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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Shaughnessy's Commentary on Today's Athlete

Thanks to Objective Bruce for pointing out a second piece from Shaughnessy this AM - a commentary about how today's athletes have a different relationship with reporters than 20 or years ago. Our friend OB said the commentary "is an excellent look at the level of access and familiarity of journalists to and with players."

When I first read it, I thought it was intriguing on one level but problematic on several other levels. I then read the column by Pat Jordan which inspired Shaughnessy's effort and it reenforced my belief of what a shallow writer Shaughnessy has become. And I conclude that the column is problematic on pretty much all levels.

Shaughnessy quickly acknowledges that his commentary was inspired by Jordan's article and another article by Mitch Albom. If you have the time, read Jordan's piece and then read Shaughnessy. First off, Shaughnessy is nothing but a copy cat here -- there s no original thought. He jumps on Jordan's bandwagon and simply says "Hey, I feel the same way too." but his analysis is not nearly as sound as Jordan's. Whereas Shaughnessy bemoans the lack of access, he offers no insight as to why this has occurred. Jordan does and does it reasonably well.

In either case, does it not occur to Shaughnessy and Jordan that there is a line between a journalist and the people they cover? Both appear to have crossed it. Jordan admits that Seaver wanted to be portrayed in a certain light...is it possible that Jordan was a pawn as Seaver invited him in and treated him warmly? Shaughnessy meanwhile longs for the days when athletes and reporters rode to the airport together for road trips. It is subtle and perhaps not a big deal in the grand scheme of things but can a reporter really maintain objectivity when he has these buddy-buddy relationships? (Thanks to Mike B1 for hammering this point home)

On another level, I think Shaughnessy is guilty of waxing too poetic about the good ole days. Is it really that much different now? We still get stories about Dustin Pedroia and his card games with Francona. Shaughnessy talks about player's nicknames from the 80's but I am sure he could reel through the nicknames on this team as well. On his Japan trip, Shaughnessy also gave some personal glimpses into the different players as they prepared for the long road trip. Really not much different than the kinds of examples he gives from those good ole days.

On yet another level, Shaughnessy is hypocritical. In his past work, he comes across very hard against the fans who engage in hero worship of these athletes. He is sharply critical of men who wear jerseys with player's names on them. Yet he concludes this little piece with "ultimately, it erodes the connection between sports fans and their heroes." So why does he care so much about feeding this hero worship with one hand and ripping it apart with another? It is
silly.

Finally Shaughnessy does come across as a bitter and even jealous. He talks about his colleague Marc Spears who has more access than others and speculates that this is because he was a former player himself. He also hints that Spears works hard at it. Can Shaughnessy fathom the possibility that it is not the publicists to blame and that it may be case of a generational and/or racial divide? Shaughnessy can't be bothered with thinking about this because as usual, his analysis is weak. As a result, his commentary does come across as whiney on yet another level.

So Objective Bruce, I disagree that this commentary was excellent. I can call it copy cat; I can call it hypocrtitical; I can call it shallow; I can call it illustrative of an ethical breach; and I can say it is borne from jealousy but I can't call it excellent. Sorry.

7 comments:

roger bournival said...

Shallow, hypocritical and jealous - that's my Danny Boy!

Chris said...

Poor Danny...years ago his was pretty much a one-way street. If he penned something outrageous, comments were limited to those printed in a vetted 'Letters to the Editor' section in the Globe. I believe that Dan chose the letters himself, focusing on the ones starting with, 'Dan, I love you.'

But now, the Internet that Dan loathes represents a fire hose aimed right back at him. He has a bully pulpit and readers who despise him have one, too. The clear root of his anger and rage that he takes out on players, teams, and fans alike (is there anyone left??) is borne from his hatred for the Internet that launched blogs, comments sections, and message boards. This is a medium that Danny cannot vet, and he has come unhinged and unglued in a most unprofessional manner. A huge 'gotcha' for people who don't like this person or his work.

JJS37 said...

Maybe the fact that Douchy Dan spends all his time carving guys up both professionally and personally might be part of the reason why he's never going to be riding to airports with Schilling. You think that has anything to do with it?

This article is everything that Shank is: Jealous and petty. I'm sorry, but it comes off as "Hey, I used to rub elbows with these guys. I used to hob nob. Now I don't because they don't need rides to the airport because no one makes $100K anymore, it's $1 million at the minimum." And people making a mill don't need to hang out with the guys that are going to write bad stuff with them.

Isn't that what this article is about? How come the athletes don't like me anymore? Let's see, you're a sarcastic a-hole, you don't show up in the clubhouse/locker room, you write recklessly, and a lot of times, you are factually incorrect. Oh, and you hold personal grudges.

And you want to hang out in the hotel bar?

I disagree with Chris in the fact that I don't think he hates the readers NEARLY as much as he hates the players. He hates, hates, HATES the players. When you look at the ones he names in this article and looks at them fondly, who are they? Rick Robey, Rick Carlisle, and Greg Kite. Not exactly Springfield material.

He HONESTLY can't understand why Rondo (the starting guard) would need a publicist and Greg Kite (the 9th guy off the bench) wouldn't?

"Can't see why John Travolta needs a publicist when Screech from Saved by the Bell doesn't..."

Way to be in tune Dan. Douche.

dbvader said...

This column was awful for so many reasons. It was a regurgitation of someone else's thoughts and it failed to address any counterarguments. A weak effort to convince anybody about anything.

First, Dan's argument begs the question of whether it was ever appropriate for sports journalists to ever be so chummy with their subjects. Dan loves to fashion himself as some brave journalist telling it like it is, but he also pines for the days when he was drinking with the Celtics and covering up their indiscretions. If I am not mistaken, it was not mentioned for years that Bird injured his hand in a bar fight one year during the playoffs.

Second, Dan fails to recognize that the athletes' reluctance may have to do something with reporters increasing tendency to employ tabloid journalism. A-Rod is tailed around Toronto, Sammy Sosa is asked to piss in a cup by that jerk from the backpage of SI. Why should any athletes help these bottomfeeders?

Third, Dan lacks any self awareness. Maybe players won't talk to him because of his irrational, agenda driven attacks on certain players, coaches, and front office personnel.

Finally, Dan offers his commentary from the distance of a columnist's position. He has no idea what it is like these days to follow a team every day. It reminds me of the complaint from the media that Belichick doesn't offer up any information and doesn't allow the coaches to talk. Well, if you read the press conference transcripts you would see that Belichick can offer great insight to writers who ask good questions. About the coaches, everybody complained that they weren't allowed to talk and it was some Belichickian conspiracy against them. What happens when they are allowed to talk? Nobody shows up.

Columnists expose their ignorance whenever they try to talk about day to day activities of teams.

Dave M said...

OB

You were waiting for the commentary on this article...now where are you? I am interested in your defense of Shaughnessy

Anonymous said...

Right on, JJS37 (if that is your real name). Shaughnessy has tried to put himself into the story by antagonizing guys like Schilling and Carl Everett and now he's getting burned for choosing that path.

Anonymous said...

The Big Lead has a pretty good piece on this today:

http://thebiglead.com/?p=5983

Shaugnessy should read it.