by Jerry Kavanagh
Horrified members of of the Major League Baseball beat found fault last month with Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price for the profanity-laced tirade he directed at Cincinnati Enquirer reporter C. Trent Rosencrans on April 20. Price was unhappy with the line of questioning from Rosencrans, who had asked about the availability of a Reds’ player. The manager saw in the reporter’s curiosity disloyalty to the team he was covering and vented his frustration over the release of information that the manager felt could abet the Reds’ opponent.
You can’t really blame Price for his misguided belief that the beat reporter is an extension of the team’s public relations department. Given the overwhelming volume of gibberish coming out of the mouths these days of so many media-credentialed folks, one could logically assume that the inane and innocuous questions and comments at postgame press conferences are written by the P.R. staff in advance and provided to the media along with updated stats, schedules, and player biographies.
By now, alas, we are all familiar with the line of questioning in the script of the beat reporter to the manager, coach, or player:
“Talk about the game tonight.”
“How big/important was the hit/basket/ goal/ win?”
“How excited/disappointed are you by this win/loss?
“You’ve got to be happy/upset about the outcome.”
Evidently, Rule No. 1 followed by some beat reporters, is “Don’t make waves for the players and team you are covering.” Rule No. 2 is, “Toss the interview subject a question so soft that he can hit it out of the park, slam dunk it, put it in the hole, or otherwise score uncontested.”
Of course, there were those in the press who rose up high in their saddles to remind Price and the rest of us of the noble calling of the press to distill the truth and nothing but the truth. Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post, no doubt echoing his illustrious forerunners Woodward and Bernstein, wrote, “Now, no beat writer is doing his/her job if he/she isn’t sending out that information [about whether a player is available for a game] in real time…. All reporters can ask of the people they cover…is that they don’t lie.”
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports at least had a sense of humor about the contretemps when he wrote, tongue in cheek, on Twitter: “I think getting a baseball manager to swear 77 times because your story is correct is the highest achievement in sports writing.”
Whoever it was who counted the cuss words has way too much time on his hands.
Price, by the way, was in good company with his choice of words, accepting, as he apparently did, the counsel of Mark Twain, who once advised, “When angry, count to four; when very angry, swear.” And Price, in the next life, may or may not encounter Twain, who admitted, “If I cannot swear in heaven I shall not stay there.”
Jerry Kavanagh is a former editor at New York Magazine and Conde Nast.