I know this story is a couple of days old. I was actually sitting around with a couple of my buddies, debating philosophy and politics, when I came across it on Pete’s blog. Yes, I’m referring to Alex Rodriguez‘s clearly exaggerated statement that he was tested nine or 10 times last year for PEDs. Why did we wait? Because if I posted something Wednesday night or Thursday morning, it would have been a cuss-laden diatribe that wouldn’t have resonated well with readers. But now that I’ve had a few days to reflect, I think I can discuss this in a more sober manner.
(Proof of my inability to articulate my position on Thursday morning was a conversation with my father, wherein he dissected everything I said, and was right. But now I think I can put together what I really want to say).
It all started on Wednesday. Alex came into camp and categorically denied ever having used PEDs. That’s all fine and good. It’s something he had to do, given the current environment in Major League Baseball, and especially the one surrounding the Yankees. In his statement, he exaggerated a bit, saying he was tested nine or 10 times last year.
Of course, only players who have failed a test for amphetamines are tested that many times. This roused the parasitic media. But instead of asking Alex, or one of his representatives, if he was exaggerating, they started to call — according to Abraham — “Brian Cashman, MLB, the MLBPA, Scott Boras.”
Because if they asked Alex, they would have been told what they undoubtedly knew: He was exaggerating. It takes nothing more than common sense to realize this. Even if A-Rod did fail a test for amphetamines, that’s not something he’d offer to the press in any way, expressly or implicitly.
None of this matters to the press, though. They need stories to get readers. And the more sensational the story, the more readers they draw in. It’s a sad but true fact of journalism. However, sensational stories are like Digg. They may bring in a lot of traffic, but it’s not quality traffic. You don’t get many repeat readers out of these sensational stories. You get one-off readers who are inherently drawn to scandal.
So the strategy changes. Because tabloids like the New York Post don’t gain eternal readers for their sensationalist stories, they have to keep a steady stream of them. This way, they’re getting a variety of one-off readers all the time. If they ever stopped with these frivolous stories, the readers who picked up the tabloid for sensational reasons simply wouldn’t pick it up any more.
At least that’s how the theory goes.
This non-story could have been nipped in the bud. It didn’t have to see an inch of column space or a kilobyte of bandwidth. But it did, because the media needs this. They need scandal and controversy. Otherwise, they’ll be exposed as bland, boring figures who rarely have anything interesting to say.
Clearly, this criticism is aimed more at some than others. While I don’t much care for Pete Abraham’s defense of his fellow journalists in this scenario, I generally think he does a great job with the blog. He understands what readers and fans want to see: more information. We tend not to care about the spin that various papers put on stories. We care about getting first-hand information about our favorite team.
Because Abraham understands this, he’s risen to one of the premier baseball bloggers. It’s not just that he has the backing of a fairly large media outlet. Hell, Pete Caldera has the backing of a big media company, too, but I don’t know anyone who reads his blog. This is because Abraham understands the people and serves their will. And he’s rewarded by having the greatest level of readership in the Yankees blogosphere.
You know who doesn’t get it? George King. Other than Mike Lupica, there might be no greater A-Rod hater in the New York media. The subhead of this post explains exactly why he doesn’t get it: “Get ready for 10 more years of Alex Rodriguez finding ways to stir it up.”
Sorry, George, but it is you stirring it up, not A-Rod. You see, humans often exaggerate to make points. Alex was attempting to 1) categorically deny PED use and 2) praise MLB’s testing program. Yes, he might have done better to further exaggerate the number, as Abraham suggests. But it was an exaggeration any way you slice it. Be honest. When you heard that he said he’d been tested nine or 10 times, you thought he was exaggerating, right? Come on. Only people who are out to get the guy thought otherwise.
I’ll say it again. They could have simply asked him or one of his representatives. But they decided to stray from the horse’s mouth. Why? Because the mere act of calling around could become the story. There was clearly nothing to this. You can’t tell me that any journalist actually thought that this was anything but an exaggeration. And if they did, I’d like to sign them up for my new course, How Not To Think Like a Dumbass.
This is par for the course for King, though. When I talk about sensational news piece after sensational news piece, he’s target No. 1 of that criticism. I’ll take a page from Stephen Colbert’s book and invite Mr. King to debate me here on this site. It can be on this issue, or any other one related to the manner in which sports are covered. Of course, it will end up being me arguing common-sense points, and King offering up smoke-and-mirrors defenses.
I think I’ve said my bit on this issue. It shouldn’t have made any sort of headlines. But because the media needs a sensational story, it did. And that’s a damn shame. The players are out on the field doing things, working towards a championship season, and all we can talk about is how Alex Rodriguez exaggerated how many times he was tested for PEDs last season.