Disservice Journalism: NY Mag Strikes Out

New York magazine likes to stir up trouble, which is a good thing, but its latest offering on the subject of our national pastime leaves us wondering whether the glossy should stick to its usual subjects: politicos, socialites, and the city’s top doctors. Certainly, we expect more from an Adam Moss-edited magazine than “Jerkball,” which feels free to characterize the players on both the Sox and the Yanks (but especially the Yanks) as a bunch of self-centered, self-aggrandizing, mean-spirited, overpaid, petulant crybabies who could care less about baseball history and the rivalry in which they participate. Author Chris Smith tells us that there are more jerks on the two teams than at any time in recent memory (a dubious proposition), and proceeds to take cheap shots at KLo, KBro, A-Rod, Sheff (who’s been nothing but a pleasure all season), and Pedro among others. Curiously, there’s no mention at all of Manny, who is so often a target of such stories.

“Pro athletes, by and large, don’t know the history of their sport and don’t care,” writes Smith, who then claims that, “For the Yankees and Red Sox players, the deep, tangled history between the two franchises is mostly an annoyance, because they have to answer tedious media questions about it.” Both of these assertions are broadly unfair. Are there jerks on the two teams? Sure. Have there always been? Sure. Does that make it fair to impugn the two entire teams, let alone all pro athletes? Of course not. Don’t we know, from the play on the field and their comments to the press (conveniently left unreported here), that many of the players on the Sox and Yanks care a great deal about these games, that the prospect of playing in this rivalry actually drew them to sign with these teams, and that they revel in the energy now that they’re involved? Is it any wonder that certain players find the media an “annoyance” and “tedious” when there are writers producing smear jobs like “Jerkball”?


3 comments… add one
  • I thought the article was terrible as well, but mostly because the author’s struggle to be “even-handed” forced him to throw out Pedro as the “jerk” of the Red Sox (and he struggled mightily to do that, even) and couldn’t find anyone else. The article is a sports version of the “on-the-one-handism” that most political journalists have been practicing lately. And YF’s lame plea to call out Manny is absurd – if anything Manny has been accused of being alarmingly aloof. But a jerk? Hardly.
    As for the Yankees, the name-calling seemed a bit over-the-top, but surely there is a case to be made that Lofton, Sheffield, El Duque (who is famously surly), Brown, and maybe even A-Rod, compose a reasonable consortium of self-centered, hypersensitive, and testy athletes, and the question of whether the team is as tightly knit or as familial as those of the late 90s is apt. But there’s too much name-calling, even of the Yankees, and, to get to the bottom of the whole flawed meme, the Red Sox don’t even deserve to be part of the article. They are, strangely, a professional team bereft of surly and nasty players (moreso now that the angry Garciaparra has been jettisoned). The rivalry this year has been intense, but to my eyes nothing abnormal, particularly considering last season’s playoff series. And it certainly hasn’t derived any additional intensity because the Yankees have industrial-grade jerks as almost 20% of their roster. Moss should have spent more time in the front offices, where Lucchino and Steinbrenner satisfy the storyline more strongly.

    SF October 5, 2004, 12:06 pm
  • SF has misinterpreted my comment re Manny. I only meant that he is a standard punching bag in stories of this ilk, and therefore his absence was surprising.

    YF October 5, 2004, 12:17 pm
  • Got it – you’re right, actually, in that way.

    SF October 5, 2004, 12:41 pm

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