By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
It would be fair to say that Geno Smith’s introduction to the New York media has been a troubled one since the former West Virginia University quarterback walked out late in the first round of the NFL draft, a situation that only multiplied itself when he became embroiled in a situation with his agent, whom he fired before joining up with Jay Z and his Roc Nation.
This has left Smith in a precarious position, for in New York the media can make or break you, sometimes even when you perform productively on the field. It is a city in which the only Giants aren’t football players, a place where historically the media is as much a part of the sports scene as the players they write or speak about.
True, times have changed, and there are no longer seven or eight daily newspapers being hawked on the street corners, and the power brokers are no longer the likes of Jimmy Cannon, Dick Young, Milton Gross or Howard Cosell, hard-hitting, sometimes caustic critics who shaped public opinion.
Even though we live in a gentler era, a time when a Dick Young would hold a personal grudge against Doc Gooden, when he would write as the Brooklyn Dodgers were choking away a pennant “The tree that grows in Brooklyn is an apple tree” or, on Don Larsen, known as much for is off-field behavior as his pitching, would come up with the lead “The imperfect man pitched the perfect game” when he hurled the only perfect game in World Series history.
Navigating your way through the mine field that is the media in New York, its numbers now swelled beyond imagination through the Internet explosion, requires something more than just straightforward candidness or wearing one’s heart on his sleeve, even if it is a sleeve adorned with Yankee pinstripes or Giants blue or Jets green.
So we approached a man who has spent his entire adult life working as a New York journalist, a baseball writer who did the Mets for Newsday and who today works for MLB.com, a giant of a man both physically and in the business named Marty Noble.
What approach should Geno Smith take to escape an assault from the Big Apple media, to win over those who really do have the final word.
Oh, he can win a Super Bowl and then he could do no wrong, but that may be out of his hands, especially playing for the outcast Jets rather than the traditional champions of the city, the Giants.
“There are two things you can do,” Noble said. “You can either throw out all the Keyshawn Johnson sound bites you’ve ever heard or use the Tom Glavine sound bites.”
And, Noble indicated, its a far better thing to use Glavine, the former Mets’ pitcher who this year becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame, as a role model.
“It takes common sense to be Tom Glavine,” Noble said.
What made Glavine a media darling?
“He was accessible. He was insightful. He was cooperative. Sometimes he spoke with a smirk, but always he was delightful,” Noble said. “As far as know, in all the time I covered him — and that included his time with the Braves as well as the Mets — he stubbed his tongue once.”
That, he explained, came after the final game of the 2007 season, a game the Mets had to have to get into the playoffs. It turned into one of Glavine’s worst moments, giving up seven first-inning runs while tossing in a throwing error.
“One of the questions was ‘How devastated are you?’” Noble explained. “He answered, ‘I’m not devastated. My family is fine. I’m healthy. I’m not done. I’m disappointed, but not devastated.’”
He was telling the truth, being honest, standing there before the media when he could have been off hiding. Back in the Dick Young days this would have been appreciated by the professionals who made up the media, but today you have the bloggers and the kids and a lot of microphones who ask no questions but offer a lot of opinions.
“The problem was it was a big game and you had a lot of idiots covering. If it was just a regular game in 1994, with the regular people there, they would have understood it. But they jumped on him for not being super upset,” Noble said.
Certainly, Noble went on, Keyshawn Jonson’s approach would have been different, as would have been Derek Jeter’s.
“Jeter says nothing,” Noble said. “Oh, he talks, and for the first six or seven years people thought they were getting something, but when you read it back you saw he said nothing.”
The idea is to be available, insightful, cooperative and you will get along fine … sort just like he was all that time in Morgantown, where that was all anyone asked of him anyway.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.