“No morning access since it was media training for the Orioles players. There goes all my good quotes for the season.”
— MLB.com beat writer Brittany Ghiroli from Orioles camp this morning.
Brittany is being funny here, but there’s a lot of truth to that. We live in an age now where controlling the message and sanding off all the rough edges is part of doing business for ballplayers and the teams that employ them. As the legendary Pat Jordan wrote in his outrageously good essay on the subject a couple of years ago:
Writers and fans alike no longer get to know the object of their
affections in a way they did years ago. Athletes see us as their
adversaries, not as allies in their achievements. They are as much
celebrities as rock stars and Hollywood actors are. They live insular
lives behind a wall of publicists, agents, and lawyers. They don’t
interact with fans or writers. They mingle only with other celebrities
at Vegas boxing matches, South Beach nightclubs, and celebrity golf
events, all behind red-velvet VIP ropes. We can only gawk at them as if
at an exotic, endangered species at a zoo.
Not that I don’t understand why athletes approach things this way these days. Our media culture has become insatiable. Whereas once upon a time people might be content to accept a handful of good Jordan-esque player profiles a year we want so much more now. We’re obsessed on who’s dating who, who’s wearing what, who’s drinking what and that’s just the beginning. If I was a ballplayer I’d protect my privacy with extreme vigilance.
Still, it saddens me that we’re very, very unlikely to read a story about, say, Jon Lester, like the one Jordan tells about Tom Seaver:
Then I drove him to Shea Stadium in a rainstorm in my old Corvette with
the T-top that leaked. Water dripped on Tom’s forehead. He looked up
and said, “Why don’t you buy a Porsche?” I said, “Because I’m not Tom
Seaver.” Water dripped on his head. He laughed. “That’s a f***ing
Nowadays two publicists and a lawyer would call Jordan and ask him to scrub that prior to publication. So it goes.