pulp. Attending a single lecture is hardly the best way to prepare a comprehensive, objective study of an organization, and while Korosec mentions the likes of Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock, he neglects to mention that they now work together, collaborating with John Anthony West to further new interpretations of Ancient Egyptian society. My advice to the editor: Give Korosec a lighter load, as he is obviously having trouble in trying to masquerade as a real journalist.
Bully to you
Thanks for a most in-depth article regarding the Dallas school board meeting ["Bully power," January 30]. I've often thought what you experienced was what really went on. The Observer "told it like it is," evidently.
Your article was in the fine tradition of Laura Miller--that's my highest praise.