How long before all teams use the Bill Belichick/Patriots method of dealing with the media?
The day is coming, I’m telling you.
Yes, there are those in sports who enjoy using the media and cozying up to them to get fawning coverage, whether they actually deserve it or not. There are many more, I believe, who would rather just not deal with them at all.
Each time a player or team gets burned by columnists and talk radio hosts, those around them take notice. They want to avoid the same fate.
This week, Shane Victorino found himself in the cross hairs of the Felger and Mazz program.
Shane Victorino challenges Sports Hub hosts over Cole Hamels comments – Scott Lauber (who also covered Victorino in Philly) takes a look at the conflict, which occurred when the hosts took comments that the Sox outfielder made to a Philadelphia paper, and put words into his mouth.
But that didn’t stop the hosts of the “Felger & Mazz” program from accusing Victorino of lobbying the Red Sox to cast Betts aside.
“You have a 34-year-old, breaking-down outfielder whose job is potentially going to be taken by whom? Mookie Betts, or by default, Rusney Castillo,” said Massarotti, formerly a Herald baseball writer. “And so who are we talking about, potentially, in this trade? Mookie Betts. So is that the deal? Mookie Betts is going to take his job, (and Victorino says), ‘Hey, get the kid out of here, because we can win now if we get Hamels.”
To that, Felger accused Victorino of “throwing your young players under the bus.”
What a leap. Victorino never mentioned Betts. The Philadelphia writer did.
Unsurprisingly, colleagues on the air, at both stations in town, seem to side with Felger and Mazz, they defend the right to give their precious opinions. But was this an opinion? I don’t think so. It’s a clear twisting of words, and even a fabrication of them.
Lauber, in a follow-up piece (How Shane Victorino’s non-story became a big deal) notes that “Victorino’s words weren’t twisted like a pretzel; they were put in his mouth entirely.”
Which is cool, you know, because their job is just to get attention. As Felger himself says:
Say it wherever you want. I had mine, you had yours, that’s the whole idea of us. We say something, it’s for public consumption, hopefully you are listening and reacting. That’s what I want everyone to do. And I think generally this show does a pretty good job of it, and so Shane did that. He digested, he reacted, great. Fair enough. No problem.”
In that same article, Massarotti recounted a follow-up phone conversation he had with Victorino, albeit unintentionally, and described it this way:
It was like having a discussion with my wife when she’s angry. It was that sort of discussion, if you want to know the truth.
Completely dismissive of Victorino.
Yeah, Mazz, you’re a real tough guy. For a show who’s stated intention is to provoke reaction, he’s a pretty sensitive guy to reaction and criticism. He’s one of the very few people who have blocked me on Twitter. I’ve never been profane about him, insulted his family or done anything other than say how much I dislike his “work.”
That’s not the reaction they’re looking for, I guess.
This situation made even the mild-mannered Mike Reiss sit up and take notice. He wrote this article on his personal blog:
He concludes his piece by summing up the local environment this way:
I often wonder if the hot takes would be as hot if they actually had to be accountable to those they were talking about. I do think part of what makes them willing to go as far as they often do is that they don’t have that accountability, and don’t have personal interaction with those they are talking about. It’s much easier to fire away when there is that disconnect.
And that’s what I’ve been noticing more and more, not just with that program, but other opinion-based shows on TV that are more edgy, both national and local. I think the further you’re removed from being around the game, in the locker room, at league meetings, conversing with athletes, coaches etc., you lose a bit of touch with reality. It becomes more WWE than professional sports and that can be dangerous — and most of all misleading to the public — when in the position of powerful opinion-shaper.
Is it me, or is this more extreme than ever before?
I think I know the answer, and the fact that Victorino’s passionate remarks will probably lead to skyrocketing ratings for “Felger and Mazz” today says it all.
Sadly, he’s entirely correct.
Reiss went further in his weekly chat (Chat with Mike Reiss) in which he came as close to unbridled rage as he probably can get. His responses to certain questions were edgy and not like the usual “having all these opinions makes for a great community” responses he’ll often make when gently disagreeing with chatters.
Victorino also got attacked for not going on the Felger and Mazz show to talk to them directly. Producer James Stewart tweeted that he had contacted the Red Sox about getting the outfielder on the show, but the response was that they felt he had already said his piece.
This made it a win/win for them. They tried to get him to come on the show, but he was afraid!
At some point, I do expect more and more in the sports world to eschew the media completely and bring their message directly to the public. David Ortiz did this when he wrote this week for Derek Jeter’s The Player’s Tribune:
He takes on Dan Shaughnessy in his column:
In 2013, I came off the DL and started hot. My first 20 games I was hitting like .400. And the reporter with the red jheri curl from The Boston Globe comes into the locker room says, “You’re from the Dominican. You’re older. You fit the profile of a steroid user. Don’t you think you’re a prime suspect?”
He’s saying this with a straight face. I had taken like 70 at-bats. Anybody can get hot and hit .400 with 70 at-bats. I was stunned. I’m like, I’m Dominican? I fit the profile? Are you kidding me?
I wanted to kill this guy. But you can’t react. That’s what they want. They want you to get angry so they can bury you. So I just smiled at him and asked for his address.
“Why do you want my address?” he said.
“Because I just got tested two days ago.” I said. “I’ll mail you the f****ing results.”
While some of Ortiz’ claims in the article are questionable – he insists he had no knowledge of the 2003 test result (from today’s Globe) until he saw it on ESPN in 2009 – his larger point about how he is viewed by many in the media is valid.
WEEI this morning wanted to know why Ortiz didn’t take this to Sports Illustrated if he wanted to put this out there. They missed the entire point. He avoided the mainstream media altogether and chose this as the independent avenue to put his message out there.
He won’t be alone in this.
Last night the Globe rushed up a quick piece on the Ortiz article. They did so without mentioning the Shaughnessy stuff at all, and filed it under “Staff Reports.”
A few other links and notes:
Pedro Martinez a great fit with MLB Network – Chad Finn writes about the former Sox ace joining the MLB Network this week. He also touches on a few other items, including the Victorino story.
Baseball Reporting – A fascinating look on the MLB Website about the history of coverage of baseball, written by the legendary Jack Lang in the early 1990’s.
NFL taking aim at all things Patriots – Enjoyed this from Tom E. Curran, a look at how the NFL owners meetings turned into a pig-pile on the Patriots.
Ben Volin reported in the Globe this morning that Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower had labrum surgery and could miss much of training camp. The story is making the rounds on sports flashes and link compilations, but Jeff Howe in the Herald had this news over a month ago.