GREATEST MOMENTS IN PFT HISTORY: NO. 4

Well, you knew it was coming.  How could we ignore it?
Greatest Moment No. 4 in the history of ProFootballTalk.com wasn’t really all that great.  In fact, it kind of sucked.
It came on January 25, 2007.  On that day, we reported that Terry Bradshaw was dead. Actually, we didn’t report that he was dead.  We reported that he might be dead.  But that doesn’t matter to the Howard Eskins of the world who rely upon one instance of cranial flatulence as cause for disregarding anything and everything we say thereafter.
Here’s what happened.  We started receiving e-mails from a diverse collection of readers who had heard that Bradshaw had died in a car accident. Our error came in failing to contact FOX or anyone else who would have been in a position to know whether Bradshaw was in fact alive or not. We quickly learned that Bradshaw was still among the living.And so seven minutes after posting an item titled “Terry Bradshaw Dead?” we followed it with an article that began with the headline “Terry Is Fine.”
Because we never expunge one of our reports no matter how incorrect or embarrassing it might be, we left the original item on the site and followed it with an article setting forth the truth about Bradshaw’s condition.
As we posted several hours later, the rumors started via KTBS and KSLA in Shreveport.  “One theory as to how the rumor got started,” said an item posted at the time on KTBS, “was that a local radio station reported a wreck on the Terry Bradshaw Passway — part of the Inner Loop — and that was misunderstood to say Bradshaw had passed away.”  
So was there a rumor that Bradshaw had died?  Yes.
Was the rumor reported by multiple “real” media outlets in Louisiana?  Yes.
Should we have waited to confirm the situation before posting it?  Absolutely.
And thus it was one of the defining moments in our site not simply because it gives those predisposed to hating us an easy sound bite to justify attacks on our credibility, but because we learned a valuable lesson when it comes to matters of life and death.
When in doubt, we avoid the issue.  We applied that approach, for example, when rampant rumors were spreading through league and media circles that Pats linebacker Tedy Bruschi had died several months after the Bradshaw debacle.
In fact, we went too far the other way on Bruschi.  We simply ignored the situation completely.  The better approach would have been to contact the Patriots and ask whether the rumors were true.  Then we could have posted an item acknowledging the rumors, and providing an answer.
It’s what we should have done when rumors flew that Bradshaw had died, but without that incident we wouldn’t be nearly as responsible about such sensitive matters as we now are.
So how did Bradshaw himself find out that he was dead?  As legend has it, Bradshaw was contacted that day by a FOX colleague regarding the situation, while the Hall of Fame quarterback was golfing in Mexico.
“Terry, are you dead?” the caller asked.
“No, I ain’t dead,” Bradshaw replied.  “But my golf game sure is.”