Welcome to the game, Jeets.
Today, Derek Jeter announced the (horribly named) The Players Tribune, an online destination for athletes to connect directly to fans in a way that’s different than social media ostensibly because there will be non-idiot editors editing the moronic thoughts that idiot athletes would otherwise idiotically post on Twitter, for idiots to read.
Here’s how “Jeter” explained it:
So I’m in the process of building a place where athletes have the tools they need to share what they really think and feel. We want to have a way to connect directly with our fans, with no filter.
I am working with other athletes, with editors and with producers to create a platform that gives us a chance to say what’s on our minds. It’s called The Players’ Tribune. Over the next few months, we’ll be introducing a strong core of athlete editors and contributors who will shape the site into an online community filled with first-person stories and behind-the-scenes content.
There are, precisely, two ways this can and will go down:
1) This is a pseudo brilliant outlet for athletes to take you INSIDE, to talk about their thoughts during the moment you just watched them perform. Don’t underestimate how interesting it could be to hear, say, Darren Sproles describe the feeling of EXSPROLDING all over the field. It’s why athlete interviews on podcasts are so much better than in press conferences– because they’re not carefully choosing their words in fear of creating a story they didn’t want. Most quotes and player interviews are just a grab-bag of coached clichés designed to get the mic out-of-face quickly.
Similar ideas to this one have been tried before but have never really caught on. Jeter carries enough clout – with athletes and readers – to make it work. If his site is what he says it is and uses editors and actual media people to help athletes connect more directly and professionally with fans, then this could be a thing. The player diary concept used on team websites – which can sometimes produce interesting reads – comes to mind.
2) The much more likely scenario: It’s a bullshit PR apparatus that will allow athletes to spew even more-rehearsed lines, take part in even more-elaborate publicity stunts, and promote even more-disingenious charity efforts. If you think listening to athletes speak extemporaneously is boring, wait until you read their words after they’re filtered through a lame corporate suit with the help of a man whose existence is defined by his ability to choose the right lame corporate suit to do his bidding.
Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk, who took a moment off from trolling the Phillies, thinks it’s the latter:
But what it will not do is provide fans with any candid insight into these players’ lives. At least not insight that the player doesn’t specifically want to provide. Yes, the media can and often does distort what an athlete has to say and that’s crappy. But good reporters who are straight-up with their subjects have often been nonetheless able to give us a look behind the stage-managing and the spin of publicists and P.R. people and tell us something important or interesting about the subjects they cover. To reveal the human side of athletes, their fears, their foibles and what makes them tick, often in ways the athletes themselves are either unable or unwilling to articulate or, often, may not even know.
Jeter obviously has some post-baseball goals, and this is probably the first one that was pitched to him that he liked. It’s interesting to me because it’s a new take on new media. The problem, however, is that it’s newsmakers writing the news, which is the worst kind of news. I also hate the name. If you’re starting a project that has anything to do with media, the last thing you want to do is reference something as dated as a newspaper. Tribune evokes terrible, terrible thoughts for what is presumably the target reader here.