May 23, 2008

Josh Beckett Won't Return My Phone Calls: Athletes don't trust reporters, reporters resent athletes, and readers don't know their heroes as they used to.

posted by justgary to culture at 12:00 AM - 15 comments

Not only was that article great, but the Jose Canseco article it links to is awesome.

posted by Joey Michaels at 03:47 AM on May 23, 2008

Canseco last seen hitting in a wantabe Sunday League at Arcadia, Ca, HS Josh Beckett last seen visiting Cancer Kids at Childrens Hospital in Boston. A Study in Contrasts. I've gotten so i just read the box scores anyway because it's not like I'm looking for investment advice from most of these guys.

posted by thatch at 08:13 AM on May 23, 2008

This is a great piece -- I need to get one of Pat Jordan's books -- but in two places I had to stratch my head and marvel at the self-celebratory notions in his head. First: "Oh, sure, some celebrity athletes make a feeble stab at letting their fans know them through their blogs (Schilling, Bonds). But those blogs are essentially self-aggrandizing and masturbatory. They reveal nothing genuine about the writer, as an objective magazine profile would." Only an author of magazine profiles would regard himself as more of an authority on a subject than the subject himself. There's no reason an athlete's blog couldn't be more genuine than the secondhand observations of journalists -- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's blog reveals him to be earnest and dorky in ways that I've never seen elsewhere, for instance ("I hope you will join me so we can continue sharing."). Second: "Why should Deion waste his time talking to someone like me, who might write an embarrassing story based on my perceptions of him? TV cameras didn't have perceptions, only images, which Deion could control." Nobody fed to the TV god has control of their image, any more than they did when dealing with ink-stained wretches like Jordan. As an aside, this piece reminded me of what it was like when comic book artists started to act like celebrities. To interview Todd McFarlane for a Wizard cover story in the '90s, I had to get through his entourage. Now that he's known as much for his toy millions and sports-memorabilia buys, it's gotta be 100 times worse.

posted by rcade at 09:46 AM on May 23, 2008

The media itself has created its own set of problems. Too many print journalists and electronic media types seem to be more interested in doing a "gotcha" piece on an athlete than they are in giving their readers/viewers an honest protrait of the person. The majority of journalists are responsible enough, but the sensationalists poison the waters for them. I don't question why the successful athletes shy away from interviews. A young athlete on the way up might find an interview useful, but he (she) would be better served letting on-the-field skills do the talking. I will admit to having an anti-media bias (I almost lost a job because of a reporter who did not want to let the facts get in the way of a story), but I still read the newspapers and watch the tube (or LCD/plasma now). One thing that will turn me off is watching a reporter attempt to blow some insignificant thing into a scandal. There are some now whom I will not watch or read.

posted by Howard_T at 10:09 AM on May 23, 2008

Thanks, rcade: your first point was the one I wanted to make. The bit I would add is, as much as I like Pat Jordan's work, his recent pieces on the 'net "are essentially self-aggrandizing and masturbatory". This piece is ostensibly about some sea change in athletes' attitude toward the media, but it's really about how athletes now make zillions and sportswriters don't and therefore athletes are assholes. Sports writers have gone from palling around and buying free meals for naive young players to gossip columnists, Walter Winchells who channel the venom of "fans" into love or hate for players. It's not really different from the days of Ted Williams being fried by the Boston media, it's just that athletes can now afford to fight back. In addition, the problem with athlete blogs isn't the masturbatory angle (with the exception perhaps of Ashley Cole), it's that it really highlights the question: "What do we need the current concept of 'sportswriter' for nowadays?" The game story will still be needed, but is there a reason clubhouse insight has to come from someone attached to a newspaper or TV station? Take this all with a grain of salt as I'm knee-deep in Here Comes Everybody right now.

posted by yerfatma at 10:46 AM on May 23, 2008

Re: writers feeling resentful about athletes' perceptions of them - I mean, can you blame them? Here in Denver there's been a lot of talk as to whether Carmelo Anthony is enough of a team player or a leader or [insert semi-intangible characteristic here]. That may or may not be the case. But the other day I started wondering how some of the media would respond if essentially the same conversation were happening about them. I.e. "[Local radio host] Sandy Clough has great skill and is very knowledgeable, but he needs to learn to shut up from time to time and be more of a team host. I don't think the Fan can ever be more of a second tier station with him on the morning drive. I would trade him straight up for Terry Frei." I can't imagine how poorly I'd do my boring, humdrum job if there were a running public commentary about whether I'm committed to bringing it 100% every day.

posted by drumdance at 11:46 AM on May 23, 2008

Enjoyed this alot. Somehow I had never heard of Pat Jordan before. I also thought the linked article about Canseco was a riot.

posted by vito90 at 02:43 PM on May 23, 2008

Fans were more personally committed to their athletic heroes in the day when magazine profile writing was ..... Reminds me of a story a ex-brother-in law told me while working as part time security guard in the 60's at the old Busch Stadium. Being the on field security, he had the opportunity to B.S with a lot of players while practicing before games. Got to know them quite well and actually invited them to dinner at his home. I'm talking about Bob Gibson, Julian Javier, Dale Maxville and Curt Flood to name a few. These were not isolated invites. During the course of the summer this was a regular event. This happening today is probably next to nil. Making this point to underscore the attitude of some players toward the fans and media. However, the fans and media sometimes can be it's own worst enemy. The players of today are paid a salary which the average Joe has no hope of attaining in his life time and has insulated the players from the very people that cause them to attain the status they enjoy. Pete Rose stated, the media can make you a lot more money, if done correctly. Or something to that affect. I can see his point about trying to get a interview, but the athlete's force field probably has some merit , and like anything else, times have changed. And not always for the better.

posted by giveuptheghost at 03:44 PM on May 23, 2008

I can't imagine how poorly I'd do my boring, humdrum job if there were a running public commentary about whether I'm committed to bringing it 100% every day. Well, drumdance, it is time to wake up. How many people are paying their hard earned dollars to come to your workplace and watch you earn a living? I know not too many would come watch me sort packages and overnight letters at the UPS hub. Think about your statement before you post it. Sports has always created "heroes" for the young and young at heart. These "heroes", thanks to the media, have high standards to live up to. I remember when Brooks Robinson made the statement thant the owners didn't know it but most of them would have played for free. Those are the "heroes" that I look up to. These athletes now don't give a crap about the fans or the club they play on. I witnessed Barry Bonds refuse to sign an autograph for an elementary school age fan by pushing him back out of the way. Idols can crash too, can't they Barry?

posted by RAZORDODGER at 09:15 PM on May 23, 2008

It's not only about the exploding amount of money on the players' side, but the exploding number of "journalists" who need something to write/talk about that will be heard by the public. It used to be that the writers were from the AP, Reuters, et alia, some radio stations and three tv network stations, there were relatively few out there. Nowadays there are hundreds from TV and radio, plus anybody with a blog. Whoever gets a juicy story earns themselves at least temporary fame. Unfortunately, bad news sells better than good news. And the concept of what is "news" has been "Springerized". The odds of having a good outcome from a discussion with someone with the power of the pen has fallen precipitously over the decades. Some young games theorist/social historian ought to write a thesis on this.

posted by bobfoot at 09:20 PM on May 23, 2008

Slightly off topic I guess, but Bronx Banter did an interview with Pat Jordan in 2003.

posted by goddam at 12:07 AM on May 24, 2008

From goddam's link:

BB: Yeah, well, then you should know how I feel. I rooted against him for all those years. I hated Clemens. I just thought he was a big prick from Texas, by way of Boston and how much worse can you get than that for a Yankee fan? But I felt that you painted him as this big, goofy narcissist. PJ: Yeah, hes a total narcissist, but hes alsohes not bright. Its sort of like being with an overgrown child. Hes a hyperactive child, all the time. Im a believer that the reason he works out so hard is to burn off energy. Cause hes like the kid that you have to keep chocolate away from, you know? You know when you have the kid, he cant concentrate on anything and the doctor says, Dont let him eat chocolate? Thats Roger Clemens. Hes nothes not a bad guy, hes just arrested development, I guess. You think you are with an arrogant fourteen year-old kid when youre with him. Youre not with a grown up.

posted by Joey Michaels at 01:56 AM on May 24, 2008

Fucker won't return my calls either and he owes me $20 bucks.

posted by BornIcon at 08:19 AM on May 24, 2008

How many people are paying their hard earned dollars to come to your workplace and watch you earn a living? That's not the point. The point is that athletes are human too. Regardless of how much they get paid, that doesn't mean they're any better at handling criticism than anyone else. I'm not saying it excuses bad behavior, only that I empathize with their situation vis a vis the media... and perhaps that's why Josh Beckett doesn't want to talk to some reporter, yet still makes time to visit kids in the hospital. Think about your statement before you post it. I did. Did you?

posted by drumdance at 02:43 PM on May 24, 2008

Regardless of how much they get paid, that doesn't mean they're any better at handling criticism than anyone else. I do understand what you are saying, but, professional athletes are also entertainers and the public and media scrutiny comes with the territory. They know this when they enter this profession. They are expected to withstand the criticism better than the average person. How much they are paid has nothing to do with it. They do need to remember that without the fans, they would be unemployed. You don't push away your source of income. The kids may not have much money, but the parents are probably catering to their desires.

posted by RAZORDODGER at 10:08 PM on May 24, 2008

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