Thursday, May 5, 2016

No One Wants To Look Stupid

This morning alarm bells went off in my head reading Brian T. Smith's column on how Carlos Gomez knows that he's largely been a disappointment as an Astro. The alarm bells came in how Smith directly quoted Gomez. I ignored those alarm bells much in the same way I ignore my actual alarm clock for the first 30 seconds, resulting in a daily punch from my wife to turn it off.

I instead decided to zoom in - a little, it was just a links post, after all - on Gomez's line about how the fans are booing because they can't actually play the game of baseball. He's correct, of course. If you put me in an Astros uniform and made me play, I'd have a -100 OPS+ quicker than you can say "Jack Daniel."

What I should have done - what I was going to do - was to focus on the actual, direct quote Smith used in his column from Gomez that went as such:

For the last year and this year, I not really do much for this team. The fans be angry. They be disappointed.

It is obviously a direct quote, and you know exactly what Carlos Gomez was trying to say. But it's how it was presented that bothered me, because there was no need to directly quote Gomez like that - in a way that presented him as having a shaky grasp on subject-verb agreement. It belittled Gomez. And I regret glossing over it. 

We can argue over what Smith's intentions are/were here. Could Smith have gone this route:

"For the last year and this year, I (haven't really done) much for this team. The fans (are) angry. They (are) disappointed." 

Yes, and maybe that would have been more demeaning. 

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist (and, of course, long-time Houston Chronicle reporter) Jose de Jesus Ortiz especially took offense to Smith's editorial decision:

It doesn't matter if you don't think Smith was disrespecting and taunting Gomez. What matters is that people whose primary language is not English feel like it was disrespectful and akin to taunting.

I have been working on learning Spanish for a while now, and Carlos Gomez speaks better English than I do Spanish. If I was in a position where I was being interviewed for a newspaper that was not in my native language, and it was presented in a way that made me look, well, like it was that painfully obvious that it wasn't my first language, I, too, would be pissed.

Nobody wants to look stupid. The point of the column remains valid: Gomez knows he hasn't performed to his ability and he's getting frustrated with it. But there was absolutely no reason to quote Carlos Gomez quote like he's Speedy Gonzalez.

Seeing as how all 30 MLB clubs have translators on hand, this could have been avoided. Smith also could have acted as Gomez's own translator and presented the quote like this:

"...Carlos Gomez, speaking through a translator, said, 'For last year and this year, I haven't really done much for this team. The fans are angry. They are disappointed.'"

The meaning isn't lost. The integrity of the column remains intact. You know what you need to know from Gomez: he's been Not Great, and he knows it. That's it.

I'm not so jaded with Teh Media (sic) that I think Brian T. Smith set out to make Carlos Gomez look bad. But I also have read enough of Brian T. Smith's work over the last however-many years to know that he's not going to sugar-coat anything for the Astros' organization. He could have remained #OnBrand and still gone after Gomez's productivity - or the decision to even trade for Gomez in the first place - without today's column being the look.

8 comments:

calhoun said...

crushed it. well done.



[looks at calendar] huh.

calhoun said...

crushed it. well done.



[looks at calendar] huh.

Jason Thibodeaux said...

Well done sir!

Jason Thibodeaux said...

Well done sir!

Masked Marvel said...

I agree, and will do so in a double-post

Masked Marvel said...

I agree, and will do so in a double-post

Wallee Wright said...

Perhaps it would be worthwhile mentioning here that Carlos has spent eight months every year for the past eleven years in the U.S., and has been paid $24.6MM to date to play major league baseball. I honestly believe, AC, that even you could master Spanish to the extent you could respond to easily anticipated questions about your line of work in that time frame with that kind of financial incentive. Brian is not my favorite columnist, but he is clearly an honest one ... I think Carlos takes to learning the language in the same manner he takes to coaching about his 'swing-from-the-heels' bat-flippin' hitting style. Before you crucify Smith because that cheatin-ass-cardinals lick-spit Ortiz thinks you should I think you should give some consideration to the basic nature of the source of the statement. Happy Cinco de Mayo.

Tyler Stafford said...

I have spent a small amount of time working in media and literally the first thing they taught me was to keep the integrity of the quote intact. What that doesn't mean is that you always have to quote someone exactly, but you do have to keep that heart of the message the same.

For example, I once was interview A&M's head baseball coach and he said, "It will be a great time to come out, watch a good team, and eat some Breyer's ice cream."

Immediately after saying that, he realized that his home park was sponsored by a different ice cream company and asked me to run the quote as if he said "Blue Bell." Obviously, that is not what he directly said, but I could run the quote that way because that's what he meant.

Additionally, I interviewed many student-athletes, as well as professional baseball players, who did not speak English as their first language. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of the time I was instructed to either ask a translator to be present or to do the best that I could to quote the person the way they meant to be heard. If there was any discrepancy, I was too go back to the person I got the quote from and ask for clarification, or when that was not possible, never to use the quote.

What Smith did, in my opinion, was clearly done to demean Gomez and add to Smith's point that Gomez doesn't belong on the Astros. At best, it was severely misguided and ignorant. At worst, Smith is annoyed with Gomez in part because he does not share a cultural background.

For a newspaper that is based in Houston with such a diverse population, it is embarrassing that this quote was submitted to an editor, much less approved. The fact that it was a column and not a game story (i.e. Smith had more time to write and review the piece, and it was absolutely looked over by an editor or two before going live) makes it even more damning.