The Jordan/Woods Access Media Model
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Michael Fitzpatrick at the Bleacher Report explains what it's like to be a sports reporter covering the Most Famous Athlete in America, and why coverage is so erratic, going from hero worship for years to More than We Need to Know in a couple of days.

(By the way, the one Chicago Bulls game I attended in my life, I sat in the press box, which is the least fun place to watch your home team play: no cheering in the press box! One thing I noticed is that the median accredited sports reporter is poor: 100% acrylic fiber sweater poor. Of course, most of these poor bastards were representing the Decatur News-Gazette or whatever, but it's not like the subsequent coming of the Internet has made journalism a better career choice.)

Considering that he has looked to Michael Jordan as a mentor for most of his career, it’s no surprise that Tiger Woods has followed the "Michael Jordan Model" in dealing with the media.

It’s also no surprise that the media–sports and gossip writers alike–have now turned on Woods in a New York minute, just as they did with Jordan. [After Jordan's 2009 Hall of Fame speech?]

The Jordan/Woods strategy on how to deal with the media is intricate, complex and is slowly implemented over a series of years ... .

First and foremost, they establish their dominance.

The moment they walk into the media center, or step in front of a group of reporters, the immediately turn on the "I’m better than you and I’m only here because the NBA/PGA Tour is making me be here. In my mind, the journalism profession is worthless and my intelligence is head and shoulders above yours."

They will look down on the media.

They will insert subtle comments intended to put down the journalism profession.

They will embarrass reporters in front of their peers if they ask intrusive or difficult questions, in the hopes that the thought of further embarrassment might stop them from asking similar questions in the future.

They will also create a set of rules:

1) I’ll let you hang with me as long as you never print anything detrimental to my image.

2) The moment you print something bad about me or any of my friends or close associates, you are cut off for good. You will be forever banished from the ”circle of trust’, and you will spend the rest of your days receiving nothing more than vague, detail-less answers.

3) One person straying from the Jordan/Woods rules can ruin it for the rest. For example, if one single reporter writes an embarrassing or negative article about them, they may completely cut off the media for a few days.

The ultimate principle: If Woods or Jordan ever feel as if they are losing control over what journalists print or say, they will punish them, and possibly even cut hem off for good. ...

In Michael Leahy's book "When Nothing Else Matter" about Jordan's final comeback with the Washington Wizards, he referred to those journalists who played by Jordan's rules as the "Jordan Guys".

They got to hang with Jordan, talk to him about personal issues, about his family, his friends, etc., but, professionally speaking it didn't matter much because they were often too afraid to print anything they might have uncovered anyway.

... So, when the opportunity does arise where they can print the absolute truth and offer their real opinions of you without any real threat of being "punished"–because every single reporter in the country is doing the same thing–they are going to remember all those times Jordan/Woods looked at them like they were fools.

They are going to remember all of those little comments that implied how Jordan/Woods thought journalists were sleazy and worthless.

They are going to remember all those times they were embarrassed by Jordan/Woods in front of their peers.

They are going to remember all those times that their stories suffered because Jordan/Woods were "punishing" the media by not speaking to them for days on end.

They are going to remember that this whole unspoken arrangement was never really an arrangement of equals.

And they are going to remember what it felt like all those years to be treated like a peasant by men who thought they were better than them just because they could hit a little white ball, are throw a round orange ball through a steel hoop.

Personally, I think there is something to be said for hypocrisy. Michael Jordan is not a nice guy. But, he's taken pains over the years to arrange his private affairs so that they stayed relatively private to anyone who didn't understand how to read between the lines, which, of course, includes most of the little kids who idolized him. For example, I hadn't even realized until I looked it up yesterday that Mrs. Jordan had finally pulled the plug on their marriage, walking away with $182 million in 2006.
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