Media Circus (con't)
In the annals of spectacular sports media falls, Steve Phillips would be on any Top 20 list. He was a rising star at ESPN -- his second act following a public firing as Mets GM -- before an affair with a younger co-worker landed him on the front of the New York tabloids as well as the unemployment line. While Phillips was a good analyst on Baseball Tonight, I always thought he was better suited for radio, which gave him the freedom of time to expand his thoughts. Last October he was fired by ESPN, but since has enjoyed a third public act working for AOL Sports. WFAN Radio in New York and as a co-host (along with Jeff Rickard, who has long been praised in this space) for the nightly evening show on Sirius XM's new sports fantasy channel. He is also the voice on an MLB2K video game.
During Sirius's press outing on Wednesday, SI.com spoke with Phillips, 47, about his life since his public fall. Newsday's Neil Best also has a worthwhile piece on Phillips here.
SI.com: Given your history, there is obviously a public relations aspect for any entity hiring you. Why did Sirius, WFAN and AOL take another shot on you?
Phillips: It's probably better for them to answer that but I would think I have a different perspective as a former general manager than mangers and former players. I think WFAN has had experience with people with addictions [former morning anchor Don Imus battled with alcohol and drug addiction] and they have had some positive experience with people in recovery. The gratitude I have for Sirius, WFAN and AOL , I could not be more grateful. I understand that there is some part where people perceive they are taking a chance on me.
SI.com: You have been very forthright to the public about your sex addiction. Why so public?
Phillips: There wasn't really anything to hide. I think it was pretty clear that I had issues and that I went to go get treatment for it. I thought it made sense to be honest about it and not just say, "Yeah, I went and got help but not tell you what I got help for." There is a part of it for me that has been liberating to talk about it. Part of it can also be paralyzing, too, because part of my issues have been worrying about what other people thought of me. I just felt it was right to be honest about it and say it. I also think there is a part of it for the recovery of sex addition, like alcoholism or drug addiction, and part of that is service. There is part of me that hoped someone would hear my story and say, "I didn't know what my issue was but I can get help for it."
SI.com: Do you have a longterm goal to get back on a national television platform, and is that realistic?
Phillips: I have surrendered the outcome of all of that. Living a life of recovery, it is one day at a time for my health and it really is that way for my career. I have been blessed to have had opportunities come up already...To have expectations about what is supposed to happen next, if I start to worry about that, it's not a healthy place for me to go.
SI.com: What are your current feelings toward ESPN?
Phillips: I have no ill-will toward ESPN. They gave me a great opportunity and I understand what they did and why they did it. I went to the All-Star Game with AOL and I saw a lot of them [his former colleagues] and said hello. I was worried how people would react -- fans, listeners and people in baseball -- but I've really been met with compassion and support.
SI.com: Do you think the public is forgiving for someone in your position?
Phillips: I certainly have that sense. One of the things in my own recovery that I found was a reading that said "We all walk with profound limps. Some of us are better at hiding our limp than others." Mine is obvious. I'm as gimpy as anyone out there. Some might look at me and say they feel sorry for me. Some might say what a good story for redemption. Some might say what an idiot. I'm still the same person with three different people forming opinions about me. People understand that we are all flawed. I certainly am, and mine is out there. I'm willing to admit that, and I'm going to work hard to try to take care of myself so I don't do anything to hurt anybody again.
Last week the noted sportswriter Dave Kindred wrote a column that criticized the Associated Press Sports Editors for bestowing Mitch Albom with the Red Smith Award, which honors lifetime achievement in sports journalism. Kindred is a voter for the award, which Albom had previously been up for nomination. His piece for the National Sports Journalism Center website (he writes about sports writing for the site) received a flurry of attention in sports media circles and prompted other sports writers, such as the always-opportunistic Jason Whitlock, to unload on Albom.
"I felt compelled to say something," Kindred said. "I wanted to narrow the argument to what I thought the argument was. I hold journalists and myself to a high standard. I think we can't make up stuff. I think we can't assume stuff. I don't think we can print stuff that we don't know has happened. So I held that strike against Mitch. His body of work certainly has been outstanding, but for me on this one issue, I have always voted for other people. When I saw Mitch won, I thought I should say why I had not voted for him."
(For a recap of the journalistic transgression by Albom referenced by Kindred, click here).
Kindred said he has not heard from Albom nor does he expect he will. (Kindred will also be busy over the next couple of weeks promoting his new book, Morning Miracle: Inside the Washington Post. A Great Newspaper Fights For Its Life). "Probably, for a general-interest newspaper or magazine, I wouldn't have written it," Kindred said. "Too intramural. But it's a sports journalism site, my charge is sportswriting, and to ignore Albom's award would be akin to Peter King ignoring an NFL Hall of Fame controversy. So I wrote."
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