Sunday, July 09, 2000

SPORTS ON TV-RADIO


Griffey needs to repair his image

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's time for Junior to do a little spin control. Ken Griffey Jr. is getting lit up on ESPN and talk radio. His latest run-in — did he or didn't he call ESPN — was the running gag on Jim Rome's show this week. A caller even called him Ken Leaf Jr., a reference to the media disaster that is Ryan Leaf.

        Junior is no Ryan Leaf. I've never heard him raise his voice in anger to anyone in the media. When he refuses to talk, he does it politely. When he takes exception to things written or said about him, he does it civilly.

        But Griffey is too sensitive for his own good. Sometimes he has legitimate gripes. The ESPN deal was one of them. But he often will take exception to pieces that are basically complimentary. And he doesn't miss much of what is written about him. He religiously reads Sportspages.com. He says he doesn't watch ESPN at home. But he has mentioned that when the set in the clubhouse is on, he watches.

        The confounding thing about Griffey is he makes it so much harder than it should be.

        All the writers and electronic media want from Griffey is a little bit of time. Five minutes, maybe, after a game. But Griffey will spend 15 minutes telling you why he doesn't want to talk.

        So here's a little unsolicited advice: Give in. Use the stock answers. Rely on cliches. We'll listen, nod knowingly and go away. Here's a handy list of what we want to see:

        • After a big home run: “I was just trying to make solid contact.”

        • After driving in the winning run: “Give the credit to guys who got on base.”

        • For nearly any situation: “I'm just trying to help the team win.”

        Bret Boone was one of the media favorites in his years with the Reds. He even won the Good Guy Award one year. He always was glad to talk, but he never said anything. He basically used various versions of the above stock answers.

        That's all you have to do. You don't have to be glib or insightful, just available. We want quotes, not a window to your soul.

        Griffey can be charming. He usually is before games. He'll chat amiably with the same writers that he'll blow off after the game.

        If I were Griffey, I'd volunteer to go on the Rome show. I'd do an interview on NBC with Bob Costas. I'd do ESPN, CNN and all the rest. Spreading around a little of that charm would turn this all around and make Junior the media darling he once was.

        But that's me. Griffey is going to do what he wants. If he doesn't want to play the media game, he should shut it down. Don't talk to media at all and really stop reading the papers and watching the highlight shows.

        UC UPDATE: Don't be surprised if Jim Kelly and Chuck Machock are back as analysts for UC football and basketball on WLW-AM (700). It looked like they were out, but a source familiar with the situation said the sentiment at UC has put them back in the race.

        Thom Brennaman will do the games on Channel 19, if the schedule fits his.

        “I don't want to be away from home for 16, 17 days at a time,” said Brennaman, who lives in Phoenix.

        MUST-SEE TAPE: NBC warmed up for the Olympics by totally screwing up its coverage of the Williams sisters' showdown from Wimbledon. NBC opened its coverage Thursday with a men's match that already had been shown on TNT.

        That delayed showing the Williams match, which was going to be shown on tape anyway, long enough for fans to have heard the results.

        The network did not consider showing the match — one of the most anticipated in years — live. It didn't want to interrupt its daytime programming.

        All of NBC's Olympic coverage will be on tape because of the time difference in Sydney.

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