Blogging. Integrity. Sadly, all too often, these two words do not mix very well. Over a few drinks a couple of months ago, a friend and I were doing the usual: cracking jokes and talking sports. That led to a conversation about starting our own little blog for guys like us in San Diego, a platform for our comedic genius and ridiculous knowledge of both sports and pop culture. We had our fingers on the pulse of the social media world, so why not? In our spare time, we’d keep our ears open, and if something came up, we’d blog about it, whether that meant critique, insults, praise, laughter, satire…whatever. That’s sports journalism in a nutshell, right? Take what the news gives, and run with it. Wait, blogging is not sports journalism? Is it? I recently read an article in GQ Magazine found here about Deadspin’s A.J. Daulerio. The title, and the caption that follows, sums up my concern with blogging and integrity. It reads “The Worldwide Leader in Dong Shots: With his leering coverage of Brett Favre’s penis (allegedly!), Rex Ryan’s foot fetish, and the surprising sex life of ESPN, A.J. Daulerio has turned Deadspin.com into the raunchiest, funniest, and most controversial sports site on the Web. But at what cost to his soul? And hell, to sports journalism itself?” At what cost to his soul… and to sports journalism? Fantastic question. It’s one that I had not pondered when I decided to start a San Diego sports blog. This question, however, found me.
So, after generating a small follower base on Twitter on our @LobShots account, we decided to start our website. www.lobshots.com. The timing was perfect, I had won a Twitter contest with our local radio station, XX1090, to bowl with celebrity athletes at the Gonzalez Sports Academy Celebrity Bowling Bash, a send off party of sorts for San Diego’s hometown hero, Adrian Gonzalez, before he split for Spring Training with the Red Sox. Seemed like a great opportunity to go brush shoulders with some professional athletes, with many past and present Padres and Chargers in attendance. Even better, one of our Twitter followers (@gaslampball), asked me to write a Fan Post about my experience at the event on their website. Gaslamp Ball is a SBNation blog, with many readers, so I thought I’d do the post for them and link it up to our LobShots website. So, I wrote a blog about my experience at the event, and spoke of my interactions with a few different sports personalities, namely Padres Cy Young winner Randy Jones, and Chargers WR Vincent Jackson. All was fine, Gaslamp Ball tweeted my post, generating readers and an excerpt from the blog was posted by John Gennaro on a San Diego Chargers blog, Bolts from the Blue (@BFTB_Chargers), another SBNation blog. From here it was retweeted again. Somewhere along the line, Vincent Jackson caught wind of the blog. You can read the full blog here, but below is the excerpt I wrote concerning Vincent Jackson.
“Worst conversation of the night: Vincent Jackson. First of all, VJax was the biggest football star there, and he wasn’t even advertised on fliers for the event, which I thought was bizarre. Anyway, here’s how my convo with VJ went down. “hey VJ, how’s it going” as we shake hands “good man, how you been?” (we’ve run into each other a few times at Miller’s Field and Shore Club in PB, so he might’ve recognized me) “great, man. so glad you came back… was really nice to have you out there. I hope you stay for next year.” His response? “Bro, I live here, I never left.” and he walked away. What a dick. Listen, VJ, I get that you’re pissed at AJ about the contract and the money you lost, but guess what… nobody cares. You handled that situation like a dumbass and so did he, and you both paid the price. The Bolts missed the playoffs and you missed your payday. You never left? You left the field, dude. You think when AGo is playing in Boston next year he’s gonna tell Padres fans he never left b/c he still owns a place up in Mt. Soledad? No, b/c he’s not an idiot. So, get off your high horse and carry out a conversation with someone who’s clearly complimenting you and your play on the field. Off the field? Just one more ‘case in point’ of your idiocy and poor judgment. Oh, and you suck at bowling too.”
So, to recap… in response to a 10 second conversation I had with VJ, I called him “a dick”, “a dumbass”, “an idiot” and told him he was on a high horse, had poor judgment, and as icing on the cake…he sucked at bowling. A few hours later, I checked my personal Twitter account, @bradyphelps, and found that @VincentTJackson had sent me a tweet, and a Direct Message (DM). Gulp. He had read the article and was clearly not pleased. He explained that there was a misunderstanding, and kindly told me to “man up” if felt slighted…don’t blog about it. Feeling fairly justified in my comments, harsh as they might have been, I tweeted back to him. “If there was a misunderstanding, forgive me, I’d love to set the record straight. DM me ur email & we can chat. I’ll man up“. To my surprise, he did exactly that. He sent me his email account, and a couple more tweets.
So, I crafted an email to him, I won’t post my entire email, but I explained the way I perceived our interaction and shared my frustration, along with another main point, that regardless of our encounter, “I think my blog post represents the general fan perception of you here in San Diego, and nationally. That perception is this: You’re an insanely talented football player that has the potential to be the best in the NFL, but you make idiotic decisions off the field that prevent you from reaching greatness on the field. I’m not in the minority of fans, bloggers, and media alike that believe the Bolts would have certainly been in the playoffs if you’d been with the team the whole season.” The way I reacted to Vincent at the bowling event was not just about my short conversation with him, rather, my response combined my built up frustration from this past off-season and contract negotiations, missed games, DUI’s, an arrest prior to playoff game, and a kicked penalty flag during a playoff game. Finally, I asked him where the misunderstanding was anyway? He was a jerk, period. Well, what came next shocked me. Not just a response from VJ, but a very lengthy email response explaining our interaction, explaining his situation, and explaining who he is as a person. I was floored. Here was a superstar All-Pro NFL wide receiver taking the time to have that conversation that I had hoped for a few nights earlier, off his high horse. He was a normal person, a real person. I know what you’re thinking… “of course he’s going to be nice to you, he wants you to do exactly what you’re doing… write a blog about how great he is since you bashed him”. Well, I thought about that… and you’re wrong. I asked for an interview, and asked to share our conversation. He gracefully declined and actually asked that I respect him by not quoting him. Well, you won’t find any quotes from him here, but here’s what I learned from him.
I learned that athletes have to deal with crazy fans all the time… pumping gas, checking out at the grocery store, at the movie theater… and they deal with it, accept it… it’s the price they pay for money and fame. They sign autographs, take pictures, and carry on pointless conversations. It comes with the territory. Although you and I may be very rational, intelligent people in our normal lives, when it comes to our fanhood, something changes in us. We get a little crazy when it comes to our sports teams. We want what’s best for us, and what’s best for us as fans is a championship, no matter the cost. Imagine how you’d feel if someone came up to you and told you what to do with your life, what job to take, what city to live in, and if one psycho that struck up a conversation with you didn’t like the way it went down… watch out, you just might get blasted in a blog. Vincent knows he’s made some mistakes off the field, mistakes he doesn’t intend to make again, but he also knows his value to this league and whichever team is willing to pay him what he’s worth. From what I hear, he’s a great locker room personality and his presence and value on the field is undeniable. So, were my harsh words for Vincent merited? At the time, I certainly thought they were. Today, I can unequivocally say I was wrong. I certainly didn’t think VJ would read my words, or that he’d present his point of view to me in regards to our conversation. Did he ask for an apology? No. Did he ask for a redemption story? No. He asked to be respected in the same way you and I want to be respected. So, here I am, clearing my own conscience, doing my best to mix integrity and blogging. Sorry, VJ, for judging you when you didn’t deserve to be judged. Thanks for taking the time to unknowingly teach me a character lesson in humility.
Sports blogging is a funny thing. Bloggers walk a very fine line between playful ribbing and painful ripping. Bloggers will always poke fun at athletes, and generally athletes accept that, but sometimes, it can hit a little too close to home. Playful ribbing brings smiles, laughter, and shock value to all. Painful ripping brings hurt and sadness to those on the receiving end, and maybe a laugh to the readers. Clearly, my blog toward VJ was the latter, so let me make myself clear…my hope is a selfish one. I hope the Bolts put a franchise tag on him. I hope AJ and VJ set their differences aside and sign a long term contract so that Philip Rivers can have VJ as a target for many years to come. Wishful thinking, I know. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to keep blogging, not setting aside integrity in my pursuit of comedy and quality…playful ribbing. As for you, Vincent Jackson, wherever you land, rest assured the city and the team will be better with you there… but who am I kidding? You already know that.