Sunday, February 8, 2009

Steroids and public relations: The first day of the A-Rod struggle

Remember the Roger Clemens steroid-user-public-relations battle last year? The back-and-forth that played out on ESPN and in the wide world of sports marketing? The A-Rod battle -- which got underway this weekend when it was reported that A-Rod failed a steroid test in 2003 -- could be even more interesting. The struggle to shape opinion commenced today, with a story on painting A-Rod as a sympathetic victim. The real culprit, according to the Sports Illustrated story, is the COO of the players union, Gene Orzo. Or as the article calls him, "a hardliner, a stonewaller and a zealot." A man who viciously did not destroy the evidence of A-Rod's failed steroids test. Hey, it's not personal, Mr. Orzo. It's public relations.

A-Rod's team finds itself in a contest for A-Rod's credibility. It is going to be fierce for the next few days and weeks. Once an opinion gets socialized, it is tough to reverse, so A-Rod's team knows it has to go hard and smartly, but also immediately.

I doubt going after the head of the player's union will be the crux of their case. But getting a reputable sports site like Sports Illustrated to publish this flimsy a hack job in your favor is priceless.

But if you're interested, turn on ESPN at some point tomorrow afternoon. My guess is you'll get to see a lot of sports media people decide the future of A-Rod as a credible athlete whose records and exploits are to be admired, rather than tainted, or even scorned. Chances are you'll here the words 'purity of the game.'

I've never met A-Rod, nor have I ever rooted for him or against him during his at-bats. But I can't help but pull for him here. A person's reputation shouldn't be up for just anyone to grab. Have you ever watched sports media? It's often entertaining, it's often informational and sometimes even provocative. On the balance, it's great. But these men who play sports experts on tv should be nobody's jury.

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