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If the Press Cheers, Does Anyone Care?

Posted by Pat Gallen, Wed, March 16, 2011 09:00 AM | Comments: 25
Analysis, News, Opinion, Posts

Would cheering on Chooch and Doc be a mortal sin from the box? (Photo: AP)

It’s burned into their/our brains. Don’t cheer. Don’t show any sign of emotion. Don’t root for the team and make it appear there is any sort of bias.

My buddy John Gonzalez from The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a great column a few Sunday’s ago about not being part of the cheering section that sits just feet away from the press box. The topic was broached after the unwritten journalistic law was breached at the Daytona 500 – many writers cheered for 20-year old winner Trevor Bayne, but only one admitted it. He was fired.

As Gonzo notes, you’re taught from a young age that being a fan and being a journalist won’t mix. If you sit in that box, you’re automatically given a stick to jam (you know where). Not that it’s boring up there (it’s not as dead and cold as some believe – there are hot dogs) but the missing element of fandom is evident. And that’s a shame.

Each and every one of the people who sit in that box has a rooting interest in the game. They may not root particularly for that team, but generally speaking, each writer or tv/radio personality fell in love with sports and writing, married the two, and made a living out of it. Yet, we are taught not to let that cloud the picture.

Clearly, my rooting interests lay with the Phillies and all other Philadelphia sports teams, as well as a few others I’ll save for another time. Gonzo is the same – he roots hard for the Philly squads, although that hasn’t stopped him from ripping them or praising them, when need be.

It all brings me back to the NLDS Game 1, Roy Halladay’s playoff no-hitter. For a fan like myself, and for Gonzo who sat next to me for the game, and for many others who grew up around this team and franchise, this should/could have been one of the most magical sports moments of their lifetime. Instead, many were comatose, or acting that way, in an attempt to uphold the sacred rule that says “No Love for the Game Here.” And that’s a shame.

As Halladay entered the top of the ninth, my flip cam was ready to rock, patiently waiting for the last out. My heart was aflutter – not only because I respect the hell out of Halladay and his peers, but because this was a moment to savor for someone who grew up aspiring to be on the field like Doc, and later, in the press box like Conlin, Ford, or Fitzpatrick. Clearly, my life went one direction (the under-athletic end up watching from behind home plate) but my passion for sport went nowhere.

After Carlos Ruiz picked up the dribbler in front of home plate to throw out Brandon Phillips at first base for the final out, I half-expected Bill Conlin (who was sitting just in front of me to my left) to start one of those cinematic slow-claps, setting the trend for most of the press box to join in on the hat-tip to Halladay and his performance.

It never came, not that I honestly believed it would.

But if the press can’t celebrate an honor so remarkable, so seldom seen, then I guess there is no real hope for the future. We’ll have to sit like drones, eating our free ice cream and hot dogs, while looking for nothing but a story inside this beautiful game.

Now, I’m not saying we should stand up and clap whenever someone touches home plate – I’m not sure I do that as a paying customer. What I would like to see is a special moment like a perfect game or playoff no-hitter, celebrated by people who supposedly enjoy the game.

I could just be talking in circles here. Maybe you as a fan don’t realize, or care, about what goes on in the press box. And that’s exactly the point. Who would it hurt should we observe an incredible moment?

Many of us at were fans one time. Maybe it’s time we started acting like it again. At the time of the Halladay no-hitter, I wished that to be true, at least a little bit. There could have been some emotion.

Tom Bowles acted like a fan, and he was fired for it. And that’s a shame.

Avatar of Pat Gallen

About Pat Gallen

Pat Gallen has written 1677 articles on Phillies Nation.

Pat is Editor-in-Chief of Phillies Nation. He also covers the Phils for 97.5 FM in Philly.

 
 
  • Posts: 1190 Manny

    Avatar of Manny

    That’s a shame, Pat… especially with Doc’s playoff no-hitter. Sitting like drones as THAT moment unfolds live before your own eyes!? That’s absurd.

    I’m with you on this 100%.

     
  • Posts: 297 Jay Floyd

    Avatar of Jay Floyd

    To be honest…I’ve seen plenty of MILD rooting in press boxes. Keep in mind I cover the minors and rules might be a bit more loose at the lower levels, but I’ve seen it. The occasional “come on!” or “get in there” in a quiet manner are not unheard of, where I cover games.

    I think part of it comes from the fact that in minor league stadiums, team and suite level staffers frequently pop into the press box areas for a quick break or as part of their job (food attendants/hosts, production crew members, other workers). Those people regularly unquire about the score and/or how it got that way. Those a regularly the folks that chime in with their fan-like input, and perhaps it lingers once they move on.

    I am not saying media members SHOULD stand up and openly cheer. However, people shouldn’t be afraid for their jobs if they are inclined to exclaim an “Alright!” after a walk-off hit or an historic event.

    I recall reading something from Scott Lauber, when he was still in Philadelphia, where he spoke of NOT rooting for the teams or the players. He admitted to always rooting for a story. He’s a Boston guy and has since moved on from Philadelphia to cover the Red Sox. I wonder if he still feels the same way.

    I fully understand a person without a proverbial dog in the fight not being emotionally invested the way most fans can be. It’s like when your team is not in the Super Bowl and you “just want to see a good game.” I can also grasp the concept of wanting to be able to tell that unique landmark story like a no-hitter. But when you are around guys and get to know them, how can you NOT want to see some of them succeed on a regular basis?

    It’s a tough spot for members of the media. While it is not absurd to demand and expect professionalism, people shouldn’t be denied any level of expression or enjoyment while they work.

     
  • Avatar of Dropped Strike Three

    I think the “Don’t Cheer Under any Circumstances” rule should only apply to the National Media. There’s a major difference between John Kruk pumping his fist after a Ryan Howard Homerun and a handful of beat writers high fiving during the final moments of a no hitter in the playoffs. When I turn on MLB Network or read the Sporting News, I’m hoping for unbiased coverage. When I watch Daily News Live or read the Inquirer, I’m expecting a fair amount of homerism. Personally, I think the problem is guys like Conlin taking themselves too seriously.

     
    • Posts: 1190 Manny

      Avatar of Manny

      Good point. Maybe it’s a leadership issue. If one well-reputed journalist who’s been in the business long enough sets the trend… maybe it could change.

      Or is this how journalists react (or not react, actually) in every other ballpark and for every other sport?

       
      • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

        Avatar of Pat Gallen

        This is how it is for every sport, every journo.

         
  • Posts: 0 Andrew

    Great piece, great read. Agree 100%

     
  • Posts: 0 Kevin

    I remember reading Gonzo’s article and seriously thinking about how that very position is one I want to be in myself in just a few short years. There’s a reason I want to be a sportswriter, because I genuinely love sports and writing, just as Pat said in this article. For Halladay’s Game 1 no-hitter, the way I reacted from my living room would have had me thrown out of any press box in the nation, but for something that rare, you mean to tell me I’m not allowed to publicly show appreciation for such an accomplishment. We’re not talking screaming “Let’s Go Doc!” when he’s one out away, but simply clapping gets you fired when all you’re trying to do is recognize something amazing. In the same way, shouldn’t it apply to something on a more local scale, like the Phillies’ late comeback against the Dodgers in August of last year. You mean to tell me that it is morally wrong by clapping or even just doing something like throwing your hands up in the air. I thought that when people were given a job to write about a team that plays 162 games a year, that eventually it consumed their life to the point where they were a fan and an employee. Not turned them into stone cold statues who honor the game as if they were in a church where the slightest noise may be ordered to stifled. Gonzo nailed every part of that article. Before I started school in my quest to earn a similar job, I had heard about the no cheering rule. I run a blog about the Phillies, and I’m certainly not afraid to criticize anyone, Phillie or not, when the time comes, and just because the focus is on the Phillies doesn’t mean I ignore the rest of baseball, when something good or bad happens. I’m not saying that openly cheering is what the press box needs, but a little emotion could go a long way in connecting with fans through something that ends up on paper.

     
    • Posts: 1190 Manny

      Avatar of Manny

      Well said, Kevin!

       
  • Posts: 5117 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    A certain amount of professionalism should absolutely be required. But not allowing people to be human when they have witnessed something historic like the second no hitter in a playoff game, the first such in 55 years, is ridiculous.

     
  • Posts: 0 Morris Buttermaker

    Then buy a ticket for the game. As far as I know, the people in the press boxes do not have to pay for tickets. If you get a free ticket, and you are there to do a job, then you should not be cheering, if that is what the expectation is. If you don’t like it, you are more than welcome to buy a ticket for the game and cheer as much as you want, like the rest of us do.

    Back in the late 90′s, I used to get free tickets to Yankees Stadium, sitting 18 rows off of 3rd base from my brother’s company. They were corporate seats, where things were also usually pretty calm and quiet. I often got the offer for the tickets about 4 hours before the game, and had to get a train up to NYC. And the only rule was that I could not get drunk and act like a jackass. So I rushed out the door, went to games, stayed on my best behavior and saw some amazing games and players for free. Those were the conditions, and I accepted them.

    I also used to get a lot of free Phillies tickets from his company, but I could act like a jackass because it was the late 90′s and the Phillies often played in front of a sea of empty seats.

     
  • Posts: 193 bfo_33

    Avatar of

    I haven’t read Conlin for years – he may be a senior writer, but seems to openly disdain the sport and the people he covers. He’s not as bad as Eskin, who wants to be a part of the story, but there is little joy reading his articles. Personally, I prefer the guys who report neutrally, but have a rooting interest, and appear to enjoy the sport and the story – Stark, Gammons, Simmons, Jim Caple, and on TV, Kruk, Reynolds, Costa.

    I’m not a journalist, but how can you not applaud a no hitter/walk-off home run?

     
  • Posts: 2981 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    I don’t get the not being able to cheer for a historic moment like Doc’s no-hitter. Whether your a Philly fan or not, that was a great moment in sports history that should be able to be celebrated by all.

    Pat, maybe your generation can change the culture a bit??

     
  • [...] Pat Gallen has an interesting take at Phillies Nation on the issue on whether or not it is a mortal sin for a member of the press to cheer for a team, [...]

     
  • Posts: 2069 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    DS3 has the best point. I am a Phillies fan, I cheer for the Phils, my wife thinks me a little overboard for the best team in all of baseball. Why would I care to read Conlin or any “National” broadcast medium when as a fan, I have Pat? Not to butter you up Pat, just making a point, you as a fan and a good writer are a perfect combination for this type of media – the fans blog. You add color that only a fan could appreciate.
    As a matter of fact, when you do report on some of the other goings on in the ML and add some of that color, we get it – because we are familiar with your fandom.

    Conlin’s writing style is too abstract for me, if I wanted to read say how the Orioles or say the Blue Claws did this past wee, I would read more syndicated work. But, my team has a blog and a damn good write who happens to be a huge fan. Perfect combination for me!

     
  • Posts: 2069 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    I don’t normally type like that – leaving out letters, etc – If sober (heh), I check my post before committing…
    So the wee is supposed to be week, the last write is supposed to be writer.
    Anyone else experiencing these minor gliches?

     
  • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    I guess I should have made it more clear that I’m not looking for journalists to become fans by wearing Phillies hats and Halladay shirseys in the press box. I’m saying if the right moment comes along, such as the Halladay no-hitter, perfect game, someone’s 3000th hit or 500th home run (especially by a guy that is well liked) that it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to give a short clap.

     
  • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    Thanks Brooks, appreciate that. But you HAVE to read the pundits when it comes to baseball. You have to be able to see both sides. I hope I give that, but I’m not nearly as smart as the writers in this town. If I was, I’d be sitting with them and not at the other end of the box.

     
  • Avatar of Dropped Strike Three

    I read the High Cheese article this morning and while denying it, I can’t help but think David Murphy has the same self importance as the crotchety old men he sits next to. Comparing the integrity and ethics of SPORTS journalism to that of a doctor, lawyer, or teacher is akin to enjoying the smell of your own stink.

     
  • Posts: 0 David

    You can’t be a fan and a journalist at the same time.

    Pick one.

    The goal is objectivity. If you’re a fan of the team, how can you be objective?

     
    • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

      Avatar of Pat Gallen

      Plenty of people who grew up liking a team end up covering that team. Does that mean they shouldn’t be allowed. What if Matt Gelb grew up in Philly and went to games as a kid. Should he not be able to write about them for a publication?

      Gonzo said it himself that he grew up a fan but that hasn’t stopped him from doing is job. He seems to see it both ways though.

       
    • Posts: 0 Brett

      Exactly. Cheering in real life is fine, but in the press box it’s all professional objectvity.

       
  • Posts: 2069 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    David for this type of fan blog you are absolutely wrong. I see Pat pulling no punches but then again there is no way to deny seeing the real fan in his writings as well.

    Pat, I see your point but basically, I see Red first and foremost. If I want details on what else is going on, the internet provides all we need.

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    I thought that when Larry Anderson… and Wheels …. celebrated when the Phillies won the World Series, it showed that they were human. .

    And for anyone to witness greatness – of a person or team that they spend most of their waking hours covering – and to not be happy for them is ridiculous.

    Halladay throwing a no-no in the playoffs was something amazing – and it shouldn’t be a set rule one way or the other. If people feel that greatness is worthy of applause, they shouldn’t hold back …and for guys to restrain from clapping, cheering just because they feel that won’t make them objective?? I don’t get it

    How does that prevent you from writing a story based on fact, or offering your opinion on a sports show, blog, etc..

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    And its to the point now where guys specifically AVOID wearing certain colors, or looking happy to see accomplishments by people that they know …

     
  • Posts: 579 Brian Michael

    Avatar of Brian Michael

    It doesn’t matter the job – it is a question of professionalism. If you are a fan, and part of your job is to not be a fan while doing your job – then that’s what you have to do. Nobody is making you work that job, there many others where being a fan has no impact.

    Working in DC, there are many times when people who have Democratic-leanings, work for Republican causes and vice-versa. If you are professional and can handle it then there’s no problem; if you can’t, then you find another job.

    People give up a lot of “stuff” to work – players sacrifice personal lives for instance. This is just another one of those things.

     
 
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