Sports wins one, loses another on PR front

On June 13, Nick O'Brien, 4, was attending a St. Louis Cardinals-Texas Rangers game when a foul ball came at him.

On June 13, Nick O'Brien, 4, was attending a St. Louis Cardinals-Texas Rangers game when a foul ball came at him.

Matt Starr, 28, was seated two rows behind O'Brien. When Starr dove for the ball, hitting the child in the process, he got much more than a souvenir.

With the precision of a well-turned double play, both clubs presented the kid with enough goodies to make Cooperstown envious. The New York Mets, not to be outdone, presented a bounty to O'Brien when his family appeared on Good Morning America on June 16.

"Wow," O'Brien reacted. "Wow" indeed. Not only did Starr finally relent and give the kid the ball - and an apology - but it seems Major League Baseball is capable of playing the PR game well when it wants to.

The same cannot be said of Cablevision, owner of the Knicks, Rangers, and, up until this month, employers of eminent sportscaster Marv Albert.

Albert's departure from the MSG Network was a big sports story. The impetus for his exit is a PR lesson.

According to the June 17 New York Post, Cablevision had begun insisting that its announcers stop criticizing the home teams and cease lauding opponents. In fact, the paper cited an incident where a producer was chastised for the "mistake" of airing highlights of Toronto Raptors superstar Vince Carter.

Essentially, Cablevision wanted to kibosh the honest insight that Albert built his career on. In doing so, Cablevision failed to grasp that its employees' honesty - even if negative - resonates much better with the public than the appearance of being a puppeteer.

Many refer to those in pro sports as "grownups playing a kid's game." Unfortunately, some in pro sports act more like kids playing a grownup's game.

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