Manny saga example of how sports can ‘spin’ out of control

Posted March 14, 2009, at 12:09 a.m.

This is one for the messenger — a messenger too often criticized for presenting facts when facts aren’t what the audience wants to hear.

Apparently, Manny Ramirez being Manny was not nearly as funny nor innocent as so many wanted to believe during his days with the Red Sox.

Boston pitcher Jonathan Papelbon has said of his former teammate in an Esquire magazine story that Ramirez was a “cancer” on the team.

Papelbon did not back down from that story this week in training camp when he told the Boston Globe, “I’m not sugar-coating anything. You have somebody like him, you know at any point in the ballgame, he can dictate the outcome of the game. And for him not to be on the same page as the rest of the team was a killer, man!”

Papelbon went on to say, “When 25 or so guys are pushing through and one guy is not, that creates a problem. A problem was created and we weren’t winning games, so we had to do something.”

There is a hobby in this country today that consists of attacking the messenger when the story is not to your liking. One train of thought is that if you attack long and loud enough, people will actually start believing what you say.

During Manny’s days with the Sox, there were plenty of stories about how Manny wandered down his own path and if that conflicted with the needs of the team at the time, tough.

The response from the players and the team became the mantra, “Oh, that’s just Manny being Manny.”

The stories were diligently reported as best they could be. No one from the Red Sox would speak to the issues, not even Papelbon, while Manny was still a teammate.

That silence is part of the code athletes live by. Never speak negatively of a teammate. Keep the issues behind closed doors. Take the check and run.

Journalists covering the news live with this syndrome in every field of public interest, especially politics and business.

“Professionals” are hired to “spin” the news to fit the needs of the interested parties and that includes attacking any of the press who report what isn’t spin.

It is no different in sports.

Teams and players are not going to discuss problems like Manny. For one thing they hope to cure the problem. Even if they don’t, they prefer to deal with the problem internally, in this case a trade, rather than let the truth be known.

That is fine and understandable.

What must also be understood is the press is not there to serve the Red Sox or Manny, even if we do by making them public idols. The job of the reporter is to find the truth and disseminate it.

With a shrinking press corps, more teams owning the outlets that broadcast them and a public that seems more desirous of worshipping athletes than seeing reality, the pressure on those journalists who cover sports is ever greater to just spin it.

That can only bring us more performance-enhancing drug disasters, athletes lying before Congress and idols who are as false as the golden calf.

bdnsports@bangordailynews.net

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