Saturday, May 3, 2008

Reputations and Rumors

Apparently Marvin Harrison has been questioned with regards to a shooting that took place last week (see The circumstances involve a bar that Harrison owned, and reports are rather sketchy at the moment.

The story is big news, perhaps most significantly because of Harrison's public reputation. In a league with outspoken players like T.O. and Chad Johnson, Harrison was seen as a quiet superstar, someone who went about his business without any showy public displays. He didn't say much, and we, as fans, celebrated him for it. Whether that public persona hid a darker personal life is now up for debate. The story at talks about an alleged choking incident at the Pro Bowl, and the internet is filled with rumors and whispers about other issues.

I have always found it interesting how public figures shape their reputations. How is there such a difference in perception between a Pacman Jones and a Leonard Little, an Albert Belle and a Kirby Puckett, etc? How does a John McCain gain a maverick image while still building a conservative record? How does an Elliot Spitzer become a crusader in the governor's office, while keeping secret his sordid love life?

As I've probably said about a dozen times on this blog, I used to be a member, however limited, of the mainstream media, on a local paper, and I received one of my degrees in print journalism. I was able to meet and interview a number of public figures, some extremely friendly (Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, Chris Berman, Bob Ley, Dan Patrick, Bronson Arroyo, Rob Dibble), and some not so friendly (Stuart Scott and Keith Olbermann). I know people who have worked for prominent political figures, who have told of both great and terrible experiences.

I'll be the first to admit that my experience is rather limited, but if it's taught me anything, it's taught me that someone's public image doesn't necessarily equal their real personality. Maybe that's true of Harrison, maybe it isn't. It's something to think about, though, as more details of the story unfold.

Finally: this is somewhat off topic, but everyone has heard Buzz Bissinger's comments by now about blogs, and his shameful performance on HBO. I have to say, I'm more than a little disappointed in Bob Costas and his apparent plan to trap Will Leitch. I'm continually surprised at how the old school media contingent continues to turn their nose up at anything new, whether it be the internet, statistical analysis, or anything else that threatens their iron grip on the sports they cover. There are some great reporters out there; I was lucky enough to have professors like Professor Zelnick and Jack Falla, who have embraced the new age of journalism. It's a shame that more of the old-school journalists can't see the writing on the wall.

No comments: