John Lackey and the Media Crossing the Line
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John Lackey and the Media Crossing the Line
Where is 'the line' between professional players and the media
This is a great piece from Mike Silva, and it calls some media outlets into question. TMZ is what it is, but WEEI's Dennis and Callahan Show has walked many a tight rope in Boston. In fact Jerry Callahan has been suspened before.
Here is Mike's piece . . .
In an uncomfortable moment last night, John Lackey addressed the media after reports of him filing for divorce from his wife.
He took them to task, and actually at one point appeared to be on the verge of a breakdown. Normally, that is an uncomfortable and personal conversation, but the fact that Krista Lackey is batting cancer makes it even worse. Mrs. Lackey underwent a double mastectomy in March and underwent chemotherapy as recently as June, making this divorce an even sadder situation.
The fact that I know the situation is the point of the piece. TMZ has put together a business model that delves in to the personal lives of celebrities. The focus is often on the entertainment industry as not all athletes carry the national appeal of a Brad Pitt.
In the case of Lackey, he plays for a high profile team that is in the news because of their on the field struggles. Add in the fact he is leaving his wife while she is battling cancer and there’s your national story. I can’t criticize TMZ for what they do since they are open and honest about the business model. If they weren’t so wildly successful they wouldn’t exist and this discussion wouldn’t be taking place.
I can wonder about the local media that covers the team making this an issue.
Instead of letting Lackey vent, a reporter asked him if this was a distraction during the postgame. Even worse was how Lackey’s divorce was discussed on the Dennis & Callahan Morning Show. Not only did they call Lackey a “despicable human being,” but they opined about how Lackey should have handled the situation. They were breaking down Lackey’s performance on how he filed for divorce. They even speculated on the wife’s loss of hair. They compared Lackey’s situation to the moral dilemma of leaving a fiancé because they suffer an injury that leaves them handicapped. Think about this for a second. Is this relevant, fair, or even ethical? How can these guys feel good about their radio program after spending time discussing this? The night after the Red Sox won a huge game at Yankee Stadium to maintain their Wild Card lead they are discussing Lackey’s divorce with tons of speculation and innuendo sprinkled throughout.
How do they ratinalize it?
Dennis & Callahan actually wondered on air if they were “allowed” to bring this up. Their rationale for doing so is that Lackey brought it up in the postgame with the media. Once their conscience was clear they proceeded to conduct the aforementioned analysis. Everything that is wrong with sports radio, media, and journalism was on display during this segment,which you can listen to by clicking here and then going to the 4:06 mark.
As someone who went through a difficult divorce of my own I sympathize with the Lackeys. However, I don’t know the details or care to speculate on why it happened. I put myself in his shoes and think about how my situation could have been misconstrued by an outsider. I think about how I would have felt if me and my ex-wife were being talked about publicly. Nobody knows why someone does something or how they feel. I don’t even know if this has impacted his play on the field since everyone deals with stress differently. Again, all I can and should go by is how this relates to the game of baseball.
I criticize the mainstream media, specifically beat reporters, for their bland coverage of the team.
You get so many “how do you feel” quotes during pressers that I almost could script the press conference before it starts. Sometimes this has to do with the scribes keeping their questions off the regional sports network, but having been in attendance for a few of these pressers I can tell you it doesn’t get much better off camera. Radio and television has gone to the “fake outrage” playbook where they conjure up debate to fill air time. Usually it’s harmless, as they talk about coaches’ decisions, trades, or free agency. Yes, they try to put words in the mouths of team personnel, but normally it doesn’t cross the line where you are discussing a player’s decision to separate with his spouse.
The Record’s Bob Klapisch knows a thing or two about ruffling feathers in the locker room. Back in 1993, Bobby Bonilla threatened to “show him the Bronx” because of his portrayal in the book “The Worst Team Money Could Buy.” That was a wild time in media and radio as the Mets were threatening reporters, throwing firecrackers at fans, and being accused of rape. All that stuff was relevant news. It was fair game because it involved the public.
What you saw with Lackey last night isn’t close to some of the interaction that Mets team had with the media.
You don’t see reporters getting called to a hotel room to chat ala Reggie Jackson after Billy Martin took him out of a game at Fenway for not hustling. Klapisch painted a picture for me during a radio show appearance of the good guys and bad guys moving to the center. That leads to the bland quotes of today. After seeing this situation with Lackey can you blame them? The wild media times I just discussed were still sports related controversies. The off the field situations were of the legal nature so it was their obligation to report it. A player’s divorce and why he did it does not fall into that category.
TMZ is what it is.
If you are a celebrity you, unfortunately, have to take precaution to avoid their intrusive eye. I do think the local print, radio, and television media needs to evaluate how they handle these types of situations going forward. They like to talk about how blogs and non-affiliated media don’t have credibility, but there they are right in the fray with TMZ. Not leading, but following with the best of them. There has to be compassion. Why would you treat Lackey’s personal situation any differently than a colleague at the radio station? Would Dennis & Callahan talk about the divorce of someone at their radio station? I think not.
The line between athlete and journalist was crossed last night. As we get further into the world of new media I suspect we will see the walls athletes put up get even higher. We will see more bland quotes, more distrust, and more players elude the media even when it comes to talking about the game. What the fans eventually lose is learning about a player so they can connect with them in a positive way. That is what results when the media crosses the line as they did with John Lackey last night.
By Mike Silva
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- John Lackey