By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

David Ortiz’s non-roid rage

Did the Herald do David Ortiz wrong? Globe columnist Jackie MacMullan ups the ante today with a lengthy piece on the fallout from the headline on a short Michael Silverman item in Tuesday’s Herald. The headline: “Papi unwitting ‘roid user?”

MacMullan writes: “The headline was a disservice to Ortiz, and to Silverman, who does not write his own headlines. In fact, no writer at a major paper writes his or her headlines.”

OK, the headline was kind of idiotic. But, as these things go, it wasn’t that bad. Here’s how Silverman’s item begins:

On the topic of steroids, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz said he is not 100 percent positive that he’s never used them. If he did, it happened when he was much younger.

“I tell you, I don’t know too much about steroids, but I started listening about steroids when they started to bring that [expletive] up, and I started realizing and getting to know a little bit about it,” Ortiz said Sunday. “You’ve got to be careful…. I used to buy a protein shake in my country. I don’t do that any more because they don’t have the approval for that here, so I know that, so I’m off of buying things at the GNC back in the Dominican [Republic]. But it can happen anytime, it can happen. I don’t know. I don’t know if I drank something in my youth, not knowing it.”

I’d say the headline was an exaggeration of what Ortiz actually said, but not by that much. MacMullan says this about the Herald’s headline:

It was an inflammatory rhetorical question that set off a national chain reaction of speculation. One of the first hints was when Red Sox manager Terry Francona said a Toronto reporter entered his office and declared that Ortiz had exposed himself as a steroid user.

The Toronto reporter needs a reading-comprehension lesson.

This is the second time the Globe has let Ortiz vent about the Herald; here is Gordon Edes’ piece from Thursday’s paper. And yes, I think the Herald could have written a more deft headline to describe Ortiz’s remarks.

But the real story here is that Ortiz let himself get caught thinking out loud at a moment when everyone is baseball is freaked out about steroids. He said nothing wrong, but, sadly, in the current climate, he probably shouldn’t have said anything.

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  1. Anonymous

    When will sports coverage ever be conducted on a level playing field in this oh-so-provincial-city? Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.Jackie MacMullan — whom I otherwise admire — takes it to the Herald — which I don’t — over sensationalism, which is its daily stock-in-trade. Yes, it’s the same Jackie MacMullan who used to cozy up on a regular basis with Dennis and Callahan, who make the Herald look like Le Monde.This is a city whose media vilify outside sports figures on the slightest of evidence — or wait until they leave (see Bob Ryan on Nomar Garciaparra) — but cannot tolerate even the slightest suspicion cast on its favorite sons. The examples abound. In this case, we’ll blame it all on the anonymous headline writer.Dan: A final point. You are a media critic. Please inform your friends at the Globe that the sentence — “The first story included quotes by Ortiz defending Giants slugger Barry Bonds, whom he said deserves respect.” — is grammatically incorrect. Frankly, I know of no writer or editor at the Globe who knows enough grammar to understand that the “whom” in this case should actually be a “who” because it serves as subject of the verb “deserves”. The entire clause is the object of the verb, not the pronoun itself. This construction appears in the Globe almost daily.

  2. Don

    Dan: What is this “current climate” of which you speak? Could that be liberalism?

  3. Scott Allen Miller

    This is a really easy feud to read. The Globe envies the Herald’s sports readership. The Herald envies the Globe’s news readership. Therefore, the Herald attacks the news coverage and reporters in the “boring broadsheet”, and the Globe attacks the “sensationalist” Herald’s sports coverage. Each tries to pop the other’s bubble.The Herald reported that one of the best home run hitters in baseball has said he can’t rule out ever having taken steroids in the past. That’s a big story that’s going to set off a firestorm, regardless of the headline, and the Globe got scooped on it so of course the Globe is going to attack any way they can. If the Herald hadn’t put in the word “unwitting” and the “?” the headline would have conveyed an entirely inappropriate message. The Herald got the headline right.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Scotto: Your comment implies special knowledge that more people pick up the Herald for its sports coverage than the Globe. Do you have any evidence with which to back that up?

  5. dbvader

    Please Scotto. Ortiz in an offhand manner stated he may have taken PED’s while drinking protein shakes in the DR. There is nothing in the story that states when this may have happened, how often it may have happened, or the probability that it actually happened. The headline was bombastic and out of place, whatever the paper’s standards are.Sean McAdam was on WEEI and he said that Silverman wrote the Ortiz interview as one piece, but that the editors made it into two articles to play up the steroids angle. Silverman and Ortiz got screwed on this one.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Let me expand a bit on what was behind my question to Scotto. I hate to play the parochial Bostonian, but there are certain advantages to being 50 and having lived here forever.One of the ways that the Globe built its huge competitive advantage over the Herald Traveler and then the Herald American was by putting together an incredible sports section — one that was, by consensus, probably the best in the country. Scotto seems to think that the Globe is nothing but an elitist news organization, but in fact the Globe’s dominance has a lot to do with the excellence of its sports section.Now, it’s true that sports is one of the very few areas in which the Herald can actually compete with the Globe. The Herald has always had a good sports section. It’s just that the Globe’s traditionally has been better. (Not to mention bigger, which matters.)Looking at it in 2007, it’s hard to remember the glory days of either paper. The Globe lost legends like Peter Gammons, Will McDonough, Ray Fitzgerald and Leigh Montville without ever really replacing them. Losing Michael Holley was a terrible blow, because he was the only sports columnist under 40. Bob Ryan is still great, but Dan Shaughnessy, uh, isn’t.Similarly, the Herald’s lost good people like Michael Gee and George Kimball, and has just plain gotten very small.Anyway, that’s the back story, Scotto.

  7. Wes

    Need one ponder Manny’s going mute around “the Press?”

  8. Irv Arons

    Dan, I just discovered your blog and have added it to my “news reader”. Perhaps you ought to add an RSS link so that others could do also do so.(Because I have a blog on “blogger”, I knew the code for adding you to my reader — but others may not.)Irv Arons

  9. Anonymous

    Dan, let’s get to the real question……I work backward from this issue. I presume that all “sportler” are using performing enhancing techniques, to enhance their performance. Wittingly or unwittingly. Thus, I was not disappointed to learn that Floyd Landis was discovered as having been diagnosed as having used performance-enhancing techniques after his “victory” at the Tour de France last year. I just presume that they all do it, and I’m not disappointed when they are outed as having done it. I just presume that they are all doing it (better living through chemistry) and, quite frankly I discount any jubilieum over their Siegen (pardon my German)Do I approve of the usage of steroids or other performance-enhancing techniques? Oh, surely, gar nix (totally, no). But I pay less and less attention to the Sendungen that involve these things. Maybe the advertisers will pay attention, but I doubt it.–raj

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