This Nomar Garciaparra retirement situation leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
I'm not sure if it's retiring as a member of the Red Sox, when he left the team with plenty of ill will.
I'm not sure if it's the all-smiles interview I just watched on espn.com from a guy who never looked like he was enjoying himself during his playing days.
But I have a strong suspicion that what's really bugging me is that Nomar is now a member of the media - and I hope he is treated the way he treated others: rudely.
OK. He wasn't rude all the time. I need to make some confessions.
Back when the Red Sox were hard-luck losers (read: not two-time World Series champions), I didn't mind rooting for them. And I liked the rookie shortstop who arrived in Boston at the same time I did. (Let's make this clear - he was a rookie shortstop for the Red Sox. I was a freshman at Boston University. But we toiled in the same neighborhood.)
The Southern Bureau was always a big Nomar guy - still is - so after we became friends, I still liked to follow and root for Nomar for him.
Then, June 26, 2000, I met Nomar. I did a freelance job interviewing Nomar and some guests at his charity event - "Nomar Bowl" - at a bowling alley outside of Boston. (This was also the site of my most unprofessional act ever. My wife [then-girlfriend] drove me to the event [I had no car]. She was able to get in on my press pass. I felt that was enough, but she wanted a picture with Nomar. We had been dating less than six months, so I said I'd try...plus, she drove me. So I guess I owed her something. I interviewed Nomar in some private room, outside of which I knew my wife [then-girlfriend] was waiting. As we left, I said, "Nomar, my girlfriend would really love a picture with you, if you don't mind." He was gracious enough, though I never really remember him actually consenting. In a whirlwind move as we stepped out of the room, my wife [then-girlfriend] jumped next to Nomar, handed me the camera, and next thing you know has a great picture of her and Nomar. She then took one of me and Nomar. Blurriest picture you've ever seen.) Anyway, Nomar was not rude to me then. [Read: he didn't punch me for being unprofessional. I don't think I would have blamed him if he had.] So that went a long way with me. But still, it was his charity event...so he was going to be on his best behavior.
Then things soured with the Red Sox, and I kind of soured on him. Especially what I heard about the way he treated journalists (granted, they were Boston journalists, but still). It seemed he went out of his way to be uncooperative. I thought the Red Sox did the right thing getting rid of him.
I was surprised to hear him talk about a genetic 'condition' in his retirement speech...and like almost everyone else I have my suspicions about his workout regimen.
I appreciated the moment he came back with the Oakland A's and was tremendously well-received at Fenway Park.
I appreciate his place in Red Sox history...and the graciousness with which he received his World Series ring from the Sox.
And I know that not everyone is cut out from the same cloth as someone like David Wright when it comes to leadership, specifically when it comes to dealing with the media. Nomar was not cut from that cloth. And that's OK.
But it really irks me that he is now going to be one of those guys who becomes what he hated. And I know he'll couch it as "I'm just the guy in the booth analyzing the game, or in the Baseball Tonight studio. I'm not one of those media guys who go into the locker room to pester the players." I know he doesn't see himself as "media." But he is.
He says it's a great situation for him because, "I get to talk about the game I love...share my experiences and knowledge about it. It's great to still be around the game." I wonder when he'll ever say, "I'm pleased to be lucky enough to work as a member of the media, which I know so many others who are more qualified are dying to do."
This whole situation reeks of PR. Can't you just see someone at ESPN saying, "Nomar, we want you, but you know what would really make you test well in focus groups? A feel-good story like you retiring as a member of the team where you started - the Red Sox. Make sure you look happy...people like a smiling talking head."
I've never seen Nomar smile as much as he did glad-handing everyone through his retirement. I wish he looked like he was having that much fun when he played.