I watched Alex Rodriguez’ news conference on Tuesday afternoon, along with one of my public relations classes.
They have an assignment to evaluate the PR of this event. Did it help or hurt the New York Yankees’ slugger who recently admitted to ESPN’s Peter Gammons that he used steroids between 2001 and 2003, after lying about it in several other interview situations in recent years. Was he credible? Did he really apologize? Did he need to?
All are good questions, I think, and some are more easily answered than others. After watching A-Rod’s performance, and having had some time to think about it, I’m still not ready to pass judgment. But the lingering question for me – as for many, many other fans and journalists — is one of credibility. I have a hard time believing – as I did with similar responses to steroid questions in recent years by all-time home run king Barry Bonds – that an elite athlete would take something or inject himself with something or rub it on himself when he didn’t know what it was, or didn’t know what it would do to him.
The A-Rod controversy is a good example of how the sports media, like other media – and as we all do to some extent — write “scripts” through which they look at the world. And I would imagine that many reporters who cover baseball, just like many fans, are having to re-write their “scripts” about Rodriguez.
After all, he was the “anti-Bonds.” The enigmatic San Francisco Giants star was surly with the media, a bad teammate, loved only by clearly oblivious Giant fans and clearly a steroid abuser, the story lines always went. A-Rod was the “good slugger,” loved by fans and teammates, who had hit his 553 home runs the “right way.” And if he played long enough he would surpass Bonds’ tainted total of 762 career homers and return the home run title to someone who had legitimately earned it.
Now the image has been shattered and reality, as it always does, turns out to be a little more complicated. So is the story, and it will be interesting to see if it gets lost, or gets worse, depending on how A-Rod performs on the field.
One more random note – kudos to that New York Yankees public relations person for his conduct of the news conference. With more than 200 media representatives on hand, including many whose interest in the Yankees extended only to this story, he made sure that the beat writers who cover the team on a daily basis were able to get their questions answered.
It was, for the Yankees, a nice bit of media relations that probably went unnoticed by most folks watching the bigger PR problem unfold.