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Scott Ostler

This Columnist Would Be a Super Addition to Ranks

June 19, 1986

There are a lot of newspaper columnists I admire. Jim Murray, Chicago's Mike Royko, superstars like that. The Pope and John McEnroe have also tried their hands at column writing, and those are two guys I admire for their chutzpah .

But now there is a columnist I can look up to as a real role model:

Superman.

Or, more accurately, Clark Kent.

The man of steel, star of comic books since 1938, has been revised, starting in the issue out this week.

The new Superman will have his super powers somewhat reduced. And Clark Kent, formerly a mild-mannered reporter, will be neither. He has been promoted from reporter to columnist, and his wimpy attitude has given way to a more aggressive, assertive personality.

His promotion makes sense. As a reporter, Clark Kent probably had to spend a lot of time on routine newspaper work, like checking facts. As a columnist, he can knock out his daily yarn in 20 minutes or so, then slip into his tights and spend the rest of the day leaping tall buildings at a single bound and outwitting Lex Luthor.

I'm not sure what type of columnist the new Clark Kent is, but I have to assume he'll have a sports column. What better way to fight a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way than to write a sports column? That's basically why all sports columnists chose this line of work.

I can't wait to see how Clark handles many of the common problems of a columnist.

Like athletes, for instance. They can be tough. Some resort to threats and intimidation when criticized or cornered.

Maybe we'll see this baseball clubhouse scene:

Athlete: "Hey Clark Kent, Mr. Poison Pen! If I see one more cheap shot from you in that Daily Planet fish wrap, I'm gonna kick your (bleep)."

Kent: "Gotcha, big guy."

Kent (thinking to himself): "He won't be kicking anyone's anything for a while. While he was hollering at me, I secretly used my X-ray vision to fuse his spikes to the floor of the clubhouse. He'll need a jackhammer to get free."

Athlete: "Hey, what the . . . !"

Or maybe Clark could casually pick up a baseball bat, grab it at both ends and snap it in half like a stalk of celery, saying, "Gee, they sure don't make 'em like they used to."

Athletes like to challenge sportswriters. Last year, Eric Dickerson got off to a slow start, and on several occasions he offered to let writers suit up and try carrying the ball through 11 goons if they thought it was so easy.

I wish Clark had been there to say, "You know, Mr. Dickerson, you make a good point. Running through the line with the football probably is much harder than it looks. But I'd be willing to give it a try at the team workout today. Uniform? Naaa, I'll just wear my suit and tie, thanks."

There are all kinds of ways Clark can use his super powers. His super hearing will be great for eavesdropping on private conversations and telephone calls. This guy is going to get himself some scoops. And his X-ray vision will be handy for giving anonymous hot-foots to rude interview subjects.

Clark will have to deal with some thorny problems. He'll have to out-think his fellow writers when they ask him things like:

"Say, Kent, if your flight left Metropolis five hours after ours, how did you beat us to New York? And how did that pigeon get tangled in your cowlick?"

"How come the airlines never seem to lose your luggage, Clark?"

"Wow, where did you learn to type 850 words a minute?"

"How is it you're handsome, impeccably groomed and have a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger's, and you still can't get a date with Lois Lane?"

Clark will also have to cope with life on the road.

Kent: "Hello, is this the hotel laundry service? Room 429 here. Listen, on this red cape, I clearly specified no starch. Ever try to pack a six-foot cape that won't bend, pal? And when I order my blue shirt cleaned and pressed, I expect your so-called expert cleaners to hammer out the bullet dents."

I can't wait to get the first issue of the new "Superman." With Clark Kent as our role model, I think you're going to see a new attitude among sports columnists. No more Mr. Nice Guys and Gals.

Oh, we'll be polite and reserved and all that, on the surface. But don't mess with us.

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