Philly Blunt

Freelance writer. Editor and web-video producer. Former Atlantic City Press and Philadelphia Weekly staff writer, City Paper managing editor/columnist and Dougherty for Senate campaign manager. Comments welcome here or emailed to brianhickey9 [at] hotmail. Now on: Facebook (Brian Hickey, in Philly) Twitter at www.twitter.com/brianhickey Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/people/brianhickey/. Be sure to check out Hickey on Divorce Court: divorcecourting.blogspot.com.

13 February 2009

Guys just can't accept a woman sports-scoopin' 'em

The call came in around whatever time "Rome is Burning" was on. I can't remember the exact time because -- let's face it -- Jim Rome has been a scumbag ever since the moment he called Jim Everett "Chris" to artificially inflate his ratings, so how would I know when his show airs (if you can call it that). Dude's one step away from the Stephen A. Ninth Circle of TV Hell, really.
But my dad was in a setting where he couldn't control the remote, so Rome was on and he called my cell. Why? "They're tearing Selena to pieces."
As in, Sports Illustrated columnist Selena Roberts, you know, the one who went to the University of Miami to confront -- face-to-face, like reporters are supposed to do -- Alex Rodriguez with the tip she'd received that 1) he was on 'roids as a Texas Ranger and 2) the players' union tipped him off to a looming drug test in '04.



So I turned it on and saw a bunch of guys -- losers -- ripping her for REPORTING THE BIGGEST SPORTS STORY OF THE PAST FEW YEARS. An A-Rod witch-hunt, they said. When, in reality, all that was fueling these chuckleheads' ire was the fact that a woman beat them to the punch. (And a classy woman who, in the sake of full disclosure, reached out to me and my family after hearing about the hit-and-run. I can't describe how much we appreciated that.)
Well, jealous tykes, maybe if you'd get off the set and do your reporting jobs like this ...

IN A parking lot space halfway between the University of Miami's baseball complex and its athletic center sits a hulking sign of his presence: a black Maybach, the QM2 of luxury liner cars, with a silver license plate frame that has ALEX RODRIGUEZ engraved across the bottom. It's freezing by Miami standards, about 39°, making an indoor workout far preferable to fielding short hops in the icy dew of a practice field. An SI reporter walks into a sprawling but nearly empty weight room that smells of rubber mats, shows a business card and asks if Alex Rodriguez is around. "In the back," says a man in a Hurricanes jacket.
Rodriguez is dressed in a white T-shirt and sweatpants, working out with a trainer and a friend as music pounds in the background. He is not pleased to see the reporter—whom he recognizes—in a place he views as his sanctuary. "You're not supposed to be here," he says more than once. When told there are a couple of important questions that need to be asked, Rodriguez, the Yankees' All-Star third baseman, rests his arm on a parallel bar used for triceps dips and leans in to listen with a bored sigh, as if he's expecting yet another question about Joe Torre or Madonna or Derek Jeter.
Rodriguez is asked about a drug test he took in 2003 (his final year with the Rangers), which SI's sources said came up positive for two anabolic steroids—testosterone and methenolone, also known by the brand name Primobolan. Rodriguez's green eyes widen, and he looks away. He processes the question and says, "You'll have to talk to the union," as he begins to fiddle with a plate. He is asked if the positive result could be a mistake, if maybe he took a tainted supplement, if the information is wrong. He says nothing. Is there any explanation, anything further he wants to say? "I'm not saying anything," he replies and turns toward a barbell.
One more question comes his way: Three major league players told SI that Gene Orza, the chief operating officer of the Major League Baseball Players Association, tipped Rodriguez about an upcoming drug test in early September 2004. Rodriguez is asked if that is true, but he does not respond. He looks at the trainer and orders him to "get someone. [The reporter] is not supposed to be in here."
No escort necessary. The reporter hands Rodriguez her card and tells him to call if there is anything else he wants to say. Rodriguez does not call. Messages left with players' association executive director Don Fehr will not be returned over the next five days. And Orza, when approached by an SI reporter on Friday at his New York City office about the tipping allegation, will say, "I'm not interested in discussing this information with you." On Monday, Orza told The New York Times, "It's not true. Simple as that."


... you wouldn't make me ponder a perplexing question.
Who is a bigger pansy: A-Rod, sports guys who get paid to go on air and bloviate about issues about which they've only seen other guys bloviate, or a "sports network" that bends over backwards to grant air time so a sullied athlete can attempt to salvage some public-relations points?
I'd call it a tie.

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