proprietor of my favorite breakfast haunt, “Ernie’s” in Melrose reminds me
that the customers don’t open to the paper to read about filibusters, war,
or pressing social issues, they read the gossip column and sports.
A natural tension exists between broadcast media and print media, which now
includes mainstream journalism, web destinations (www.bostondirtdogs.com
being a flourishing one), and the cottage industry of blogging. Needless to
say, no MCAS or SAT standards restrain any of the above. Once upon a time,
“real” journalists skewered Rotisserie players (wannabes) and continue to
lambaste the ‘Internet geeks’, as though they own the “sports thought”
franchise. WEEI, as sports ‘think tank’ as it were.
Both sets of media educate, inform, and
entertain their audiences. We also have to ask where to draw the line among
news reporting, rumor, innuendo, and character assassination. This week, one
of the more outspoken WEEI commentators replied that if he were going to get
inside information, he’d go
to ESPN Insider, not Dirt Dogs, the implication being that most Internet
sites have neither scoops nor reliable data. Peter Gammons defended the
site; he correctly
that overseer Steve Silva has numerous sources both within and
outside the sports world. Time has proven Mr. Silva right on numerous
occasions, from the extent of player injuries to obscure signings from
You want economy; you
have to pay for it.
Athletes, like other celebrities, sacrifice elements of privacy in exchange
for the oversized salaries they earn. Some perform better for the media than
they do on the field, which can enhance their popularity, prolong their
careers, and even lead to broadcasting careers (e.g. Steve Lyons).
“Baseball isn’t a matter
of life or death, it’s a lot more important than that.”
don’t go for $999 on eBay because of a lack of interest. Yogi Berra was
right, “that place is so busy that
nobody goes there anymore.” When people care enough to spend
weeks’ salary on entertainment, they care about players’ health, players'
weight, Wonderlic scores, and whether they get enough rest. The average
shoeshine boy in Boston knows about rotator cuff and labrum tears, and the
fragility of the ulnar collateral ligament. When people talk about mechanics
around here, it’s as likely to be about arm slot or throwing across their
body as about auto repairs. So if Dirt Dogs reports that Keith Foulke may have visited
Dr. James Andrews’ shop in Alabama, fans want to know if he’s
hurting. Do they have a right to know? I’m not sure, but Mr. Foulke clearly
understands that he’s not ‘just plain folk’ around here. He’s sports royalty
and his subjects ‘need to know’.
Unwritten rules do protect the athletes from themselves, too. The national
focus on performance-enhancing drugs abrogates that limit, but many others
exist. You don’t hear or read about athletes’ philandering or sometimes
overindulgence in the ‘worship of Bacchus’, because it’s simply off-limits.
By the time we know a problem exists, you can be sure the players’ families,
front office, teammates, clubhouse attendants, parking lot guys, and peanut
vendors know it.
Publicizing players’ ethical challenges doesn’t serve anybody’s benefit,
and are ordinarily handled in house. A former Patriot player told me that
Ray Berry was a fantastic coach because of his skill in handling not only
football responsibilities but also off-field issues, ironic considering the
scandal erupting after Super Bowl XX. Sometimes a player gets a positive
reputation for being a standup guy in dealing with the media (e.g. Jim
Rice’s accountability when negative performance affected the outcome of a
game) or by virtue of being a solid citizen away from home. Roger Clemens,
whatever your take, always carried a reputation as being the straightest
arrow in the quiver.
I’m not talking about baseball. “What’s
the difference between God and surgeons? God doesn’t think he’s a surgeon.”
The most successful doctors thrive off the triad and truism of
accessibility, affability, and ability. Doctor Bert Zarins has maintained a
good reputation with the Patriots in the background. Dr. Bill Morgan’s
medical stewardship of the Sox ran aground. Physicians
aren’t any different than anybody else with respect to personal lives and
frailty. I don’t know if there have been any physician saints since Cosmas
and Damian. How Dr. Thomas Gill’s tenure goes with the Red Sox may not
necessarily depend on his skill, but his luck, too. Medicine isn’t nearly as
exact a science as people want to believe, and ‘House’
is as typical a doctor as John Rocker was a typical relief pitcher.
turf war for ‘eyes’ reigns just as much in the media world as it does in the
sports world. Sports radio has a loyal and demanding audience, and mostly
gives the fans what they want. We’re fortunate not only to have fascinating
teams to follow but passionate sports journalism in Boston, too. Attempts to
lessen the credibility of print media, even ‘Internet geeks’ diminishes only
the critics. As my son reminded me when he was in high school, “it’s OK,
Dad, geeks rule the world.” Just ask John Henry; I’m sure he’d agree.
-- Ron Sen, Boston Dirt Dogs contributor
(Check out Ron's blog, Red Sox Reality Check)