If coaches and professional athletes are expected to be role models, John Robinson says, the people who write about them should be, too.
"We both have a responsibility," the Ram coach told more than 200 members of the California Society of Newspaper Editors in Irvine Saturday.
Robinson, who spent most of last season defending quarterback Dieter Brock, expressed alarm at what he perceives to be negative sportswriting and partly blamed newspapers for fueling a dangerous trend in fan misconduct.
"When we won our seventh game to go 7-0 last season, parts of seven columns (said) that Dieter Brock was lousy," Robinson said. "The next day he was named NFC offensive player of the week. At the end of the season, he had two awful football games that deserved criticism, but (by then) it had become the 'in' thing to do.
"I do believe that the people who cover my football team believe, 'I could write a better story if I found Eric Dickerson is vulnerable.' There is a belief that a person becomes a better story if he's seen as less of a role model.
"Particularly with the columnists, I'm becoming more concerned that I'm dealing with (those) in the entertainment business who are doing their things, and the people they write about are the foils.
"People (writers) I talk to who are young and aspiring see the way to have a rapid climb is to have an act. The only difference in your act and Don Rickles' act is that you confuse the reader. He believes you."
That belief, Robinson suggested, reinforces "the guy leaning over the rail screaming at me. We have all been spectators to sports in other countries when riots and other ugly things have happened. I promise you, we are not too far from that here."
Robinson also told the editors: "I believe it's hypocritical as hell for you to run odds on gambling and then say so-and-so is a gambler, and gambling is bad."
But his main concern was overcritical reporting. He cited no reporters or papers by name.
"You have a responsibility for good in our society that you need to exercise," Robinson told the editors. "There is no critical judgment of that person who offers critical judgment."
He said that when he was a young coach, "I took my lead from my boss.
"People should be treated with respect. Dieter Brock is a hated man in Orange County. The reader can no longer separate the quarterback from the man.
"We can create an environment that says: 'These people are human beings. They are doing the best job they can.' I believe we have a responsibility to create an environment where the guy leaning over the rail doesn't feel he has any backing."