A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from June 28, 2012
“The sports page records people’s accomplishments and the front page has nothing but man’s failures”

Many people read the sports section of a newspaper first, even before the front page. One famous person who did this was Earl Warren (1891-1974), the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. In October 1967, Warren explained, “The front page advertises man’s failures; the sports pages report men’s achievements.” In July 1968, Warren said, “They say the sports page records people’s accomplishments and the front page has nothing but man’s failures.”

Warren might have been paraphrasing from Yale University professor William Lyon Phelps (1865-1943), who wrote in his Autobiography (1939):

“Yet the fact that the majority of men turn first of all to the sporting page of the newspaper can be accounted for on the ground that the first page is usually a record of failures—failures in business, failures in the art of living together, failures in citizenship, in character, and many other things; whereas the sporting page is a record of victories. It contains some good news, a commodity so rarely found on the first page.”

[This entry was prepared with research assistance from the Quote Investigator.]


Wikiquote: Earl Warren
Earl Warren (19 March 1891 – 9 July 1974) was the 30th Governor of California (1943–1953) and 14th Chief Justice of the United States (1953-1969).

Sourced
I always turn to the sports section first. The sports section records people’s accomplishments; the front page nothing but man’s failures.
. As quoted in Sports Illustrated (22 July 1968)
. Variants:
. I always turn to the sports page first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.
.. As quoted in Best Sports Stories: 1975 (1976) by Irving T. Marsh
. I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.
.. As quoted in The Norton Book of Sports (1992) by George Plimpton, p. 470

Wikipedia: William L. Phelps
William Lyon Phelps (January 2, 1865 New Haven, Connecticut - August 21, 1943 New Haven, Connecticut) was an American author, critic and scholar. He taught the first American university course on the modern novel. He was a well-known speaker who drew large crowds. He had a radio show, wrote a daily syndicated newspaper column, lectured frequently, and published numerous popular books and articles.

Google Books
November 1922, Scribner’s Magazine, “As I Like It” by William Lyon Phelps, pg. 628:
Is not this the true reason why so many of the intelligentsia, on opening the morning paper turn first of all to the sporting page? I remember once, during the war, while travelling on a train, a newsboy brought in the papers, which were eagerly bought. Sitting near me was a clergyman in clerical dress, who opened his paper feverishly, and turned instantly to the sporting page, without looking to see what had happened in France. Perhaps this habit, which is more common than some may think, needs no apology. The front page is covered with failures-failures of capitalists and laborers to avert disastrous strikes, failures of statesmen to bring peace to the world, failures in Ireland, failures of stock-brokers, failures of theatre-managers, failures of husbands, and wives in the art of living together. All of these groups of people should be experts, and their pathetic failures are daily and depressingly recorded. How different is the sporting page, where we read of the glorious triumphs of Ty Cobb, Sarazen, Sweetser, Tilden, and Johnston! The sporting page is the Daily Hope. It advertises success rather than failure.

Google Books
October 1932, The Rotarian, pg. 18:
Touchdown!
By Fielding H. Yost
Director of Athletics, University of Michigan
(...)
WE hear criticism of the emphasis given sports by the newspapers. We hear slighting criticism of the man who buys and reads the newspaper for its sports section alone. We hear criticism of the “over-emphasis” placed on football. This criticism never disturbs me, for I believe that if there are enough men, in the welter and turmoil of the modern world, who find time to interest themselves in clean, virile sport, we can point to these men as unfailing signs of an ultimate salvation for us all. I would far rather have America be called a nation of sports enthusiasts than (Pg. 19—ed.) a nation of money-grabbers. I would far rather have my boy study the sports section than the stock-market pages, or, for that matter, the lurid first-page stories of the world’s woes and sordid scandals.

Google Books
Autobiography:
with letters

By William Lyon Phelps
Oxford: Oxford University Press
1939
Pg. 356:
The love of most men for sport and their absorbing interest in it cannot perhaps be defended rationally; it is an instinct going deeper than reason. Men like W.H. Hudson, Bernard Shaw, and others to whom sport was abhorrent, were without “sporting blood.” Yet the fact that the majority of men turn first of all to the sporting page of the newspaper can be accounted for on the ground that the first page is usually a record of failures—failures in business, failures in the art of living together, failures in citizenship, in character, and many other things; whereas the sporting page is a record of victories. It contains some good news, a commodity so rarely found on the first page.

Google Books
Bury Me in an Old Press Box:
Good Times and Life of a Sportswriter

By Fred Russell
New York, NY: A. S. Barnes and Company
1957
Pg. VIII:
But I believe that most people who turn to the sports page first do so because there is so little fun anywhere else in the paper. The “funnies” are not even called that anymore, and the term “comic strip” is a gross misnomer for all but a few. As for the front page, it seems eternally permeated with the perils of our position in the Middle East, arguments among politicians, automobile wrecks and bad weather.

Google News Archive
7 October 1967, St. Petersburg (FL) Times, “Warren: Dedicated Baseball Man” by Drew Pearson, pg. 7A, col. 1:
WASHINGTON—For the first time in 14 years, Washington’s No. 1 baseball fan is not able to watch the entire World Series. He is tied up on the Supreme Court.
(...)
Most people connect Earl Warren with school desegregation or complicated legal decisions. But he has a secret sideline—sports. He reads the sport pages in the morning before he reads the front page headlines because, he says, “The front page advertises man’s failures; the sports pages report men’s achievements.”

9 July 1968, Omaha (NE) World-Herald, Sports Section, pg. 13, col. 1:
Chief Justice Earl Warren Reads Sports Section First
By Jerome Holtzman
Chicago Sun-Times Service.
Earl Warren, the retiring Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, revealed that he is an inveterate sports page reader.

“I suppose I’m like every one else—I always turn to the sports section first,” he said.

Chief Justice Warren then added: “You know what they say. They say the sports page records people’s accomplishments and the front page has nothing but man’s failures.”

Sports Illustrated
July 22, 1968
They Said It
Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the U.S.: “I always turn to the sports section first. The sports page records people’s accomplishments; the front page has nothing but man’s failures.”

Sports Illustrated
August 26, 1968
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
PRECEDENTED DECISION
Sirs:
I am a charter subscriber, and this is my first letter to one of my favorite and more enjoyable magazines. In “They Said It” (SCORECARD, July 22) you attribute to Chief Justice Earl Warren: “I always turn to the sports section first. The sports page records man’s accomplishments; the front page has nothing but man’s failures.” I read the quote many years ago—and at that time it belonged to the late William Lyon Phelps, professor of English literature at Yale.
WILLIAM M. CLINES
Los Angeles

Professor Phelps, a sports enthusiast, tennis player, golfer, baseball fan and a distance runner in his college days, phrased the same thought somewhat less succinctly in his Autobiography with Letters: “The love of most men for sport and their absorbing interest in it cannot perhaps be defended rationally; it is an instinct going deeper than reason.... The fact that the majority of men turn first of all to the sporting page of the newspaper can be accounted for on the ground that the first page is usually a record of failures—failures in business, failures in the art of living together, failures in citizenship, in character, and many other things; whereas the sporting page is a record of victories. It contains some good news, a commodity so rarely found on the first page."—ED.

Google Books
San Diego magazine
Volume 23
1971
Pg. 10:
Teddy Roosevelt’s line about looking at the sports page first because it listed man’s accomplishments and the front page last because it recorded man’s failures would have to be amended.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMedia/Newspapers/Magazines/Internet • (0) Comments • Thursday, June 28, 2012 • Permalink