Isn't it ironic? (Cue Alanis Morrissette song!) The Yankees' PR/media team recently held their annual training sessions advising players how to act in front of the press. In the very same week that the biggest story in Yankeeland is how team COO Lonn Trost made elitist remarks that alienated most of the fan base, and then team president Randy Levine insulted fans' intelligence with his comments about StubHub. Seems like the execs need that training more than the players! Not to mention the fact that this story is still percolating among Yankee fans this week, while nobody from the front office has stepped in to clarify the remarks or apologize for Trost. Talk about bad PR!
Anyhow, Ryan Hatch of NJ.com got the inside scoop on the players' training from media relations director Jason Zillo. Yankees saw videos featuring clips featuring ESPN's Britt McHenry's infamous argument trashing a tow truck employee, as well as Lawrence Taylor's media meltdown back in the day. Derek Jeter pops up on the video to advise the ballplayers that everything in their lives is fair game these days. And A-Rod (!) is actually cited as a positive example of how to handle the press, when he deflected talk of his home run numbers.
The players saw clips of Cam Newton's and Russell Wilson's respective post-Super Bowl press conferences, with the idea that Newton's behavior was bad, and Wilson's was good. But I kind of agree with Big League Stew's Mike Oz, and his take on this:
Cam's presser you know well by now: He grumbled and sulked, giving abrupt answers before walking out. It's almost like he felt emotion after losing the big game of his life. Imagine that....And Wilson's presser from a year earlier was pretty much the opposite....
It was textbook, so the Yankees are right wanting their players to be like Wilson — if you want players to say the predictable thing and not show a lot of emotion. And, let's be real about what the Newton/Wilson dichotomy is really implying these days: We want you to be safe and dull, not polarizing, not making yourself an enemy of Middle America.He then writes about how it applies to the Yankees:
They have one player, C.C. Sabathia, who is coming back this season after admitting he had a problem with alcohol and seeking help. He has a story that's worth telling, emotion and all. They have another player, Alex Rodriguez, whose image is as far from clean-cut as possible and has been criticized most of his career for being too robotic. Considering, his against-the-odds comeback from a year ago, he has a reason to finally open up. Is it the worst thing to let them and their teammates be real people with real emotions?
You're right. Considering this is baseball, where you can't celebrate a home run for more than a split second or risk breaking the unwritten rules, the answer is probably, "Yes. We don't want real emotions. Just say the boring stuff that everyone wants you to say."Oz then brings up Lonn Trost and suggests, like I just did, that he is the one who needs the media training.
I get the Yankees' point on the media training. I do. But I also get Oz's point. There's something to be said for genuine emotion. While Newton should have stayed longer at the presser so all the reporters could have gotten their questions in (they're funny that way), I cannot fault him for looking as devastated as he did. Isn't that what you want as a fan? For your team's players to care? To be as upset as you are over losing the big game?
You also want your team's front office to care. Not just about the team winning and losing. But about the fans. And Trost's and Levine's remarks have emphasized an "us vs. them" mentality instead of a "we're all Yankee fans together" attitude. I have seen so many fans online over the past few days wonder why they should even bother going to games at all any more, given the contempt the front office has for them.
It's now been five days since Trost's elitist remark. Still no apology, or statement from the team, or olive branch to the fans. Meanwhile, individual tickets have gone on sale. Way to sell the brand, Yanks!