AN IRREVERENT LOOK AT ALL THINGS SAID, CONSIDERED, TWEETED, POSTED, PHOTOGRAPHED, PLAYED AND OTHERWISE GONE AMUCK IN COLLEGE SPORTS

This is a first in my 35-plus years as a journalist–a “For the Record” issued by a restaurant.

Calhoun’s is a top-drawer eatery in Knoxville, home of the Tennessee Volunteers, and a must-stop for visiting reporters on a big city expense account. Calhoun’s is known for its smoky, drippy barbecue ribs and catfish that tastes like it jumped off the hook onto your plate.

I never dreamed the proprietor would get hooked. Last Saturday, however, the eatery had to post a semi-retraction to a news story it “broke,” a report suggesting Jon Gruden was sighted at the restaurant with Peyton Manning. This would be huge news given Tennessee is looking for a new coach and Gruden would be on any Rocky Top list to replace him.

Granted, this is not like Wolfgang Puck’s in Los Angeles scooping the L.A. Times on the Dodgers’ new manager.  Knoxville is a small\big college town, with a huge stake in Tennessee athletics, so it doesn’t take long for news to get from the hostess stand to your computer screen. But, as any journalist knows, you have to get the story right or go through the painful process of saying you’re sorry.

The Washington Post once had to retract a (phony) Pulitzer Prize winning series authored by Janet Cook.

Hey, look, her name was “Cook.” No wonder she got it wrong.  Here’s a snippet of Calhoun’s mea culpa statement from last Saturday: “Tonight we received word from our management team that Jon Gruden was dining at our restaurant with Peyton Manning. We got excited. We posted something about it. Afterwards, a staff member notified us that they weren’t so sure it was him. This is all we know at this moment. We apologize for the misunderstanding.”

So how wrong was this? An ESPN upper-management type issued his own tweet saying Gruden, in fact, was in Seattle on Saturday preparing for the Monday Night Football Broadcast.

Maybe it was just Petyon Manning goofing on everybody by dining with a Gruden impersonator.

When it comes to journalism, though, restaurants need to stay in their drive-thru lanes. “Who, what, when, where and why” is our version of “the customer is always right.” Getting a story wrong in our business is like a restaurant getting a visit from the health department to investigate vermin infestation.

How about we make this deal, Calhoun’s: you make sure my beer is cold and my steak is warm, and not the other way around, and we’ll take care of the coaching searches?

There’s enough craziness in this world, so I don’t need these kind of headlines:

“Home Depot Reports Breakthrough in Middle East Peace Talks.”

“New Burger King Study on Climate Notes Slight Fluorocarbon Change.”

Jiffy Lube says ‘unhappy’ Justin Verlander Seeks New Deal to Stay in Houston.”

“ESPN Confirms Verlander Looking For a New Deal and an Oil Change.”

Do we have a deal, Calhoun’s? Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to see the dessert menu. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.