Somebody's to blame for this crap, and as soon as I figure out who that is, I'll be all over them. That's a promise.
Until then, I'll do the same thing everyone else seems to be doing: I'll read about Madonna and New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. But I'll dislike myself for it. And I'll wonder what the hell happened to the media I used to love.
|Pictures of Mr. and Mrs. A-Rod at a public event? Fine. Outside an apartment? Not fine. (AP)|
The average person might be sickened, but he or she is still paying attention. That's why photographers are camped outside Madonna's apartment as we speak -- they are there because you want them there. You want the dirt because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want us outside her apartment, you need us outside her apartment.
It doesn't take a cynic on the level of Col. Nathan R. Jessep from A Few Good Men to know the score. You give the media points every time you buy a newspaper or click on a link or listen to a radio station devoted to the story of Madonna and A-Rod, who might be having an affair or might be just chatting or might be growing a new species of sea monkeys. Whatever it is they're doing, or not doing, the media wants to know because you want to know.
So I guess this is your fault.
But it's our fault in the media as well. We're to blame, because we're weak. We are parents and children all at the same time -- selfish and spoiled and demanding, and too weak to say no to ourselves. This is why the student newspaper at my alma mater, the University of Florida, brought much pride to the journalism profession at large but much shame to me personally in 2001 by suing for the right to have Dale Earnhardt's autopsy photos.
Why did The Independent Florida Alligator want those photos? Because the medical examiner was a public office or because Earnhardt was a public person or because, well, because. Just because. Because we're the media and we want, want, want. And if we don't get it, we'll bitch and moan and wave the First Amendment and act righteously indignant, like we're important or something. We're not. We're certainly not as important as we think.
And we get less and less important every time something happens like this week in New York, where an entertainment magazine announced it had a story that would romantically link Madonna to A-Rod, and everyone else in the media followed. Actual newspapers in New York, not bogus tabloids, went with the story and pursued it and legitimized it. Crowds of reporters, even some baseball writers whom I promise want nothing to do with this particular story, are following Rodriguez all over Yankee Stadium this week for a comment on Madonna. As if any of us, or any of you, have the right to know everything a baseball player does when he takes off his baseball uniform.
It's not our business. It's not yours.
And athletes are starting to hate us for it. Which is fine by me. I hate us for it too.
Pirates first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, one of the sharper guys in the big leagues, told me this week that "it's getting to the point where you can't even keep up with current events because they (in the media) do so much nonsense. You don't want to read the newspaper or watch television because of all that stuff you have to wade through."
Mientkiewicz has played for the media circuses of New York and Boston, but he won't let down his guard in Pittsburgh. And as long as he's in the big leagues, he never will.