A New Year for "What Were They Thinking?" Awards
Just as weathermen love the prospect of big storms to report on and create panic, we harbingers of good communications appreciate the media gaffes that lead to "What were they thinking?" communications awards.
It's promising to be a banner year, given the fact that we are only a week into 2014 and there are already two winners.
The Dennis Rodman Outburst
The "Wait, What Country am I from? And did I really say that?" award goes to former NBA player Dennis Rodman for his bizarre media lovefest and crazy comments about North Korea and its leader over the past week. My favorite headline on this is the CNN's "Dennis Rodman apologizes for his North Korea outburst, says he was drinking." That kind of says it all, doesn't it.
As CNN reported, "In an exclusive interview Tuesday with Chris Cuomo of CNN's "New Day," Rodman provoked outrage by appearing to suggest that Kenneth Bae, who has been held in North Korea since 2012, may have done something to deserve his sentence of 15 years of hard labor.
"I want to first apologize to Kenneth Bae's family," Rodman, 52, said Thursday in a statement released by his publicist Jules Feiler. "I want to apologize to my teammates and my management team. I also want to apologize to Chris Cuomo."
You know that when Senator John McCain's response to the situation, as a later guest on the same program, is "I think he's an idiot" that the entire situation has moved into the bizarre category.
Communications advice for Mr. Rodman: First, hire a communications person and listen to them, and, second, never take an interview or provide a comment when you have had a drop of liquor.
Dan Le Batard Gives Up His Vote
The "I'm protesting by mocking the whole system" award goes to Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard, who decided the best way to air his frustration about the politics and pedantry of the Baseball Writers Association, which decides on Hall of Fame candidates and winners, was to give his vote to sports news site Deadspin, which then turned the vote to its readers.
As the New York Times reported, "Giving his ballot to Deadspin, Le Batard said, “has more impact than my next 20 years of votes as sanctimony bars the HOF door on the steroid guys.” He added: “Because in a climate without reform, my next 20 years of votes will be counted but not actually heard. At least this gets heard, for better or for worse.”
Later, on “Highly Questionable,” his ESPN2 program, Le Batard said he expected to lose his vote.
“I don’t like how they do business over at the Hall of Fame,” he said, “where they’re sitting there and they’re being sanctimonious and they’re keeping all the steroid guys out.”
Deadspin used Le Batard’s ballot to submit 10 names, the maximum number allowed, culled from the top vote-getters in a poll of its readers. The readers chose Maddux, Thomas and Glavine overwhelmingly but also chose others who had been tainted during the steroid era: Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. The Deadspin ballot also included a vote for Craig Biggio, a longtime Houston Astros infielder who fell two votes shy of election.
Except for the potential loss of his vote, Le Batard will not suffer any punishment for his action. ESPN, his full-time employer, said that it respected “his passion about Hall of Fame voting” but “wouldn’t have advocated his voting approach.”
Dan Le Batard gave his vote to Deadspin. I gave that maneuver a column - http://t.co/r0UPwaJMSH— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelCBS) January 9, 2014
Gregg Doyel, a former colleague of Le Batard at the Miami Herald, summarized the take on Le Batard's move in a rant of his own in his CBS Sports column:
"I judge this vote, what he did, as shortsighted and stupid, shockingly so for someone so intelligent. Le Batard's too smart to believe what he did will affect actual change, which tells me he did it for the attention he'd get. Being "that" guy, the one who raises a middle finger to the dorks in the BBWAA, is a great way to get street cred with the hipsters and bros in our readership, and guess what? This being the Internet age, the hipsters and the bros are the most crucial segment of our readership. They are the Internet's version of the 25-54 age bracket sought by radio and TV. By giving his vote to Deadspin and letting them unveil his identity, Le Batard made like Captain Morgan and painted a red moustache on the BBWAA while hoisting a drink to all the hipsters and bros out there. A toast, to your new Ironic God."
Communications advice for Le Batard: Playing out a battle or a protest in the press is great for temporary publicity -- for yourself and Deadspin (hope you got something out of that deal), but in the long run, isn't the way to affect real change. Next time: consider removing yourself from the vote so someone who wants to participate in the system, damaged as it is, can cast a meaningful vote (this coming from a person who loves baseball, warts and all.)
But advice for both of these gentlemen and the others out there on the brink of doing something crazy from a communications standpoint: keep them coming. It should be a fascinating year.