July 20, 2014

THEY'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HUMAN:

Ted Williams' honesty was refreshing - and rare (Frank Fitzpatrick, 7/20/14, Philadelphia Inquirer)

When Red Sox fans sought to make amends with great ovations, he refused to acknowledge them with a tip of his cap.

How many players would like to vent nightly at critical sportswriters? Williams did.

He disdainfully referred to Boston writers as "the knights of the keyboard." A voracious newspaper consumer, if he saw something he believed unfair or overly personal, he told off the author, usually loudly and profanely.

How many players mired in long funks would like to rail at the world? Williams did.

When he failed, he didn't don a happy mask. He moped, questioned his career choice, and sometimes threatened to quit. Once in a while, after a bad call or a prolonged 0-fer, he'd even fail to hustle.

That behavior wasn't admirable. But, from the perspective of 60-plus sanitized years later, it certainly seems refreshing. And Williams, dead for 12 years now, remains a far more complex figure than any of today's emotionally restrained stars.

In baseball, as in other sports, increased scrutiny and money have yielded less candor.

Players are coached in how to behave in public, how to interact with the media, how to protect their brand. Their answers to questions, more often than not, are bland and safe. Their real feelings remain sheltered. Though in essence they're always on camera, they've learned to reveal less, not more, of themselves.

"The pitch got away." "Our fans are the greatest." "We all make mistakes."

It's understandable. In a world in which the slightest indiscretion can go viral instantly, an honest reaction can be perilous.

Broadcaster Roy Firestone was once asked how athletes could avoid making media mistakes. His response was a guidebook for contemporary athletes.

"[Avoid] anything involving brashness. Any confrontation. It's always a big mistake to challenge the media. Keep it to yourself. Never ever . . . name- call. You don't ever make the mistake of trying to exchange verbiage with a member of the broadcast or newspaper business, because you're going to lose. And you're going to look bad. . . . Don't ever confront a member of the media. It's a mistake. They play it over and over again on TV, and you look like a fool."

Williams was a big-enough talent and a strange-enough individual that he didn't care. It's hard to imagine anyone ever behaving like him again. As a result, as well as we'd like to think we know our favorite ballplayers, we really don't.
Posted by at July 20, 2014 8:36 AM
  
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