Musings by Dick Flavin: Much Ado About Nothing

By Dick Flavin Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate and New York Times Best Selling Author


Bullfight critics ranked in rows Crowd the enormous Plaza full; But he's the only one who knows – And he's the man who fights the bull. Domingo Ortega

More than bullfighters identify with that poem; it applies equally to all those who ply their trades in the public arena, be they actors, artists, politicians or athletes – including baseball players, and who are critiqued by those who don't. There is a certain amount of suspicion, coupled with a healthy dollop of resentment, for those whose job it is to critique their performance and who haven't necessarly shared the same experiences. But look at it from the other side. How much fun can it be to walk into a clubhouse – or onto a plane – to face the wrath of someone who, rightly or wrongly, has been offended by something that has been written or said? Not much, I'll wager. All of which brings us to the David Price/Dennis Eckersley brouhaha that has roiled Red Sox Nation for the last several weeks. To briefly recap, on June 29 th during the telecast of the Red Sox game the pitching line of Eduardo Rodgiguez' rehab start for Pawtucket was flashed on the screen. The numbers were not pretty but no one was concerned because the purpose of the start was to get the pitcher's legs under him and to determine that his gimpy knee would hold up in game conditions. Eckersley, filling in for Jerry Remy as analyst, looked at the numbers and said, "Yuck." He wasn't talking about Rodriguez' value as a pitcher or as a person, he was merely commenting on the numbers on screen which were, well, yucky. It was all pretty benign stuff, hardly the fodder for controversy. And David Price did not hear what Eckersly said.

There was a game going on. He was in the dugout at Fenway Park, not watching it on television. Obviously, though, he was told about what was said. The question is, what was he told? Remember that old parlor game in which you whispered a secret to the person next to you and that person whispered it to the person next to him or her and so on until everyone in

the room had the secret whispered to him, and when the last person to be told reveals it, it is totally different from the origina secret? That's what can happen when you hear things second or third hand. Did Price think that Eckersley had used the word "yuck" to disparage Rodriguez? Apparently so, though that's not what happened. Whatever it was, he felt the need to come to the defense of Rodriguez. Hence the now infamous confrontation on the plane. The fact that Eck is a Hall of Fame pitcher counts for less than you might think. Twenty- five years ago, when he was still at the top of his game, David Price was ony seven years old. When you're my age twenty-five years is the day before yesterday, when you're David Price's age it's a lifetime. There is a thirty year age difference between Eckersley and Price. They have baseball in common but come from different worlds. My take is that the whole thing is a misunderstaning. Someone, acting as an honest broker, should sit them down and straighten the mess out. It's not worth starting World War III over. There have been instances in which a critic has been genuinely contrite about what he had written. George S. Kaufman, who, when he wsn't writing plays himself was a theater critic for the New York Times (talk about a conflict of interest), once reviewed a play about which he had nothing good to say. A character actor named Guido Nazzo was in the production. Kaufman, a wickedly funny writer, dismissed Nazzo's performance thusly, "Guido Nazzo was nazzo guido." It ruined Nazzo's career. No producer in New York would cast him and take the chance that Kaufman would reprise his line. It got to the point that Kaufman was writing letters of recommendation on Nazzo's behalf, to no avail. It's a good thing that Guido Nazzo didn't play for the Red Sox. And it's a good thing that George S, Kaufman wasn't a TV analyst on NESN.

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