Last night, the New York Yankees’ high-paid new set-up man Rafael Soriano pitched terribly in blowing a 4-0 lead to the Minnesota Twins in the 8th inning. The Yankees eventually lost the game in extra innings. After the game, surely the media would focus on the blown lead, on C.C. Sabathia’s wasted seven shutout innings, on Soriano’s failure to do his job.
Not so fast.
Instead, the story focused on how Soriano wasn’t around in the clubhouse answer the game to answer questions.
As a huge Yankees fan who was furious with the way Soriano pitched last night, please allow me to say: who the fuck cares?
For as long as I’ve been alive, the media has created a self-perpetuating fantasy that if athletes don’t stand in front of their lockers and solemnly answer beat reporters’ questions after performing poorly, that they’re somehow showing a lack of accountability.
Brian Heyman’s lead from the LoHud Yankees Blog:
Rafael Soriano had his first bad game in New York as a Yankee, leading to this 5-4 loss to the Twins in 10, and then compounded it by failing to come into the clubhouse to explain it all to the reporters waiting for him at his locker.
Joel Sherman in the New York Post:
He took a bribe to come here for a role he did not really want. Maybe money really can’t buy happiness…He was not good on the mound and then matched that by lacking the accountability to face the media after the game.
Ben Shpigel in the PAPER OF RECORD:
When the clubhouse opened afterward to the news media, Soriano had already departed, leaving his manager and his catcher to address the carnage.
Gabe Lacques in USA Today:
Afterward, Soriano was nowhere to be found. A New York news media contingent accustomed to Rivera’s win-or-lose accountability was left to grill others in person, and then Soriano in print.
By no means is this phenomenon limited to this incident or even to the…let’s say “unique”…New York media. In reporters’ eyes, if an athlete fucks up during a game, he owes it to…somebody…to stand in the clubhouse and throw out clichés about getting after it tomorrow. And the worse you fuck up, the more you need to prove you’re a stand-up guy after the game.
The media has created this myth and they tend to it carefully, like a gardener with a rare orchid. This guy knows what I’m talking about:
In reality, reporters get angry when guys don’t answer questions after tough losses because it makes their jobs harder. They need those bland quotes to fill column inches (or virtual column inches — it’s 2011, y’all!), so when they don’t get them, the punish the absentee athlete by filling those inches (twss) with personal attacks.
Even worse, the media hides behind the fans, claiming that athletes must be accountable for the sake of the poor, unwashed masses. But the game is already lost. Fans don’t care at all whether or not a guy stands up afterward and glumly says something like, “My location just wasn’t right tonight,” or “I take full responsibility. I let my teammates down today.”
Answering the same questions you’ve heard a million times before doesn’t make you more or less accountable. If you show up for work the next day and do your best to improve, that’s real accountability, and almost everyone does exactly that. We’ve let the media create this self-serving fallacy so that reporters can make their lives easier, and impugn anyone who doesn’t comply with their invented behavioral standards.
God forbid a beat reporter should have to find someone new to interview, or find something interesting to say about a sporting event beyond the score.
UPDATE: Jon Heyman, the man most reliable to uphold any old-media myth or bias, has chimed in with this predicatable tweet:
rafael soriano stayed in game too long and didnt stick around in clubhouse long enough. #nomariano