Like it or not, dealing with media is part of pro athlete’s job
Afew quick anecdotes to start this discussion:
• Thursday afternoon, right fielder Carlos Gonzalez was one of the few players available to the media in the Rockies’ clubhouse following a disheartening 6-3 home loss to Cincinnati. He was engulfed by media members and the questions that hung heavy in the air concerning the Rockies’ recent woes and, more specifically, Cargo’s season long slump.
Cargo politely answered every question with grace and humor, and even some genuine honesty.
“I know what it feels to be the best player in the game and the worst player in the game,” Gonzalez said. “Right now, I feel like I’m the worst player in the game.”
• Last Sunday in Arizona, Thomas Harding of Mlb.com and I approached Ian Desmond after the game to ask about the calf injury that knocked him out of a game and put him on the disabled list. Desmond cut us off with a curt retort: “I’m not talking to the media.”
I was surprised. Desmond came to Colorado with a reputation as an accessible and articulate athlete. For the most part, he had been, up until that uncomfortable moment.
• April 19 of last season, former Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa had one of the worst games of his career. Pitching at Cincinnati, he was pummeled. And the Reds stole five bases off him in the second inning. Moments after reporters were allowed into the clubhouse, but before we could talk to De La Rosa, he left.
Traditionally, it’s considered part of the starting pitcher’s job to talk to the media, win or lose, good performance or bad. When De La Rosa took off, I tweeted that he had “bolted the clubhouse,” adding that it was “unprofessional.”
A few minutes later De La Rosa returned for an interview, glaring at me the entire time. It was clear that he was aware of what I’d tweeted. We barely spoke to each other the rest of the season.
De La Rosa is shy by nature and I always sensed he was uncomfortable during group interviews. While I sympathized with him, the bottom line was that De La Rosa was the Rockies’ highest-paid pitcher last year ($12.5 million) and it was part of his job to talk to the media.
Fans, who pay for tickets, devote big chunks of their lives to watching games on TV. They spend their hard-earned money to buy jerseys and over-priced beer and hot dogs at the stadium and they want to know about their team. It’s my job to try and provide them with a fair, accurate and hopefully interesting viewpoint.
There is a natural wall between professional athletes and the media, and it’s a wall that’s gotten thicker and higher since I joined The Denver Post in 1998. I’ve covered both the Broncos and the Rockies and I know firsthand that the access in baseball is light years better than the regimented world of the NFL. I’m grateful for that, and for the professionalism of nearly all the Rockies players I’ve covered.
I understand that some players don’t like reporters in general, and that many consider us interlopers. It’s something the media has to deal with and respect. As I watched reporters circle Cargo, I kidded second baseman DJ Lemahieu: “You guys hate us, don’t you?”
Lemahieu gave me a wry smile and said, “Well, it’s kind of tough when we’re losing.”
I don’t expect every player to be as personable, forthcoming or available as Cargo, but I consider it part of the modern pro athlete’s job to interact with the media.
It’s not always pretty. A lot of dumb questions are asked and lots of calculated clichés are tossed back. But the bottom line is that professional sports are bigmoney entertainment, and the reporter and athlete are locked in their awkward dance together.