Tidbits – September 28
Just a couple of quick items: Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus has a particularly incisive take on the end of the Bonds era in San Francisco and I am scratching my head at sports media’s handling of Tom Brady’s fatherhood.
1) Joe Sheehan has never gotten on the anti-Bonds bandwagon, and he’s particularly annoyed at how the Bay area press reacted last week to word that Bonds would not be back with the Giants in 2008:
The naked glee generated by this decision was embarrassing (links courtesy Buster Olney’s ESPN.com blog), with the San Francisco writers falling all over themselves to praise McGowan for cutting loose the best player in franchise history, the most productive player on the current roster, the best hitter in the National League and, dollar for dollar, one of the better values in the game. The press pool showed no recognition that Bonds remains an amazing player and an asset to any team, even one far from contention. Yes, he requires special treatment; is it some kind of news to everyone that the very best people in any line of work tend to get perks that separate themselves from their peers?
Of course, the story about Bonds, for that crowd, has never been about performance. It’s always been about Bonds’ disdain for the media, his refusal to provide access and quotes and make the media’s job easier. I have no doubt that if you have to deal with Bonds on a daily basis—if dealing with him is a major part of your job description—that it would make your life difficult. However, to allow that one aspect of the man to become the driving force for years of negative coverage strikes me, has always struck me, as just as unprofessional as his approach. The disdain for Barry Bonds among the local media is disproportionate to anything the man has ever done, amounting to a collective tantrum that has poisoned the man’s reputation among baseball fans nationwide, Bonds’ relationship to the media, and the media’s treatment of him because of it, queers the entire discussion about Bonds’ accomplishments and whether they may have been influenced by extra-legal actions on his part. He’s never been evaluated fairly because the world has been told he’s a bad guy, and we don’t like bad guys. The people who see the Bonds/public/media triangle as a racial matter miss the point; it’s not a lesson in how American treats black men; it’s a lesson in how the media can make or break men of any hue.
As I’ve discussed before, and most regular readers of this site understand all too well, Sheehan’s off base in his juxtaposition of the media’s power and the issue of race. The two are not, of course, mutually exclusive, but powerfully reinforcing. Nevertheless, Sheehan’s got it right here in his emphasis on the indisputably childish behavior of most of the media covering Bonds.
Earlier this week on Jim Rome’s TV show, Mike Wise referred to the likelihood of both Milton Bradley and Barry Bonds signing with new teams next year as “unfortunate.” Why Wise would care enough about that possibility (he’s a Washington Post writer and neither the Nationals or Orioles is likely to sign either player), I don’t really get. I still can’t understand the deeply personal way in which so many sports media types relate to professional athletes – as if they are still children whose illusions about hero figures in their lives have been shattered. How else to explain all this role model business? Thursday morning on Mike and Mike, Greenie was expressing deep offense that Vick “lied to us” when he said he would change his life upon pleading guilty in August, only to turn around and, presumably, imbibe. But, assuming Vick smoked pot after the terms of his bail were set, what we have here is a serious case of poor judgment that affects exactly no one except for Michael Vick and his loved ones. If actual kids feel disillusioned by the actions of a Michael Vick (and I’m not talking about the pot-smoking here – I couldn’t possibly care less), OK. But, for grown-ups to take such umbrage at professional athletes who act pissy sometimes, or lose their temper or do things that many sportswriters themselves have undoubtedly done (like smoke pot) – this is what is so out of proportion to the underlying behavior.
2) In a recent issue of Sports Illustrated, Rick Reilly wrote a paean to the God that is Tom Brady, dressed up as a regular column. The premise of the column was how Tom Brady could give dating tips based on his good looks, humility, sense of himself, etc, with Reilly offering examples of each attribute and then checking off Brady’s possession of said attribute. Among those appealing features that Reilly cited was Brady’s sense of “personal responsibility.” Pertaining to what issue, you might ask? Here’s Reilly:
See, Brady is Namath with a milk mustache. Mothers want him for supper and daughters for everything after. O.K., you might say, but how cool is it to get one woman pregnant (Moynahan) and be dating another (Bündchen)? Well, a) Brady says he didn’t know Moynahan was pregnant until after they’d broken up, and b) Brady is aching to be a full-time dad. He was there three weeks ago for the birth of John Edward Thomas Moynahan.
“I kind of cuddled him like a football,” Brady says, adding that it’s killing him that he can’t be in Los Angeles for every sneeze. “I’d love to be out there all the time, year-round, but it’s hard to make that a reality. I live here. But I’ll start lobbying for off days throughout the year.”
Personal responsibility. Check.
I honestly have no opinion about Brady’s relationship to Moynahan. I don’t know the circumstances of their relationship, and I don’t know who knew what when. I do know two things: 1) that Brady’s desire to be a full-time dad has absolutely nothing to do with the question of whether he’s acted responsiby in relation to a child for whom he clearly will not be a full-time dad. 2) I have never seen a professional athlete who fathered a child out of wedlock, with a woman with whom his relationship ended before the child was born, be given so much respect by the media as a father. This morning on the Boomer and Carton show, the new WFAN morning team concluded an interview with Brady by asking how his kid was in a way that made it impossible to tell whether Brady was living under the same roof as his child or not. If there are other examples of other professional athletes having kids under such circumstances who get this kind of treatment, please let me know. I want to emphasize – I have no personal opinion about this particular case – I am not privy to any of the intimate details. I am struck, however, by the contrast in treatment of Brady’s situation to those of other athletes who had kids in similar circumstances. Remember, this is an issue to which Sports Illustrated once devoted a major cover story.