As the hardworking staff noted some years ago, the legendary Clark Booth – who died yesterday at the age of 79 – was the first journalist to expose the devastating effects of injuries sustained by professional football players.
Thirty-six years ago, Clark Booth, a young Boston journalist, went to Miami to cover Super Bowl X. Though primarily a television newsman, Booth was on assignment for The Real Paper, an alternative weekly long since closed, for which he often wrote. His plan was to interview the players about the potential consequences of the injuries they suffered playing football . . .
[N]o one had ever written an article like that before Clark Booth went to Miami. I remember being thunderstruck reading it. D.D. Lewis of the Dallas Cowboys talked about having nightmares and his fear of breaking his neck. Lee Roy Jordan, a veteran Cowboys linebacker, was asked by Booth why he kept playing with a sciatic nerve condition.
“By the time I’m 55, I feel they’ll have learned enough to medically treat me,” he said. “If they can’t, I can accept that.”
Nocera tracked Booth down in Florida, where he talked about his reporting at that game. “I felt like I had opened a door that nobody had tapped before,” Booth told Nocera. “I was amazed at what they were telling me.”
Here’s something that’s also amazing: Booth had a scoop that essentially no sportswriter wanted.
“Other reporters who overheard Booth’s interviews were also amazed,” Nocera wrote. “But Booth never had to worry about being scooped. Sportswriters back then just didn’t write about subjects like whether concussions led to dementia. ‘They were fascinated,’ said Booth, ‘but they had no use for the material.’”
It’s entirely unsurprising that Clark Booth, a reporter’s reporter, did have use for it.