I just saw a remarkable Twitter exchange between San Francisco Chronicle reporter Hank Schulman and a Giants fan. The backdrop: discussion on whether or not the Giants bringing back Melky Cabrera would be a good idea.
The original tweet, from the fan, was a little rated-R for HardballTalk, but the upshot was the tweeter’s opinion that Melky Cabrera, despite his PED suspension, did not “mistreat” fans nor was he an “ass” to them. Shulman responded (along with paraphrased tweet from the fan):
He was and he did. RT @CrystalPepsi: Melky didn’t mistreat us fans, nor was he ever an ass to us
— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) December 4, 2014
I call this remarkable because it’s a reporter literally telling a fan that he is wrong about how he feels. “No, he did mistreat you!” Shulman is saying. With the implication that the fan doesn’t even realize how mistreated he was.
I find this rather hilarious. Mostly because, for decades, reporters have told us that they are different and that they can do their job the way they do specifically because they are not fans and do not approach things from a fan’s perspective. I trust Hank Shulman to give me Giants news and tell me what’s going on with the club and the players. I even trust his speculation about what may or may not happen and his view as to whether something is a good idea or not. He’s there, on the scene, and he knows more than we do. But the one thing a reporter is in no position to do is to tell a fan what he or she should feel about something.
I’m sure some fans hate Melky Cabrera and feel betrayed by his use of PEDs. That’s their right. A lot of fans, however, aren’t nearly as invested in that sort of thing. Maybe they just watch the games and don’t decide to become emotionally entangled. Maybe they don’t approve of Melky’s cheating, but they don’t feel like players “owe” fans things in those terms. Maybe they do approve of it. Hell, this is San Francisco, after all, and Barry Bonds is still cheered there. Maybe fans are pragmatic and they realize that Melky’s suspension led to the Hunter Pence trade and if it wasn’t for Pence the Giants may not have won the 2012 and 2014 World Series. Hell, maybe they want to shake Melky’s hand and buy him a beer for that!
But this isn’t about Cabrera. This about fans. Fans who are fully capable of forming their own opinions about baseball players and their transgressions. And who don’t need reporters to tell them what they should think or feel.