I’ve been watching a lot of Red Sox DVDs these days. (What better way to escape a losing season than watch DVDs celebrating their World Championships?) These have a lot of “behind the scenes” action, which show a lot of beat writers and sideline reporters doing their job. Whenever I see them, I can’t help but feel sorry for them…and wonder what exactly their purpose is supposed to be.
You’ve all seen them. Huddled around a player in the locker room. Each of them extending a microphone, or tape recorder, or iPhone, or whatever. Stretching and reaching trying to grab a quote from the player. When the player makes a lame joke, they all chuckle in unison. They all nod their heads as the player says the team played well, or poorly, as if it was validating their own opinion. As if it was actually an opinion in the first place.
Or they’re on the field, butting in during batting practice. Catching little quips as players brush past. Ortiz says he’s sore, but feels good. Middlebrooks agrees that obstruction is a weird way to end a game. Begging for a little nugget to insert into a story.
Are they adding anything to the story? I reminded of someone who said whenever they wrote a story when they were working the beat, they tried to make it sound like they needed to be there. That they got something from being there that I couldn’t get by not.
When was the last time that happened? Does the quote, “John Farrell said the bullpen really pulled it out tonight.” Do anything for you? If you saw the game, you know that the bullpen did a great job. If you didn’t see the game, was that adding any insight? Couldn’t the reporter just have said the bullpen did a good job? Does it really matter that Farrell said it? And, that’s assuming that the quote from Farrell was an actual quote from an interview. It’s just as likely that a reported passed Farrell and mumbled, “Bullpen did great tonight, eh?” To which Farrell responded, on his way to the can, “Yup. Really pulled it out for us.” That’s not an opinion. That’s small talk. It’s discussing the weather.
Isn’t this all just grabbing stuff to fill column inches? Isn’t a simple recap enough? None of it’s exclusive. None of it is revolutionary. What if the Sox just did a press release after every game with comments? John Henry said, “Job well done.” Pedroia said, “Look how awesome I was! Did you see the dirt on my uniform?” Wouldn’t that be enough? Then they wouldn’t need all these people clogging the clubhouse?
What’s their purpose?