"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: Sports Media

'Lo, Jonah, What's the Rumpus?


Jonah Keri had me on his podcast last night. Check it out and hear to me blab on about my stint in the movie business and life as a blogging dinosaur. I had a good time. Jonah is good peoples.

Annie Savoy Would NEVER Go For This

I freely admit I am so starved for baseball happenings that I actually did a news search just now for “baseball” –as if I wouldn’t have read about it already, on a blog or Twitter, if anything big went down. Aside from the Matt Garza trade (good news for the Yanks this season, probably, but nothing I can get too excited about) there ain’t nothing going on today. Except Brian Cashman is talking more and more like some kinda internet zealot. Adam LaRoche is finalizing his deal with the Nationals. Okay.

Unfortunately what I did turn up, like some gross bug under a rock, is the story over at Radar Online that a new reality show about baseball groupies is being developed. Baseball Annies are now being cast, with the idea of filming in Arizona during spring training. I’m not much of a reality TV fan — I’m too easily embarrassed on behalf of other people — and doubt I will watch this, unless I have to write about it. Anyone with half a brain realized many, many years ago that the vast majority of baseball players sleep around, and I really couldn’t care less since I am not married to, nor dating, a baseball player; that’s between them and their significant others and as long as everyone’s a consenting adult, hey, not my concern. The entire subculture has always seemed deeply depressing, though, and this newest cringe-inducing exploitation-fest is doing nothing to change that impression:

“The girls will go to any lengths to go to games and practices with the goal of sleeping with and getting material things from athletes as a notch under their belt,” the source told RadarOnline.com exclusively.

Ooh, an EXCLUSIVE about soul-suckingly shallow groupies! Great job, RadarOnline.com. Also:

The show will focus on the women and their ‘cleat-chasing’ lifestyle more than the players and their participation, added the source.

Well, of course. Why deal with the legal and societal repercussions of showcasing popular men behaving badly when you can just vilify the less wealthy and famous women who, inexplicably, are volunteering for this? Not that they won’t deserve vilifying, most likely, and no one can go on a show like “Cleat Chasers” and not expect to come out looking horrible.

I’m not someone who bemoans the decline of humanity, because I think humanity has always been pretty messed up, and even a show as tasteless as this is still better than say burning a bunch of people at the stake every time you get freaked out by an eclipse, but still.

Plagiarism, Perception and Reality

In a story that received a good bit of attention in the blogosphere, ESPNEWS anchor Will Selva was suspended indefinitely on Dec. 30 for plagiarism. He had introduced a story on the air about the Los Angeles Lakers, using the words of Orange County Register columnist Kevin Ding as his own, without attributing the source.

Ding called Selva out, an investigation followed, and the Worldwide Leader took swift and decisive action.

Selva apologized in a statement:

“I made a horrible mistake and I’m deeply sorry. I did not live up to my high standards or ESPN’s. I sincerely apologize for my sloppiness, especially to Kevin Ding, viewers and colleagues. In my 15 years in broadcast journalism, nothing like this has ever happened and I will make every effort to ensure it won’t happen again.”

Sounds sincere and contrite. But do you believe Selva? Suspended after it was proved he was a fraud, how can we believe “nothing like this has ever happened” before? Why should we? Because Selva’s statement is written, are we simply jumping to conclusions? Are we interpreting his tone correctly? If he was an anchor with more name recognition, would we be more inclined to believe him? Whatever the case, Selva is going to have a hard time recovering from this incident. An incident that could have been avoided if he simply said, “Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register said it best in his Sunday column…”.

Look no further than Mike Barnicle, Jayson Blair, and Judith Miller to see how the combination of plagiarism and fabricating stories has affected writers’ careers. Barnicle continued to work, and four years ago signed on as a columnist at the Boston Herald. Blair got a book deal soon after his flap at the New York Times. Miller, whose reporting on weapons of mass destruction was found to be inaccurate and worse, false, and later served jail time for her refusing to testify before a grand jury in the Valerie Plame case, has recently landed at the Conservative magazine and website Newsmax as a columnist.

Those scribes got second chances. Does Selva’s situation merit one?

The journalist in me says no. There isn’t any circumstance that should result in his reinstatement. Selva violated the most basic principle of the craft and he should be fired, not suspended. The empathic side of me, however, says yes, but that second chance isn’t deserved. It has to be earned, like a series of trials it takes to regain trust in a friend, lover or spouse who breached trust in some way.

Plagiarism is dangerous territory. I know from personal experience. I wrote a column in this space during the 2009 season where I analyzed how different beat writers were covering the same game. My goal was to show how different writers from different papers see the game through different prisms to ultimately craft similar stories. Now, I know from being in press boxes that while the writers sit in close quarters, no one is looking over anyone’s shoulder with that look that says, “Hey, what did you put down for Number 3?” Every writer is in his or her own zone, headphones in to check accuracy of quotes on the recorder, scrambling like hell to make deadline. The chorus of clickety-clacking on laptop keyboards tells you as much. Invariably, by pure coincidence, angles will be similar, certain quotes or sections of quotes will be similar, and in some cases, even certain phrases and word choices describing the action will be either similar or exact. Again, this is pure coincidence. And it’s rare that it happens.

It just so happened that in my analysis, I noticed an exact phrase appearing in different game stories from two writers representing two different papers. In jest, I wrote that one of the writers “copied off (the other writer’s) paper.” It was a regrettable choice of words on my part, and I wish like hell I could take it back. But if there’s one thing I learned in my Intro to Communication Theory class during my freshman year of college, it’s that communication of any kind is irreversible. I went for the laugh with the “copied off his paper” line; maybe I got it, maybe I didn’t. What I got was an e-mail in my personal inbox the next morning from one of the writers. I did not anticipate the content of the note, and I was stunned.

Point blank, the writer asked me if I was accusing him of plagiarism, and if I was, I’d better be ready to prove it.


Rays-ing to the Occasion

On my way home from work, I flipped on ESPN Radio as Michael Kay was interviewing Andy Pettitte. Midway through the conversation, Kay asked Pettitte which was the bigger priority: simply making the playoffs, or winning the division.

Pettitte’s answer was telling.

“Obviously, you just want to get to the dance,” he said. “But as for me, I want to win the (American League) East. I think we’re the best team in the East, so why not go out and win it?”

Pettitte has been a part of 11 playoff teams, including 8 Division winners, in his Yankee career. Certain Yankee players, and definitely manager Joe Girardi, would not be as candid as Pettitte in their replies to a similar question. So to hear that level of honesty was refreshing.

And for the first part of this four-game grudge match against the Tampa Bay Rays, Pettitte’s teammates have answered the call to push for a division title. Tuesday’s 8-3 win increased the Yankees’ AL East cushion to 2.5 games, thereby guaranteeing that they’ll be in first place when the Red Sox enter town this weekend to close out the home schedule. The Orioles’ 9-1 romp at Fenway put the Red Sox a little further in the rearview mirror.

Speaking of the Red Sox, these Yankees-Rays series are bearing a strong resemblance to the classic Yankees-Red Sox battles in the late 1990s through the middle part of this past decade, aren’t they? The games are long, action-packed, loaded with playoff-level intensity. You could sense that even games like this one, where the Yankees sprinted to a 5-0 lead after one inning, would have its share of nerve-wracking moments. The Rays have made a habit of coming back from big deficits, home-run prone Phil Hughes was on the mound, and Mariano Rivera was likely unavailable after throwing 25 pitches Monday.

I’ll admit it: I’m still not sure what Hughes will provide on a per-start basis other than throwing a lot of pitches, give up a home run or three, and maybe last five or six innings. Based on his last few outings, what I wanted to watch closely on Tuesday was his handling of batters once he got ahead in the count, specifically 0-and-2. He had six 0-2 counts, and allowed two walks, a loud flyout to right, and had three strikeouts. Hughes struck out six overall.

Hughes demonstrated a level of guts that proved why he will likely be in the starting rotation come October. There were three specific occasions where Hughes went into “grind” mode:

1) Top 3, Yankees up 5-1, two out. After Hughes issued a wild pitch on ball four to Carl Crawford that allowed the lead runner to advance to third, Evan Longoria delivered an RBI single to cut the lead to three. That brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Dan Johnson, who hit two prodigious home runs off Hughes last Thursday in St. Petersburg. Hughes won this battle, getting Johnson to ground out to Mark Teixeira to end the threat.

2) Top 4, Yankees still up 5-2, one out. BJ Upton bounced back to Hughes for what should have been an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play, but they only got the force at second, thanks to a gross miscommunication at second base between Robinson Canó and Derek Jeter. Knowing his trusted middle infield tandem gave the Rays an extra out, Hughes had the demeanor of Dante from “Clerks” for the next two batters (“I’m not even supposed to BE here today.”), loading the bases on a single to Jason Bartlett and a walk to John Jaso. Two pitches later, Hughes got out of the jam by inducing a soft grounder to first from Ben Zobrist.

3) Top 6, Yankees still up 5-2, two out. Hughes reared back and fired a 92-mph, Eff-You fastball right down the pipe that Upton swung through.

That pitch had the look of being Hughes’s last one of the night … until Girardi sent him out there for the seventh. My first thought: “Bad Idea Jeans.” Sure enough, Bartlett led off with a single and advanced to second on Jaso’s groundout. Girardi then removed Hughes for Javier Vazquez. My first thought: “Bad Idea Jeans.” And sure enough, Carl Crawford floated a single to left to drive in Bartlett and bring up Longoria with Vazquez and his intimidating array of whiffleball pitches keeping the lead intact. It should be noted that at this point, I was mentally prepared to scrap my original angle and rewrite the recap featuring an all-out assault on Girardi’s bullpen management, but Vazquez got Longoria to hit the ball on the ground. Inning over. Quality start preserved, lead preserved.

The offense responded with two more runs, only to have Vazquez and Joba Chamberlain do their best impressions of John Wettleand circa 1996 on the Rays’ next turn at bat. Chamberlain, with the bases loaded and one out, Houdinied his way out of it by striking out pinch-hitter Brad Hawpe and getting Jaso to fly out to center.

An extra insurance run in the eighth courtesy of back-to-back two-out doubles by Brett Gardner and Jeter provided the final margin, as Chamberlain pitched a stress-free ninth. Not until that last out was recorded, though, was there any relief.

Pettitte believes the Yankees have the best team in the division. They may be, provided they maintain the level of production in clutch situations they showed Tuesday — 5-for-10 with runners in scoring position, seven runs scored with two outs — continue to receive quality starts through the rest of the rotation and get capable relief pitching.

A sweep, which is still in the offing, would almost solidify Pettitte’s theory.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver