There’s a certain irony in beginning the Gobshite of the Year Award with a note of caution about choosing your words with care. A Gobshite – as originally cited by the Irish playwright, Hugh Leonard – is often harmless but always hopeless. Our first nominee, WISH-TV, is certainly hopeless but, regrettably, far from harmless.
The American television station theatrically ended its 30-year association with commentator and former racer, Derek Daly, because of a story told by someone else. Bob Lamey, a veteran radio reporter from the Indianapolis area, quoted Daly as using a racial slur during an interview at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway more than 35 years before.
(When he was a rookie at Indy in 1983, Daly had once used the word as part of a traditional European phrase, but in complete ignorance over its connotation in the United States. Once enlightened, the Irishman apologised immediately and never used the expression again.)
In any case, Daly pointed out he had never been interviewed by Lamey who, subsequently, admitted that he had got his stories confused and mistakenly attributed this one to Daly. WISH-TV chose not to respond to requests by motor sport websites for a comment on either the inaccuracy of their reportage or the self-righteous knee-jerk reaction.
Daly started 2019 by filing an on-going $25 million lawsuit against the Indianapolis broadcaster for causing irreparable damage to his reputation and career. After 30 years with WISH-TV as a respected Indycar analyst, Daly found many of his engagements as a motivational speaker cancelled. The racing programme for his son, Conor Daly, suffered a crucial loss of sponsorship as Lilly Diabetes withdrew their support immediately. (Conor had been born eight years after the alleged offence.)
The point of repeating this story is not simply to highlight the corrosive effective of virtue signalling without either checking the facts or taking the golden opportunity to place them in historic social perspective. WISH-TV’s moral posturing goes far beyond the gentle scope of the Gobshite Award but there is an amusing repercussion, courtesy of the Irish Independent newspaper.
Keen to report on the shocking treatment of the most successful racing driver from the Republic of Ireland (as opposed to John Watson territory in Northern Ireland), the Dublin-based daily journal highlighted the significance of Daly being publicly supported by Willy T. Ribbs, the first African/American to qualify for the Indy 500. Daly and Ribbs had been friends for decades, Daly having attended Ribbs’ wedding in Las Vegas a few weeks before WISH-TV climbed on their high horse.
The Irish Independent’s writer, however, was clearly unfamiliar with the black racer. Willy T was referred to throughout the story as ‘Willy Tribbs’, as in: ‘…Daly and Tribbs have been close for over 40 years and Tribbs commented: “Derek’s a great father, great human being and a great friend.”’
It was an unfortunate error in a piece focussed on the perils of mistaken identity. And not quite good enough to claim the Gobshite Award.
The winner – a surprising new entry for 2019 – will be revealed in all their muddled glory tomorrow.