Sideline “reporters” are the bane of televised sports. Assigned to roam the grandstands and benches in search of “color,” they specialize in the shallow and obvious. They are ready to celebrate the flimsiest achievement of their interview subjects.
And then there is Jim Gray, the NBC reporter whose highly charged interview with disgraced baseball star Pete Rose during the World Series led to a wave of press-bashing. From the highest precincts of American journalism to the sports bars in every strip mall came the cry that Mr. Gray was out of line for asking Mr. Rose about the gambling accusations that led to his banishment from baseball.
The criticisms are absurd. Mr. Gray was asking exactly the sorts of questions that Mr. Rose ought to be asked. Mr. Gray showed Mr. Rose to be a serial evader who has never shown proper remorse for his well-documented career as a gambler. The outrage directed at Mr. Gray should have been sent Mr. Rose’s way. The million-dollar ballplayers who briefly boycotted Mr. Gray were apparently unaware that without Mr. Gray and his colleagues, they wouldn’t be getting paid those millions of dollars.
What seems forgotten in the controversy over the minute-long interview is that Pete Rose, baseball’s all-time leader in hits, was banned from the sport by then-Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti, the onetime president of Yale University whose dignity and honor made him different from so many of the mediocrities who have held the Commissioner’s office. Giamatti’s sense of baseball’s history and his reputation as a fair-minded man suggest that Mr. Rose’s banishment for gambling was well earned.
Mr. Rose’s return to the field as a member of baseball’s All-Century team demanded not a gushy “how do you feel” interview, but a hard-hitting set of questions. If Mr. Rose plans on showing up to collect public accolades, he should be prepared to answer questions about his public disgrace.
Critics often wring their hands about the ease with which the media can be manipulated. Strange, then, that Jim Gray, a man who refused to be manipulated, should be attacked for doing his job, and doing it well.
Columbia’s H.Y.P. Problem
Plucky Columbia University has for several years been unable to crack the prestigious Ivy League triad of Harvard, Yale and Princeton, despite being located in a city that would seem to have all the resources necessary to create the country’s premier institution of higher learning. But since its decline from its earlier, Eisenhower-era glory days, Columbia College, which makes up about 20 percent of the university’s student body, has often gotten more press for its luckless football team– “Roar, Lions, roar!” –than its academics. Some might even speculate that the college is cursed, located as it is on the site of the old Bloomingdale Insane Asylum, New York State’s first mental hospital.
But one thing Columbia does have is a crackerjack public relations team: In a Nov. 1 article, The New York Times breathlessly reported that Columbia “has edged out Yale as the third-most selective Ivy League college, after Harvard and Princeton.” Casual readers might assume this meant that Columbia had surpassed Yale, and was gaining on Harvard and Princeton, in terms of status among high school seniors across the land. But the article was an example of spin. The real statistic–the number The Times conveniently forgot to mention–is not how many students Columbia accepts, but rather, how many of those students accept Columbia.
The “yield,” or percentage of a college’s accepted students who subsequently choose to attend that college, is the true indicator of a school’s draw on the high school population. (For example, if any 10 students were accepted by Columbia and Yale, how many of those students do you think would choose Columbia?) It turns out that last year, slightly over 50 percent of the students accepted by Columbia College ended up enrolling there. By comparison, Yale gets about 65 percent of its accepted students turning up in New Haven, and Harvard can boast that nearly 80 percent of accepted students show up in Cambridge with fall’s first chill. Like Columbia, both Brown and Dartmouth also show about a 50 percent yield.
Of course, Columbia is still a great research and teaching university, and progress is being made building new dorms and hiring sharp young professors from other Ivy League schools . The faculty can claim three Nobel Prize winners in the past four years. But The Times ‘ article had the fragrant whiff of spin. That Columbia would be putting out some fishy numbers should come as no surprise: The university’s public relations department is headed by Alan Stone, a former Clinton Administration official.
By the way, as of press time, the Columbia Lions were in last place in the Ivy League.
She Thinks, He Drinks
The results are in: Men drink too much, and women think too much.
So says a study presented by a team of psychologists from the University of Michigan at the recent annual convention of the American Psychological Association. Their study, which included 1,300 men and women from ages 25 to 75, focused on a person’s tendency to “ruminate,” which they defined as getting stuck obsessing on negative emotions when trouble enters one’s life. Ruminating, say the researchers, leads to depression.
The good news for men is that they tend to ruminate less than women. The bad news is, instead of ruminating, the men reach for a drink. It seems that men would like to ruminate, but they fear society will mock them for feminine traits. Meanwhile, the study found that women might like to hit the sauce when trouble comes, but they fear society will mock them for being unladylike. Which makes them feel guilty. Which makes them ruminate some more.
Of course, the more she thinks, the more he drinks, and the more he drinks, the more she thinks.