Saturday, October 15, 2011

Long Time, First Time Too Many

John Henry is very rich. Doesn't he own an iPod?

The principal owner of the Boston Red Sox would have been better served had be been listening to music yesterday instead of sports talk radio. The soothing tones of Metallica would have kept his blood pressure down (to the extent it ever gets above 50 systolic, I mean look at the guy). Far more importantly, he wouldn't have acted on understandable wrath and popped into the studio to confront Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti.

As a financial whiz, Henry is supposed to understand the concept of the risk-reward ratio. By going on the air, Henry took all the risks while his two tormentors reaped all the rewards. The talk show hosts are the toasts of their organization. What did Henry get for his pains? More trouble, that's all.

I admire Henry's nerve and instincts for confronting Felger and Mazz. I question his judgment. The reason most athletes and other sports personnel curse their media critics in private and almost never call them out in public is that bitter experience teaches there's no percentage in that transaction -- especially in the wake of failure.

I didn't catch Henry's appearance on the air. For one thing, I have a tape deck in my car, and the choice between Miles Davis and Felger is a pretty easy one. For another, I can't listen to Felger and Mazz for the same reason Henry sought them out. The show operated by two of my former co-workers, who were good sportswriters in their day and were good teammates, is despicable swill aimed at whatever denominator is below the lowest common. That's why it's also the hottest show in town. In radio, shit gives off the sweet smell of success.

(Felger at least had the good grace to express regrets, but trafficking in rumors about the sex life of Heidi Watney was the act of a cad. Maybe cousin Nick will challenge Mike to a duel, five irons at 10 paces.)

By all second-hand accounts, Henry didn't come off TOO badly in the impromptu interview. All that went wrong was that he said he'd been against signing Carl Crawford, with whom he's still stuck for six seasons, to whom he still owes $120 million and whose revival is kind of essential to future Red Sox success. That's "all." I wonder if Henry ever talked about any of the securities in his portfolios that way. I also wonder if he ever let subordinates in his financial business talk him into a $140 million deal that didn't feel right to him. If so, how'd he get so rich?

Henry also denied that he or any of the other Red Sox owners were sources for the leaks about Terry Francona in Bob Hohler's story in the Globe. People in the grip of deep emotion are seldom good liars. I am willing to believe that Henry is telling the truth as he understands it. I am not so willing to believe what he understands IS the truth. Even if I were, Henry's denial begs the question "If not you guys, then who?" Who's the snake in the asphalt of Yawkey Way? It is not reassuring to be told that Red Sox ownership has lost control of its franchise to the extent that it's every rat for himself over there.

Worst of all from Henry's perspective, confronting his critics will not accomplish his goal of lowering their volume. That's how talk radio or any other media works. Having seen that they've drawn blood, Felger and Mazz will redouble their efforts at lurid speculation and borderline libelous claims, something Felger in particular is very good at and which will eventually blow up his own career for him.

When I was a member of the media, all I asked was that the subjects of my stories were themselves in all their human glory and futility. Spin is part of the business, but underneath it, I hoped the people I wrote about revealed a bit of the man or woman within. Henry did that in spades yesterday, and the part of me that's still sportswriter (a pretty big part), applauds him for it.

But the part of me that's just a bystander now, neither fan nor media member (a part that grows bigger every day), feels nothing but regret for Henry. I see where the story of the collapse of 2011 is going for him, and it's not a good place at all. Too bad. He's an odd duck, as most accomplished persons are, but I always kind of liked Henry. Trust? No. I can like people without trusting them. I'm not in talk radio, so I don't need to function in a two-dimensional universe.

Sympathy tells me to hope Henry feels better after getting it all off his chest yesterday. Rationality tells me he shouldn't.


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