Derek Jeter, arguably one of the greatest baseball players ever (even though it seriously pains me to say that as a Boston Red Sox fan, as Jeter was a New York Yankee), retired from baseball in 2014. As fans may have been disappointed not to see Jeter on the field for the first time in over 20 years on Monday, they can turn to Jeter’s new business venture to keep up with his career.
The Players’ Tribune, a website that Jeter created, is a platform for athletes to share their thoughts, opinions, feelings and anecdotes with their fans without having to go through a journalist middleman. The athletes write personal essays in the first-person perspective on everything from the criticism of drugs in their league, to what they would tell their younger selves trying to make it in the “big leagues,” to the best shot they ever took.
“My goal is for the site to ultimately transform how athletes and newsmakers share information, bringing fans closer than ever to the games they love,” Jeter states on The Players’ Tribune website.
On March 26, Red Sox superhero David Ortiz took to the site to share his views on the great steroid/PED debate. In a roughly 2,500-word essay based directly on a Tribune producer’s interview with him, Ortiz addressed what it was like to deal with the criticism from the press and, more importantly, the fans, over his alleged steroid use back in the early 2000s. Ortiz wrote very candidly about the so-called “random drug tests” that he had to undergo year after year — people would show up at his home to collect samples to test from him in his own kitchen. He also discussed that he had to explain to his young son the reason fans would yell “cheater” at him when he was up at bat.
“My son came up to me in the hotel with tears in his eyes, and he says, ‘Dad, why are they calling you a cheater? Are you a cheater?’ As a father, that’s a moment you’re never prepared for. I looked at him in the eye and said, ‘No, I’m not a cheater,’” Ortiz wrote.
Following Ortiz’s article, The New York Times published a piece about the effects this new website has on journalism. The article argues that this website could pose a risk, from a journalistic stand point, that everything published on the site might not be 100 percent accurate.
“Are the athletes’ first-person accounts being vetted and edited as if they were being published by a more traditional journalistic enterprise?” Times sports reporter Richard Sandomir said.
The Boston Globe also jumped on Ortiz’s story. The day after Ortiz’s article went viral across the Internet, the Globe released a story they had written on Ortiz that was to be published during the Red Sox’s opening weekend. The article was instead published prior to the original release date as a follow-up to what Ortiz said in his essay. Globe sports editor Joseph Sullivan stated, “I worried about ESPN or Yahoo or the Boston Herald somehow doing a similar story. But I didn’t think about The Players’ Tribune.”
As a journalism student, I understand that one should always be reporting the truth. However, providing a superstar athlete with a platform to say whatever he or she wants without being pestered with questions by the press and being forced to say “no comment” when he actually has a lot of comments, is something special. While every single piece of information might not be entirely accurate, it does not really matter. What matters is that fans can hear exactly what Ortiz thinks of them, of the league and of sports reports. Ortiz is not shying away from stating what he feels should be stated, and that is pretty cool.
While this new website might be a threat to me down the line (I aspire to be a sports writer), I find myself reading every piece from The Players’ Tribune. As a sports fan, there is nothing cooler than hearing straight from the athlete.