Let me be the first to say that I sympathize with multi-million dollar athletes when they complain about the media. The fact is that these athletes simply don’t have very many interesting things to say on a day-to-day basis, and in a mega-sports market like Boston, that means writers are going to create stories that have no business existing. That can be very frustrating for a guy whose job it is to hit and catch a baseball.
So it should come as no surprise that Carl Crawford apparently still cannot get over his brief and highly disappointing experience with the Red Sox. In an interview with CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler, Crawford lamented on the destructive patterns of the Boston sports media, which apparently made him miserable.
“That smile turned upside down quick,” Crawford said. “I think they want to see that in Boston. They love it when you’re miserable.
“Burying people in the media, they think that makes a person play better. That media was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.”
I think I have an interesting perspective on the Boston sports media, as both an outsider (I grew up in Philadelphia, which has its own zealous sports media, by the way) and as someone whose worked inside the beast (I spent eight months writing for NESN.com). And when the conflicts with Red Sox players and the media really began to heat up – starting of course with the September, 2011 collapse – I contemplated both sides of the situation.
First, let’s back up to the root of the problem. The Red Sox entered the 2011 season with astronomical expectations, and for the first five months of that season they were the best team in the American League. But over the last seven months of regular season baseball, there has not been a more disappointing team in sports.
The Red Sox sucked, and the media kicked them when they were down, beginning with the infamous “chicken and beer” scandal that ultimately led to manager Terry Francona’s demise. This, of course, was a classic post-hoc rationalization – if the Sox continued their winning ways through the 2011 season, the chicken and beer would have been credited with boosting clubhouse morale (see: 2004 Red Sox, a.k.a. the “Idiots.”)
Creating ridiculous narratives is the favorite pastime of hack columnists with nothing better to do, and Boston is chock-full of that breed. But does this trait only exist in Boston? Is it tougher to play here – or rather, lose here – than most other major league cities?
Apparently, Crawford thinks so, and both Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett (also shipped away last August) have echoed similar sentiments. But to me, this seems like yet another poor narrative-driven rationalization.
Crawford was a complete bust in Boston, and so was the team during his tenure. Now, Crawford blames the media with making his situation worse.
“I took so much of a beating in Boston, I don’t think anything could bother me anymore,” he said. “They can say what they want — that I’m the worst free agent ever — and it won’t get to me. But it bothered me the whole time there.”
In a nutshell, Crawford was a terrible, overpaid player for a highly disappointing team in a huge sports market, and yet he somehow was bothered by the media writing about it on a consistent basis.
Again, I sympathize with Crawford in that the media must make his job tough. But my sympathy goes as far as that. In reality, Crawford needs to man up.
The fact is that players and the media will always clash, no matter what the city is. That’s part of the game, and it’s what the audience wants. They pretend they don’t, but they do (page views don’t lie). And for a guy like Crawford to even partially credit the media with his poor play in Boston is just feeding the beast even further.
So let’s just call it like it is. When players play well, the media treats them well. When players disappoint, the media will jump on them. In some cities, like Boston, the range of treatment is much larger. So, if the Red Sox had won two championships over the past two seasons, Carl Crawford would most likely be quoted as saying how much he loves the city, and how well the fans and media have treated him (in addition to crediting Popeyes’ fried chicken).
Take note, future Red Sox players. This is how your future will look, one way or another.