Thursday, August 11, 2005

Sheff Uncensored and Assorted Rants

Anyone who wants to read the New York Magazine profile about Sheff and doesn't feel like spending the money on the mag, here's the link.

As for my feelings on what was said....I've heard worse. It wasn't nearly as bad as Reggie's "the straw that stirs the drink" comments that Mr October made almost 30 years ago. Sheff is going to mouth off every once in a while and the guys know to expect it.

Neither Jeter and A-Rod were all that bothered by what was said and despite news to the contrary, Sheff didn't take any direct or indirect shots at any of his teammates. His point was this, that he's the primary focus of most opposing pitchers. Not A-Rod. Not Jeter. Anyone that watches this team day and day out like I do will agree with this.

Imperial Enemy Bill Simmons called him the most terrifying Yankee hitter of the last 20 years. Can anyone disagree with that? You can get A-Rod and Jeter to swing at bad pitches. Sheff will either hold up or get to it because of his deadly quick hands. He's hitting .400 with men in scoring position. Absolutely lethal. What he said was absolutely correct. He is the primary focus of most opposing pitchers. Should he have been diplomatic and said something bland? Absolutely. But it was still true.

But is it irritating as hell that he throws teammates under the bus by carelessly speaking off the cuff? Absolutely. He's an asshole sometimes. He lacks the social skills that Jeter, A-Rod and Giambi have developed to deal with the media. It also gets a little annoying when he plays the race card when he talks about how the media portrays him to the public.

While it irks me that most press boxes are wayy too white, wayy too middle-aged and wayy too male...most press guys will give you a fair shake if you're fair with them. If they don't understand, then explain it to them. The problem is, many of these athletes aren't articulate enough to explain what it is they really mean. So when they explain something in Inner-City Speak, it sometimes comes off harsher than intended.

I think that's Sheff problem. It's not a race issue, Gary. You just need to buy a thesaurus. Athletes (like Sheff) will also play the race card to deflect an issue from them and put the writer on the defensive. Bad strategy. It works in the short term, but now you have to deal with that writer that you called a racist. He might have been asking a legitimate question that you, either didn't want to answer or didn't know how to answer. So you put him on the defensive. Now he's pissed that you made him look like a jerk. Think you're going to get the benefit of the doubt now? Not!

These guys just need to deal with the fact that these press rooms aren't going to become black and brown overnight. Adapt to the situation and understand that you speak a different language from these guys(literally and figuratively).Minorities in corporate America have to do this every day. There's a tone and cadence that we use with each other that we don't use in the workplace. The best and brightest of us learn to turn it on and off depending on the audience. Some of us however, are never quite comfortable with and struggle socially in the workplace. Jeter and A-Rod know their audiences and act accordingly. Sheff needs to do the same if he wants better media coverage. Michael Jordan was the master of this. He could go from team spokesman to Ghetto Bastard in the blink of an eye.

The problem is that many of these black and hispanic athletes have never developed the social skills and mechanisms to deal with white folks. As a result, minor differences of opinion blow up into major confrontations. The Latin players have even it worse, because of cultural AND language barriers.

This is not to say the that media doesn't bear any responsibility in this drama. The intellectual laziness of the fourth estate, at times, is staggering. There has to be more of an effort on behalf of reporters to better understand their subjects. Diversity recruitment is part of it. But diversity education programs is also needed in most newsrooms. Many of these writers have had little or no real social experience with people of color. Now they're expected to cover Black and Brown athletes for a living? You're just asking for trouble. It's like putting a cop who grew up in Scarsdale on a beat in the South Bronx. Unless this person is a social genius, someone is going to get hurt.

But we didn't bring him over here for his winning personality. We brought him to crush the ball. And that's what he's doing. The sad thing is, there are a lot of thing that are admirable about the guy. He kind of reminds me of Albert Belle. A helluva player. And an even bigger asshole. Jim Rice is another example of a great player who had a prickly relationship with media. As a result, he's still waiting for his call to Cooperstown. The writers couldn't keep Ted Williams out of the Hall. But they gave at least three MVPs to other players because he was a jerk.

The article intimated that he could have won the MVP last year if the beatguys didn't hate him so much. No, he wouldn't have. Vlad the Impaler had slightly better stats and carried his team to the post-season the last three weeks of the season. He deserved to be MVP. And if he didn't get it, then Manny should have gotten it.

He could actually learn something from Giambi. The past goodwill that Giambi has engendered with his teammates and the media has actually helped in the rehabilitation of his image. That and the way he's been pounding the ball. If Gary ever tests positive for steroids, not only will he get thrown under the bus. They'll back it up 10 times just to make sure he's dead. And he'll have noone to blame but himself. If a model citizen like Rafael Palmiero is getting carcass dragged all over creation after testing positive. What do you think will happen to Sheff?

My point is, objectivity is a myth. Everyone brings their own experiences and values into a situation. Including journalists. All that you can hope for is to be treated fairly. But journalists are human too. And susceptible to the faults as everyone else. Most writers will be good to you or if you're good to them. Ocassionally, you'll have to smack folks in line, who overstep their boundaries. But if you're good to the press, not only will they not fault you for it..they'll probably help you out in your cause.

Honey and Vinegar. Both are effective. You just have to know when to use them.


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