Fox makes good on prank

Fox Sports reversed field and did the right thing Wednesday, promising to give Greg “Catman” Good a free truck after he was duped by an on-air prank gone wrong two weeks ago.

“I’m grinning from ear to ear,” Good said Wednesday night. “Because this time it’s for real.”

Fox Sports Chairman and CEO David Hill called me Wednesday with the good news. Hill was a stand-up guy about it. He criticized the Fox crew that pulled the practical joke for “an appalling piece of misjudgment.” Hill plans to fly here personally from Los Angeles to give Good the keys to a Ford F-150 pickup truck.

“I’m coming to Charlotte Friday to apologize to Mr. Good for a joke that went terribly, terribly wrong,” Hill said.

And to provide a Good ending to a bizarre story.

Only one day earlier, Fox Sports had issued a lame apology to Good for “any misunderstanding” that could have occurred. That was going to be it.

Now – after our story Wednesday detailing the incident and a barrage of e-mails blasting the network that you fine readers sent everywhere you could think of – Fox Sports has had a change of heart.

The network will send a driver to pick up Good, 49, at his job counseling troubled kids Friday afternoon in Winston-Salem. The driver will then take Good to a Charlotte-area car dealership, where Hill will present him with his new truck.

“I’m so surprised and so happy,” Good said. “I thought all I was going to get was an apology.”

Hill said there would be “internal discipline” at Fox Sports due to the fake car giveaway but that no one at Fox would be left “hanging from the gallows.” He indicated none of the announcers involved would be taken off the air for any period of time and that the incident would likely not be mentioned on Fox’s telecast of the Panthers-Atlanta Falcons game Sunday.

“I take the reputation of Fox Sports very seriously,” Hill said, “and I don’t want it to be sullied. Once I heard about The Charlotte Observer story, I believed something needed to be done quickly and unilaterally.”

To review: Good is the Panthers’ most famous fan and also one of its biggest at 6-foot-4 and 340 pounds. He wears an electric blue wig and a black-and-blue cape and bills himself as “Catman.” He has manned his front-row end zone seat in Section 104 for every home game at Bank of America Stadium.
On Aug.24, toward the end of the Panthers-Miami Dolphins preseason game in Charlotte, the Fox national TV crew of play-by-play man Dick Stockton, analyst Daryl Johnston, sideline reporter Tony Siragusa and producer Bob Stenner were instrumental in pulling a bad joke on Good.

With 2:37 left in the third quarter of the meaningless exhibition, Johnston started promoting a supposed giveaway of a new car.
Said Johnston: “Now all you fans out there, you might be thinking, well, the starting units are out, we might change the channel…. We’re going to do something special to try and keep you here tonight. We’re giving a car away tonight.”

With 1:56 left in the fourth quarter, Stockton, Johnson and Siragusa all started talking about the supposed giveaway. Siragusa ended up in front of Good, who was in full “Catman” regalia.

Said Siragusa: “The car is coming in right now. Here it comes. Beautiful. It’s white. It’s a Porsche.”

Then Siragusa gave a small toy car to Good.
Good, believing it was simply a model of what he would eventually receive, acted happy for the camera.
After I wrote a story about this incident for Wednesday’s Observer, I was bombarded by close to 1,000 e-mails and phone calls in eight hours. There were hundreds of wonderful offers to help. Thanks to all of you kind folks.

People wanted to start fundraisers, send Good money or, most often, buy one of his bobblehead dolls

A respected Charlotte attorney offered to represent Good for free. There were at least two other legitimate leads on free cars for Good if Fox Sports didn’t come through.

But the network did. Give it credit. Hill saw the mistake, understood its gravity and rectified it.

After Hill called me, I got to telephone Good and break the news Wednesday. That was sweet.

So Good gets to retire his 1991 Chevrolet Astro van, the one with 130,000 miles. Things  turned out all right.

“This is all going to help make for a really loud stadium Sunday,” Good said. “I know for sure that Section 104 is going to take out all its frustration – and now all its happiness – on the Atlanta Falcons.”