Tuesday, October 26, 1999

6 questions on same subject is 5 too many

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The first time Jim Gray asked Pete Rose for a confession, he was just doing his job. Gray is not from the Hey Big Guy school of television journalism. Often, he asks difficult, fair questions. Asking Rose if he planned to admit he bet on baseball was a difficult, fair question.

        The first time.

        “Are you willing to admit that you bet on baseball and make some sort of apology?” Gray asked Rose Sunday night.

        “Not at all, Jim. I'm not going to admit to something that didn't happen,” Rose said.

        You'd think then, given the festive circumstances surrounding the All-Century Team's appearance, Gray would have moved on. He didn't. G.I. Jim, loaded with a full clip of questions, continued to shoot Pete Rose.

        “With the overwhelming evidence in that (Dowd) Report, why not” confess, Gray wondered.

        Asked and answered, counselor.

        By Gray's third inquiry, I was squirming in my bar stool. “This is why the public hates the media,” I said, to no one in particular.

        By inquiries four and five, I was concerned for Gray's hearing. By his sixth try, I wanted to run him over with a truck and, in the fine journalistic tradition, ask him how it felt.

        I kept waiting for Gray to ask Rose what he did with the Lindbergh baby. Tell us where Jimmy Hoffa is buried, Pete.

Basic instincts
        Jim Gray is a good reporter. He's also the guy who'd come to your wedding with the stripper who danced in your lap the night before.

        Journalism is a messy business. The people who do it are sometimes under tremendous pressure. But at some point, your instincts as a reporter need to yield to your instincts as a human being. Assuming you are one.

        Gray's instincts were dead off Sunday night. “Obviously, the approach you have taken has not worked. Why not at this point take a different approach?” Gray demanded. (Funny. He should have asked himself the same question.)

        Asked and answered.

        Later the intrepid reporter ducked his media brethren, leaving NBC spokesman Ed Markey to deliver the network's predictable and sanctimonious response.

        “Jim's intent was to try to give Pete Rose an opportunity in a celebratory atmosphere ... to comment on the issues that have kept him out of baseball,” Markey explained.

        Ah. Gray was trying to help Rose. Gray was being a good guy.

        “Jim felt that in this atmosphere ... there was an opportunity for Pete Rose to shed some new light on this,” Markey added.

        Anybody who has known Rose longer than five minutes knows Peter Edward will never provide even a candle's worth of illumination on the subject. He says he didn't bet on baseball. Therefore, he has nothing to confess.

        Asked and answered.

Interview gone bad
        What could have been great television went so far south of the border of propriety, Gray was in sandals and a Speedo, fishing off the coast of Cancun, by the time he finished F. Lee Bailey-ing Rose.

        “Pete, those who will view this tonight will say you've been your own worst enemy, by not acknowledging what seems to be overwhelming evidence,” Gray said.

        Asked and answered.

        Some say Gray's full frontal assault will help Rose's bid for reinstatement. Probably not. Public sentiment for Rose will grow, sure. But public sentiment was to hold the World Series in 1994. Bud Selig spat at that, too.

        On Monday afternoon, Gray defended his actions, saying, “I don't apologize. I stand by it, and I think it was absolutely a proper line of questioning.”

        On Sunday night, Rose told Gray, “I'm very surprised at you.”

        “Well, some would be surprised you didn't take this opportunity,” Gray responded.

        A decade ago, Rose might have taken the opportunity to throw Gray through a plate-glass window.

        Talk about must-see TV.


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