Monday, December 21, 2009

A new journalistic hat in the ring, and fallout from a bad joke.

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I have a whole lot of respect for Tracy Ringolsby. He did very good work for a number of print outlets, including a long and productive stint with the Rocky Mountain News until it folded in February. He's also served as the President of the Baseball Writers Association of America* and he's moved his voice to the 'net, writing for foxsports.com and the blog Inside the Rockies. Love or hate his take, it's pretty cool that he's adapting to new media. He's also, of course, a Hall of Famer. And, like any self-respecting baseball writer, he wears a cowboy hat in his picture.

*Another reason to admire Tracy: how many long-time print journalists and presidents of the BBWAA managed to escape the ink-seeking missiles of Fire Joe Morgan? I don't know the answer, but it's darned impressive. Of course, he hasn't dodged all bloggy ire, but with due respect to MSTI, FJM was the big dog of journalist takedowns. It's sort of like Greek mythology...to get smote by Zephyrus is one thing, but if Poseidon comes after you...well, you've made the big leagues.

Usually, this kind of exposition is a set-up for a firestorm. Not here. I just respect the guy as a journalist. Anyhow, of the McCourt divorce, Ringolsby writes:
General manager Ned Coletti claims the marital problems of his bosses are not affecting the Dodgers. But what is he supposed to say? A franchise that had to start being careful with what it spends because the McCourts don't have deep pockets in good times now has its hands completely tied, because the only thing the ownership can agree on is they don't want to hang around together anymore.
[...]
It's why the team can shed more than $40 million in salary from 2009, and is still celebrating the holidays with two major holes in its five-man rotation, a question about its situation at second base and a need to bolster its bullpen. Their offseason has consisted of shipping Juan Pierre to the Cubs, which came only when the Dodgers agreed to pick up $10.5 million of the remaining $18.5 million that Pierre will earn over the next two seasons, and the signing of versatile Jamey Carroll to a two-year deal worth less than $4 million.
It's not like the rest of the division has been shaking up the baseball world.

That last sentence of the excerpt, I think, is the important one. For the sake of the 2010 NL West race, anyway. The Dodgers will still likely be favorites to win the division, on the strength of their awesome outfield. Seriously, folks, it's sort of amazing. Kemp is a budding superstar, Manny can still hit at that level, and Ethier's got to be the best #3 outfielder in the majors. I don't know what else I can say on this topic, but if the divorce's main impact is to preclude extending Kemp into his prime years, that alone is a disaster.

Elsewhere, in the Department of Dumb Metaphors and the Overreactions They Elicit, two West Hollywood City Council Members have criticized Jamie's attorney, Dennis Wasser, for telling the court that Frank has come down with "RAIDS -- recently acquired income deficiency syndrome." Shaikin has more here.

Two quick thoughts:

  1. Offensive or not, Wasser--like everyone else--has to know better than to say things like this. Not because they should be blasted as offensive. But because they will be. There's just no good that comes out of off-color statements before the court. I promise you, no judge (or, in this case, court commissioner) keeps a tally of witty phrases offered by counsel and relies on it in making a decision.
  2. If Wasser is to be lambasted for this metaphor, it shouldn't be for possibly making light of a dreadful condition. No, rather for the terrible hacky-ness of the joke. It's not funny. Not even to people who aren't offended, like me. And what's more, if he was trying to make a point, he really should have gone for the gusto. "Acquired Income Deficiency Syndrome" would have made the same point while avoiding the trite, contrived feel. What's more, adding "Recently" shows that Wasser was, indeed, concerned about backlash from referring to AIDS in the court proceeding. Generally speaking, self-conscious comedians are not funny. No one likes jokes where the apology precedes the punchline.
However you look at it--offensive or just plain unfunny--Wasser's RAIDS quip only weakens his main point: Frank can't be telling the complete truth about his current cash situation. The joke is completely superfluous--the facts themselves make a much more compelling argument than an ill-conceived, awkwardly-contrived attempt at humor. There's an old adage in public relations that adapts nicely to law:

When the facts are on your side, they should speak for themselves.

While Wasser might have to pull off some legal sorcery to gain ground on the post-nup fight, he's got a compelling case, as it is, on the issue of Frank's personal liquidity. In the end, it's not that difficult. Frank claims to have dropped as low as $167,000 in cash recently, and yet he spent $700,000 on lawyers in November. Something here doesn't add up. And Wasser should let the facts speak for themselves.

The best way to make someone think what you want them to think is to let that person believe he is making his own conclusion. Presented with the facts and minimal spin, Commissioner Gordon will likely have the same reaction to Frank's claims that we do. Presented with self-conscious, saccharine jokes, Commissioner Gordon might begin to hear everything from Wasser as hollow and contrived. Courtroom humor is risky and, while a potentially powerful tool, must be used in cautious measure. And, of course, it had better be funny.
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1 comment:

  1. Pierre was traded to the White Sox. MSTI is correct Ringolsby does not watch baseball

    ReplyDelete