A-Rod’s apology just a part of the media game:...
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Feb 17, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

A-Rod’s apology just a part of the media game: Arthur

The sculpted apology is a key ritual in this now-familiar dance

OurWindsor.Ca

Alex Rodriguez checked in on Tuesday after a long absence just like people used to do: With a handwritten apology note, and a promise to do better. I like to imagine he wrote it on a Florida porch, in a creaking rocking chair. In the old days, you would apologize for being suspended from baseball for doping with a statement, maybe a press conference, maybe Oprah. Lance Armstrong did Oprah.

Not A-Rod — he went back to high school. He was supposed to deliver an apology at Yankee Stadium, which would have been something else. Imagine, the baseball player facing a crowd full of scandal-dodging hedge-fund managers and securities traders — a gallery of rogues who have managed not only to avoid prison but to afford those plush seats at the new Stadium — and apologizing for his moral failings. It would have been in every possible respect, rich.

But that plan was scotched, so the letter it was, in which A-Rod took “full responsibility” for all his unnamed deeds, five years after the last doping apology, which actually involved interviews. The sculpted apology is a key ritual in this now-familiar dance, since allowing real questions allows for chaotic elements. Media questions, in addition to sometimes being repetitive and rote and essentially meaningless (“how big is this game?” on the morning of a Game 7 is a personal favourite), can be uncomfortable.

So you get Mark McGwire doing a series of carefully chosen one-on-one interviews for his apology in 2010, and you get Lance on Oprah in 2013, trying to pedal the narrow path between pretending to be contrite and not exposing himself to further lawsuits. And you get Barry Bonds, always the iconoclast, who never apologized for a damned thing.

But it’s part of the game, for now. A-Rod won’t answer questions this time, because what’s the point?

All this comes during what seems like a golden era of the conflict between athletes and the media, who sit in varied forms of judgement. Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch became Spartacus at the Super Bowl by simply refusing to answer questions, and Kevin Durant echoed him to the media at the NBA All-Star Game, responding to a question about his coach’s job security, “You guys really don’t know s--- ... To be honest, man, I’m only here talking to y’all because I have to. So I really don’t care. Y’all not my friends. You’re going to write what you want to write. You’re going to love us one day and hate us the next. That’s a part of it. So I just learn how to deal with y’all.”

A-Rod stopped dealing honestly with the media a long time ago, of course. Durant actually answered a lot of questions about his increasing disdain for “[saying] the right stuff all the time and politically correct answers. I’m done with that. I’m just trying to be me and continue to grow as a man.” He allowed us to more fully understand him. He’s not Kobe Bryant yet — Kobe just gave an interview to GQ that further revealed him as one of the most honest, outspoken, fascinating, fearless, and occasionally delusional athletes of our time — but he’s not Marshawn Lynch, either.

Still, there are cracks in the relationship, and they were inevitable. There were 5,500 media credentials issued at the Super Bowl. There were 1,800 at the NBA All-Star game. Lynch spoke to outlets that were obviously financially advantageous to him during the Super Bowl, outside of the cattle call, and that’s where some of athletes versus the media is going to go.

It’s simple, really. Professional sports are more lucrative than ever, and athletes are more famous than they have ever been. Taylor Swift isn’t made available every day to the media. Kevin Durant is.

Look, in sports or elsewhere, not answering direct questions isn’t exactly the invention of the wheel. Ted Williams went to war with the press 70 years ago, before he actually went to war.

But the money involved is. Look at the non-threatening state media that have been funded by leagues and teams. In sports, a lot of things can be commodified. A-Rod, and his teammate Derek Jeter, figured that out a long time ago.

For now, most athletes are still polite and reasonable, and some get it. John Wall of the Washington Wizards spoke over the weekend in support of the media, and Osi Umenyiora, the retired New York Giant, tweeted, “It’s real easy to be mad at the media. I KNOW. But when (you’re) driving your Lamborghini around, realize they are partly responsible for it.”

Still, the gap will likely continue to grow. At the Super Bowl I was talking to an NFL reporter who used to cover the Premier League in England, and after one match he was in the parking lot — no locker room access — and asked a player for two minutes of his time. The player said, “You’ve got to be f------ joking me,” and drove off. The Premier League just sold its TV rights for nearly double what they sold for the last time.

And as that happens in North America, TMZ’s sports media share will only rise, and athletes will be covered like other celebrities, and some of the best understanding of athletes and teams will be lost, along with a sea of repetitive and stupid questions.

We’ll still know how big the game that night is, though. The TV ratings will answer, every time.

Toronto Star

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