Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Private Lives, Glass Houses, and Bling

Anyone who has read Russ Smith's work over the years knows that he's not short of opinions. They extend to baseball too, and yesterday he let loose on what he sees as a disgusting level of coverage of athletes' private lives:

New York’s Daily News has been on a tear of late in its campaign to crush Roger Clemens, issuing daily revelations of his reported adultery and pathological hypocrisy, and the rest of the sports media has been glad to climb aboard the bulldozer aimed at the now smaller-than-life Texan. This is not a defense of Clemens’ apparently reckless and extraordinarily selfish lifestyle—and the allegations of his affair with a teenager when he was a 28-year-old Red Sox pitcher are truly creepy—but I’d rather not know the details. Unfortunately, if you follow baseball as closely as I do, in particular the ups and downs of the Red Sox (thumbs up) and Yankees (big toes down), it’s impossible to escape the almost daily denunciations of columnists posing as priests. Another recent unnecessary “news” story was that Alex Rodriguez passed out while his wife was in labor with their first daughter in 2004. Who cares?
While I can be found gawking myself on occasion, I tend to agree with Smith. It's one thing if the private behavior is truly reprehensible, criminal, or causes an impact on the performance of the team, but I simply can't get too worked up about someone having an extra drink or two, getting squeamish at an inopportune time, being caught performing an unfortunate song at a karaoke bar, or most of what else passes for coverage in the minds of some editors. A quick mention of such silliness? Fine, especially if it's accompanied by true wit. But it's not the sort of thing on which to base five-piece investigative reports (or entire blogs for that matter).

Read to the end of Smith's piece, by the way, for some fun spleen about player jewelry. At first glance you might think focusing on that sort of thing runs contrary to his plea to focus on the game, but at least giant chains are an on-the-field issue.


Osmodious said...

Craig, couldn't agree with you more...I have never understood the media fascination with the private lives of famous people. They claim that it's what people want, but it really isn't...the hunger for every teensy detail about the famous has been driven by the media. Who cares if Hillary Duff was spotted at club xyz last night with celebrities a and b and c, but spent most of her time using her pink (with small purple/yellow flowers) SideKick?

Perhaps part of it is escapism, I don't know. It seems that people use every excuse these days to divert attention away from things that probably really should be thought about. I know that star worship goes back a long, long way...but it has become absolutely ridiculous.

We are going to get to a point where we lose out on experiencing the talents of some of our society's greatest products, merely because they do not wish to sacrifice their entire life to the 'public'. Really. I mean, who wants to see their kid become such a spectacle, no matter how much money you get back.

People justify this stuff with the line "Well, WE pay their paycheck, so they OWE us!" That is all good and well, but the point that goes with that that they conveniently forget is this: when they are not doing their job, then you have no right to them. When a ballplayer is at the ballpark, he belongs to the fans...absolutely. When he is done with his 'day job', his life is his own...just as our lives are our own when we leave the workplace.

Mark Runsvold said...

I value my privacy and resent intrusions into the privacy of others. The age of the personal lives of celebrities staying personal though, has passed and isn't coming back. It's a consequence of our information-obsessed culture and, since it's a change that's here to stay, is worth trying to look at in a positive light. For one thing, perfectly human behavior is no longer presented as perversion. Remember the circus when Ellen Degeneres came out 10 or so years ago? Now a person as famous as Jodie Foster can announce that she is gay and hardly arouse widespread interest.

There are examples like this all over the place, and the future promises more of the same. If anybody has at their disposal any piece of information about everybody else in the world, the information is suddenly not so interesting.

tadthebad said...

Osmod, so true. What is most despicable is that the media claims to fulfill the will of the populace, when in reality the media directs and drives that will. Add to that the fact that, I'm sorry to say, people are sheep and independent thinkers represent the vast minority, and it's clear that the media gains more power everyday (well, the mainstream media anyway).

Now, the counterpoint to that idealogy is that ratings drive the flow of news...and ratings are a measure of the population's interest in what is newsworthy. Which brings me back to a sad conclusion: too few independent thinkers.

Mark Runsvold said...

I take a much more charitable view here, tad. Calling people sheep doesn't get anybody anywhere. Rather than being inherently incapable of discerning fact from fiction, I think the average person's senses are tricked by media. Seeing is believing isn't just a cliche, it's how we're programmed to take in information.

Our telecom laws are absurdly slanted to keep a narrow set of voices everywhere on public airwaves. It's getting worse too.