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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New York Times Analyzes McGwire's 'Roids Reveal Strategy, Finds it Sound

Posted By on Tue, Jan 12, 2010 at 1:49 PM

If one were a professional baseball player, and if one used performance-enhancing drugs, and if one was evasive about it under questioning from members of the United States Congress, and if one were to come clean five years later after being hired as a hitting coach for one's former team, one would do well to follow the example set yesterday by Mark McGwire.

So sayeth the New York Times anyway.

McGwire's reveal -- which, it must be said, surprised absolutely no one -- was orchestrated by crisis-communicator Ari Fleisher who, in his previous gig as President George W. Bush's press secretary, had plenty of practice denying and then confirming insidious rumors that most sentient beings already knew to be true. (See: Weapons of mass destruction do not actually exist in Iraq.) To do this without a trace of shame is truly a remarkable skill.

Of course, McGwire's confession would not generate much sympathy (unlike, say, Roger Clemens) if he didn't appear slightly ashamed.

That was Fleisher's first bit of genius. The second was using the "rip off the Band-Aid" strategy. Unlike Alex Rodriguez, whose admitted steroid use over the course of several weeks, McGwire's confession was quick Fleisher immediately made him available for interviews by several media outlets over several markets and platforms (newspaper, radio, TV).

Final stroke of genius: Scheduling McGwire's big interview with (St. Louisan!) Bob Costas on the newish MLB Network. Writes Richard Sandomir:

The McGwire interview was a coup for the year-old MLB Network and justifies what the channel is paying Costas. It provided McGwire with a stage for acceptance on a channel that is majority-owned by the league that has, after a long goodbye, welcomed him back to his old team. MLB has a little more than half the subscribers ESPN has. But MLB had an edge in Costas if, indeed, McGwire wanted to be interviewed at length by a smart interrogator.

(A corporate connection should be noted: Costas is represented by IMG, which owns half of Fleischer's company.)

Before he sat down to talk to McGwire, Costas said in a telephone interview, "Yes, they decided this was the place for Mark to tell the story, but not because it was the place where they'd get the easiest ride."

Sure, there's that. But isn't it the ultimate in humble gestures to submit to an interview by someone like Costas? (Well, aside from calling up Pat Maris, widow of Roger.) That Mark McGwire, such a brave soul! And so smart to hire that Ari Fleisher, the master of atonement.

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