Friday, September 3, 2010

US Open – Patrick McEnroe, Roddick’s 2nd round exit; Mike Wise twitter incident, Mitch Albom in 2005

I have a number of different thoughts today on a wide variety of topics.

The first is tennis, which I wrote about Monday prior to my annual trip to the U.S. Open. The main purpose of my trip was to run down a number of ex-players who I had covered extensively during my days on the tennis beat to set up interviews for the new book project. I won’t bore you with a lot of the details because most of those conversations were routine but I couldn’t help but laugh about my brief encounter with Patrick McEnroe.

Patrick is the youngest of the three McEnroe brothers. The best description I ever heard of Patrick came from Richard Evans, the longtime tennis observer—Richard’s been a writer, a TV guy, a PR guy, so I’ll generalize and call him an observer—who once said: “You have to give the parents credit. They got it right the third time.”

Everyone knows about John and his temper. Fewer people know about Mark, the middle brother. I think I may have met him once or twice and he seemed (like John) to be a good guy. Apparently his temper was a lot closer to John’s than to Patrick’s. In fact, until John was defaulted during The Australian Open in 1990, John McEnroe Sr. in his frequent defenses of his eldest son often said, “I’ve only had one son defaulted during a match and it was Mark.”

Patrick has all the McEnroe smarts and humor but not the angst. Ironically, it was a lot easier for me to track down John on Monday than Patrick. That’s probably because John was doing one thing—TV. Patrick was doing TV; a book-signing; his USTA development thing and his Davis Cup captain thing.

I finally found him sitting on an ESPN set, cell phone in his ear. I wasn’t going to just walk onto the set—especially given my relationship with ESPN even though Mary Carillo had slipped me an ESPN wristband so I could get into the booth upstairs while tracking John—so I waved to get his attention.

Without missing a beat, Patrick put down his phone, smiled and said, “there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.”

“What?”

“Golf sucks.”

Patrick and I have argued often the last several years about where tennis has gone and is going. Naturally, he defends his sport—as he should.

I laughed. “Maybe,” I said. “But, to quote Chico Escuela, golf been berra, berra good to me.” (For the record I think most people know I don’t think golf sucks. While we’re on the subject let’s pretend this is the point in the column where I take a shot at Tiger Woods so those of you who live to write, ‘Feinstein, you don’t like Tiger,’—no kidding, how’d you figure THAT out?’—can fire up your computers).

Patrick held up his phone. “I’m about to do radio. You need me?”

“Just your cell number,” I said. “I lost it again.”

Quick story about me and my penchant for losing phone numbers: About 10 or 12 years ago, I got a call from a woman who said she worked at Disney. I’m not sure her title but it sounded pretty high up and she apparently was involved in developing films ideas.

“I’m a big fan,” she said. “I really like your work. I just wanted you to know that anytime you have an idea for a movie or if you think one of your books would make a good movie you call me. We’ll fly you out and I’ll have you in a pitch meeting the next day.”

Wow, I thought, that’s pretty cool. I’d never even been in a pitch meeting so just being in one would be an experience. I wrote her name and number down on a scrap of paper right near the phone. And lost it. I couldn’t remember her name. Friends suggested I just call Disney and ask for anything like the ‘film development,’ department. I was too embarrassed to even try. Now of course, you can put numbers in your phone and not lose them. Except I don’t know how to do it. I have one number in my phone—Paul Goydos’s because he got so mad at me for constantly losing his number that he grabbed my phone on the range one day and put the number into it.

Anyway, I’ve got Patrick’s number in this computer now so I hope I won’t lose it again. I’m looking forward to explaining to him why golf doesn’t suck.

Andy Roddick is a tennis player I don’t know the way I knew some of the older guys. But I like him. I’ve liked the way he has handled himself most of the time in his career. The other night he lost in the second round of the Open and there were all sorts of stories about his ‘meltdown,’ over a foot fault call. You would have thought he was almost in Serena-world the way it was reported.

Roddick certainly blew up. He got frustrated because the line-judge told him he had foot-faulted with his right foot—almost impossible for a righty server—when it was his left. She had the call correct but Roddick, who was losing badly at the time, went off. There was no profanity, just a lot of wise cracks about the quality of officiating.

After the match Roddick made a point of saying that the call and the incident had ZERO affect on the outcome. “If anything I played with a little more emotion after that,” he said. He made the point repeatedly that Janko Tipsarevic, his opponent, had outplayed him. In fact, he and Tipsarevic both told the story about Roddick reminding Tipsarevic at the net that, after he had beaten him at Wimbledon, he had lost his next match. “Don’t do that again,” Roddick said.

This is a bad guy?

Completely different subject: a lot of people have asked me in the last few days how I feel about the Mike Wise twitter incident. Let me say first that Wise is both a colleague and a friend—we’re not close but we’re certainly friends. A few years ago he loaned me a jacket for a ‘Sports Reporters,’ appearance because the Final Four hotel in Atlanta had lost my jacket. (It was found eventually but too late for the show).

Mike was wrong and has said so. He made up a story that Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension would be chopped from six games to five and put it out on twitter. He did it to make a point about the internet and the social media and how almost anything gets picked up and is treated seriously. That wasn’t the way to do it. Heck, all he had to do was cite ESPN’s 409 Brett Favre ‘scoops,’ of the last two years as proof. If you are a journalist, you don’t make stuff up EVER. Mike’s been suspended by The Washington Post for a month and the entire staff has been reminded about the simple fact that you report what you know to be true—regardless of the venue: newspaper, internet, twitter, facebook.

To his credit, Mike hasn’t blamed anyone but himself for his mistake. I DO find it ironic that he has been nailed so heavily on this while Mitch Albom basically skated five years ago when he LIED in a column. Albom described how two Michigan State players looked from the stands during a Final Four game and how he felt during that Final Four game. The only problem was he wrote the column on Friday and the game was played on Saturday—and the two players in question, who had told Mitch they’d be at the game didn’t show up. Whoops. Tony Kornheiser calls what Albom did a “mistake of tense.” I call it a lie.

Let me pause HERE to say Mitch and I are not friends. We did Sports Reporters together for a long time. We never exchanged any angry words that I remember but we were never friends. I thought what he did back in 2005 was awful and said so. I thought the column he wrote when he came back from a two week, ‘vacation,’ from The Detroit Free Press was worse. It began—I’m paraphrasing but only slightly—“I don’t often talk to God. But lately I’ve been asking him to give me the grace to forgive those who have been jealous of me.”

Oh please. How about just saying, ‘Man did I screw up. I got carried away with myself and violated tenet one of journalism. I’m so sorry.’ Instead he said people had criticized him because they were jealous of his success.

Believe me when I tell you I’m not jealous of Mitch. I’m very happy with my career and my life—the Mets aside. But I thought what he did was much worse than what Wise did—a firing offense to me—and the editor of the Free Press basically gave him a free pass because he was her biggest star.

This past summer the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) awarded Mitch its highest honor: The Red Smith Award. Some very distinguished people have won this award. It’s a big deal. I thought they demeaned the award and the past winners by giving someone caught in an out-and-out lie the award. Of course the APSE is made up of a bunch of editors, it is extremely political—some very UN-distinguished people have also won the award—so it isn’t that big a deal. Except that Mitch came in and gave an acceptance speech on the subject of ethics in journalism.

As my mom used to say, oy vay.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Its pretty nice coincidence you speak of the McEnroe's and their tempers the day you feel the need to defend Roddick......was watching Roddick in a bar, without sound, and the argument we had was whether tennis needs more small outbursts like he was having, or whether it wasn't 'classy.' ESPN loved it, as they gave the baseline official more airtime than Brooklyn Decker, which we felt was lacking.

Consensus? Tennis needs more emotion, not less.

dbrown said...

Thank you for having the guts to call out Mitch Albom and the APSE (and kudos to Dave Kindred for doing the same). Given the current state of the newspaper industry and in light of scandals at the NYT and New Republic, you'd think Albom's offense would warrant more than a "vacation." When other journalists defend this action and try to characterize it as trivial, it makes the public wonder, Maybe they've all got something to hide. Are editors that clueless or just too scared to lose a known commodity? How is that type of mentality serving newspapers?

Anonymous said...

John,

I like you and I like Mitch (and I like Mary Joe Fernandez, but that's not important) the incident you site Mitch for is bad, I believe you and your reporting of the story (but I don't know if it's true, I wasn't there) and if he returned from 'vacation' and wrote about people being jealous... wow, someone's been told how great they are too much. But on Sunday Morning I'll tune into 'The Sports Reporters' (have they been banished to some backroom, are they sitting on folding chairs) and hope that Mitch will be one of the guests because he always makes me laugh with some smart comment. Just like you used to... and still do with line's like, 'the point in the column where I take a shot at Tiger...'

I guess what I'm getting at is I know neither of you is perfect but I enjoy both your stuff more times than not... and learning more stories, both good and bad, helps me as I read and hear you both going forward.

The Mike Wise situation both proves and disproves this point... He said his point was that anybody could just post anything and it would be taken seriously... but he wasn't taken seriously just because it was posted, he was taken seriously because of his association with the post, then we (the readers/public) look more closely and find he was lying... and he won't be taken as seriously next time. (that was his gamble) I had never heard of Mike Wise before this, but I'm guessing there are people who enjoy his writing/reporting and will continue to do so when he returns... but now when they read his stuff they'll know this story as well and can make their own decisions based on that knowledge.

I didn't read Wise before the story and won't start now. I enjoyed Mitch before the story and still do.
And I enjoyed your blog before you wrote about saying 'blanking referees' on the air and I still do... but I like knowing as much as possible going in and going forward.

Love the blog. Thanks for writing it.

--Egan

Now if you told me a stories about Mary Joe being a prima donna, that would crush me.

Momus said...

Although I've generally enjoyed Albom's writing over the years (some of his stuff gets a little preachy), his self-righteousness can be insufferable. I guess when you're the biggest star at the FREEP, you can get away with stuff with no worse than a "vaction."

I've never thought much of Wise's writing since he came to the Post, but I do respect that he did acknowledge his mistake.

Glad you put in a reference to Tiger. I think you're up to a 7 post hitting streak of taking a jibe at (or at least mentioning) Tiger. Let's see if you can do it for another 49 in a row!

Also, I heard you on Tony Kornheiser yesterday. I forget the context of the conversation, but at one point you said "you and I" when the correct grammar was "you and me." This wasn't the first time I've heard you make that mistake. Just wanted to let you know....

Can't we all just get along... said...

It's like I'm back in junior high school again. Let me see if I get this straight --

You like Wise, but you don't like Albom.

Tony loves Albom, but can't stand Wise.

Everyone know that you and Tony are best buds (why else would you put up with being called Junior for the better part of 30 years?).

So how do Wise and Albom feel about one another?

Tony said...

John,

My goodness, I couldn't agree with you more about Mitch Albom. How is it possible to preach down to others while conveniently forgetting about the lie he told. I'm wondering if you read Kindred's column about it. It was great.

pulmcrit1 said...

Thanks for the Patrick McEnroe story. I've heard him interviewed a few times on TV and radio, and his intelligence and sense of humor always come through. So does his non-arrogance, which sadly is noteworthy these days. Speaking of arrogance, I've read a couple of Mitch Albom's books and remember the Final Four incident but didn't hear about his asking for the grace to forgive those who are jealous. That's lame. As for Mike Wise, I've seen him on Jim Rome's show, and thought he would be smarter than to twitter something that he knew was not true. I guess when he comes back from his suspension he won't try it again.

Chauncy said...

Let me start by acknowledging I'm mixing two completely different worlds, but I want to point out a sharp contrast I think is worth noting. John has well documented Tiger's attitude to press, fans, etc., but I was watching the US Open the other night and I saw Kim Clijster's interview with the ESPN folks. How could you not simply love this woman and root for her? Talk about a humble perspective on the sport and life in general. Just want to point out the contrast...

Anonymous said...

Which Roddick interview did you see? In the one I saw, he "complemented" his opponent by saying the guy hit a lot of risky shots that kept going in; thus implying that the other guy was lucky to beat him. Maybe you should listen to Pat McEnroe more; he criticized Roddick for this "lucky opponent" line of reasoning and for playing too conservatively early in matches causing him to chase too many balls and wear down. Said it was a consistent pattern in his career that still needs to be addressed.