Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Players Speak

Saw this new website launched yesterday by recently-retired New York Yankee Derek Jeter called The Players’ Tribune. From articles I’ve seen describing the site, the idea seems to be to give professional athletes a forum through which to share “their own perspectives without the filter of a reporter.”

Actually that quote comes from a reporter who has filtered Jeter’s perspective into the above paraphrase. You can read the original in a letter by Jeter on the site in which he talks about his own career and experience with the media, and how that experience appears to have helped inspire the idea for The Players’ Tribune.

“I know I’ve been guarded,” Jeter says, acknowledging his notorious reticence throughout his 20-year career to diverge much at all from the usual cliché-filled sports-speak in interviews. But he insists “I’m not a robot. Neither are the other athletes who at times might seem unapproachable. We all have emotions. We just need to be sure our thoughts will come across the way we intend.”

On the one hand, it’s an interesting idea. I’ll admit I’m not that intrigued to read about Jeter’s emotions or those of Russell Wilson, the site’s first contributor who has shared a confessional-type story about being a bully as a youngster. (Like Jeter, Wilson has also routinely been “robot”-like in every interview situation I’ve ever read or seen.) But there could be some contributors to come whose stories I might want to hear.

Then again, social media and other forms of online communication have already well established numerous avenues for players to deliver their stories and opinions in an “unfiltered” way -- to the detriment of some of them.

It reminds me a little of about five years ago once Twitter had become popular, then suddenly I realized when reporting on a tournament I was amid the “Land of 1000 Reporters.” Today all poker players can, if they wish, tell their own stories with as much detail as they wish. And many of them do -- everyday, and without cessation.

In some cases, reporters tell those stories again, often “filtering” them to suit some purpose. So, too, has already happened with both Jeter’s letter and Wilson’s column, with articles on practically every sports and sports-related site retelling those stories with different emphases and conclusions.

Of course, any currently-employed professional athlete will hardly be speaking without constraints on The Players’ Tribute -- their agents and teams’ managements will ensure that. Might be curious, though to see if the site (or others like it) might affect the way people perceive the athletes who contribute and/or the sports they play.

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