Kicking Up a Fuss

In today’s Wall Street Journal, reporter Yochi J. Dreazen reports on a turf war between two adult-kickball leagues in Washington, D.C.: the World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA) and upstart DCKickball. DCKickball founder Carter Rabasa, Dreazen writes, “initially had nothing but warm feelings for WAKA.”

Speaking of encroaching on other people’s turf: On May 13, Washington City Paper sports columnist Dave McKenna wrote, “Rabasa once harbored nothing but warm feelings about WAKA.”

McKenna’s 2,100-word column broke the news of the kickball war, detailing the growth of WAKA into a multi-state giant, noting how it had quietly dropped its original nonprofit status, and describing how Rabasa had left the group to launch a rival, nonprofit league this year.

Dreazen’s piece, in the Journal‘s coveted A-hed feature slot, tells the same story, including an account of dueling kickball-site URLs (though the Journal euphemized “wakasucks.com” to “a profane Web address including WAKA’s name”). Nowhere in its 1,300 words does it mention McKenna’s earlier coverage.

Dreazen, a Washington resident, said in a phone conversation that kickball-playing friends had alerted him to the interleague feud, and that he had not read McKenna’s City Paper piece in either the reporting or the writing of his story. WAKA had alerted him to the article’s existence, he said, but he had not read it.

(Dreazen called back a short while later to say that he had included a reference to McKenna’s column in one version of his story. “An earlier draft had put in the sentence, ‘WAKA told an alternative newspaper it was considering legal action against DCkickball.’…but that fell out in the editing process,” Dreazen said.)

[*Correction appended]

Asked about the City Paper piece, Dreazen said: “It wasn’t an attempt to not give credit. There certainly are similarities, and also vast differences in tone and length.”

McKenna had a different take.

“Thievery is the sincerest form of flattery,” he said. “I’m getting a lot of emails about this. So people read the Journal, is what I’ve learned. So I feel flattered,” he said, adding: “But in the end, it’s just about kickball.”

–Gabriel Sherman

* Correction: this post originally misidentified Journal senior special writer Matthew Rose, one of several editors on the front page, as the paper’s page-one editor; Rose was not involved in the production of the kickball article.