Wednesday, February 10, 2010

No harm, but still foul

PR man:

"Kaz Matsui will be undergoing surgery
to repair an anal fissure."


"Ugh. Why couldn't you have
just said it was an ankle sprain?"


Writing about baseball isn't always as cut and dry as some people think. Take the exchange above, for example. We were sitting in the pressbox at the Astros' spring ballpark in Kissimmee a few years back, when the lovely media relations team decided to be completely open and honest about the nature of an injury suffered by Matsui.

As a kid, when I dreamed of being a journalist assigned to follow a big league ballclub, I imagined writing about epic games, witnessing miraculous events, having the opportunity to pen inspiring stories, and to break news that would shape the future of the game. What I did not do was wonder how I would someday describe a tear in anal tissue.

That part of the job was not covered in my Journalism Ethics class at Michigan State.

And, yet, these are the types of issues us reporters face every so often. I've had long, detailed conversations with players about broken fingernails, injured fingers, fractured toes, swollen ankles, wonky knees, "sports" hernias, groin problems, hip issues, abdominals strains, shoulders, elbows, forearms, wrists, stiff necks, blurred vision, sore backs and even had people describe vomit, puss and blood.

Flip open a copy of Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body, and chances are, us baseball scribes, at some point in time, have had to write about the body part you're viewing on that page.

These are the things you don't think about when you say, "I want to be a baseball writer."

Why do I bring all this up? Earlier today, I was reminded of something that happened inside a clubhouse during a recent season. I couldn't help but laugh at the memory and the predicament nearly faced by the group of media standing by for this potentially catastrophic event.

One ballplayer -- names of athletes and writers will always be removed on this blog for obvious reasons -- thought it would be funny to blast a particularly crude song over the clubhouse sound system. The game was still hours away, a few guys were playing cards, others were sitting at their lockers, and one wandered to the stereo and cranked up the volume.

Heads around the room began to nod to the beat and the song's hook began referencing a certain part of the male anatomy. Now, boys will be boys, especially when the boys in question are ballplayers. Captain Volume began dancing his way over to a table in the middle of the room, where a few pitchers were in the middle of a quiet, calm card game.

The player moved his arms and bobbed his head and shuffled closer to the table, a smirk beginning to creep across his face. You could almost see the light bulb go off. In a split second, he dropped his shorts to his ankles, leapt onto the table and shook what the Good Lord gave him in the faces of the card players.

As the pitchers groaned and shouted, leaning back in their chairs to hopefully avoid any unwanted contact, the weight of Sir Shake-a-Lot began to tip the table like a seesaw. Shouts became louder, the player jumped off the table -- still fully exposed -- and the large, wood table crashed back into place.

The player fell to the ground. The room grew silent -- except for the music.

And then... laughter. Lots of laughter.

The players, the coaches, us reporters -- even Dancy McNoPants -- laughed at the whole scene.

Let's be honest, though. The laughing was that nervous kind, the type that is enjoying the fact that, as embarrassing as the near-accident was, it was not nearly as bad as it could have been.

For us reporters, it was also a major relief that the player escaped his prank unscathed.

After all, how would we have written that?

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