The old-timers in baseball have a term for it – it’s called “Going Hollywood.” Generally it describes a ballplayer who used to be a great quote and was blessed with a down-to-earth personality that teammates, fans and the press adored. Nobody can resist the guy. The fans cheer and buy the little things that fans buy to celebrate the player’s awesomeness; teammates go to war for the guy; and the media swoons by producing gushing and positive reviews of the player’s work on and off the field.
Basically, the player is a celebration.
Current examples of this phenomenon are: Josh Hamilton, Grady Sizemore, Evan Longoria, Mark Reynolds, Ryan Braun, Dan Uggla and Brian McCann to name a few.
However, after a year or two of such treatment, the down-to-earthiness dissipates. Maybe the player gets to do a few commercials, or a shoe company contracts him to wear its goods. Interview requests from the well-known national outlets roll in – maybe there’s a cover-shoot for a magazine thrown in.
Perhaps the ESPN or FOX will ask him to wear a microphone during the game so the viewers get to experience the full aura of his personality. Frankly, the possibilities are endless.
But when the media-hype equals the performance on the field for a few seasons, sometimes the players’ head swells. With all the friends and family hanging around telling him how great he is, the ego inflates like hot-air balloon. Finally, when the multi-year deal is proffered with the rows of digits and a tiny bit of post-season award bling is accumulated, it’s all over. The player is too good to stoop down to talk to the local press when ESPN and Sports Illustrated have already called. Autographs for the fans? Have they paid up yet? Will the personal appearance properly highlight all of the corporate sponsors?
And for the love of all that’s holy, there can be no press relations unless the story has been cleared by the publicist and/or the agent.
Yes, the guy has gone Hollywood.
Recent examples of this phenomenon are: Barry Zito, Sammy Sosa, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada and, of course, Jimmy Rollins.
Most importantly, what the old-timers always say about the guy who goes Hollywood is that they never, ever come back. Once he’s gone, he’s gone for good.
Coincidentally, it was actually in Hollywood where Jimmy Rollins’ latest misstep in a season defined by such matters occurred. On the nationally syndicated cable TV program called, “The Best Damn Sports Show, Period,” Rollins, along with teammate Ryan Howard, sat on a couch wearing a fashionable shirt with equally fashionable torn jeans and told hosts John Salley and Chris Rose that the baseball public in Philadelphia are… ready for this one… “front-runners.”
Yes, you and I, the Phillies fan and media dude, are, in fact, “front-runners…”
I know, it didn’t make sense to me, either. The only explanation is that Rollins misspoke when he said:
“…it’s one of those cities. I might catch some flak for saying this, but, you know, they’re front-runners. When you’re doing good, they’re on your side. When you’re doing bad, they’re completely against you. For example, Ryan (Howard) is from St. Louis. St. Louis, it seems like they support their team. They’re encouraging.”
Certainly it seems like the Phillies fans have been nothing but encouraging for Rollins and his teammates this season. After all, the fans have registered sell-out after sell-out all season long in the four-year-old, taxpayer-funded ballpark. Despite the fact that the Phillies have won just one World Series title since 1883 and have not won a playoff game since Game 5 of the 1993 World Series, the “front-runner” fans have helped the Phillies host the fifth-most attended games in Major League Baseball this year.
Despite the fact that the Phillies have lost more games than any other team in the history of organized professional sports (this is not hyperbole, it’s fact), Citizens Bank Park has been filled to 97 percent of its capacity in 59 dates this year. Only the Red Sox, Tigers and Cubs have better percentages.
And God forbid that fans in Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, Beijing, Timbuktu or Machau might actually boo a player after his manager has to bench him for lack of hustle and failure to show up to work on time. After all, they would never do that in St. Louis.
Perhaps the difference is that people in Philadelphia believe that a guy who wins the MVP one year should put out the effort every year.
But maybe that’s asking too much.
OK, let’s be fair. Jimmy Rollins used to be the go-to guy when looking for information on the nuance of an at-bat or a play in the field. He also is quietly aware of the game’s history. He loves it. His eyes actually light up when talking about meeting Buck O’Neil and the old Negro League players. He knows the struggle those men went through not just in playing baseball, but also in everyday life.
Rollins understands baseball and can shed light on subjects that others cannot. For instance, after a game at the Vet during his first or second year in the league, I asked him how he was able to stop so quickly when running the bases at full speed. Really, it seemed as if he went from 60 to zero in a half a step. So there in the clubhouse, Rollins actually demonstrated how he “sat down” in full stride so that he could stop quickly and avoid over-running a base or a ball.
Frankly, it was as riveting and eye-opening a demonstration I have ever seen.
But that was a long time ago. That conversation would never occur these days. There probably will not be anymore demonstrations.
Nevertheless, Rollins went back on “The Best Damn Sports Show, Period” on Thursday night where he didn’t exactly offer up a mea culpa. Why should he – he doesn’t believe he said anything untrue. Instead he clarified that “front-runner” term and expressed surprise that such words about Philly fans would cause a stir…
Insert your sarcastic, “yeah, right,” here.
“The term front runner and what it actually means and to what I was using it, what was going through my mind, they weren’t accurate. Front runners is like people who only show up when you’re winning. Hey, we’re going to cheer you if you win. That’s not it about Philly fans. They’re passionate. They show up – like I said, 45,000. We’ve got like 42 sellouts. They announce it every night. That’s not what I meant. Like I said, it’s the fact that here we are at this point of the year, come out and be supportive. Don’t necessarily get on us. We can use that positive energy. And you know that positive energy can lift you, that negative energy can bring you down.”
In other words, J-Roll, like Mike Schmidt before him, doesn’t like the boos. Instead, when the Phillies fail to score runs unless someone blasts a home run, J-Roll wants a group hug. He wants people who just paid $10 to park, $16 for the cheapest seat in the park, $4.50 for a veggie burger, $4 for a gallon of gas all after the team hit the city up for tax funds to pay for the place, to be happy when he doesn’t run to first base.
“There are definitely games, don’t get me wrong, where I’m like, ‘Damn, you know, we are getting booed and we need to get booed because we’re not doing well.’ But there are a lot of times where it makes it harder to play at home when they’re against you – or it feels like they’re against you. They’re never really against you, but it feels like they’re against you – they’re venting against you and it doesn’t help. So, like I said, they show up. You asked about the West Coast, I’m from Oakland, I’m like, ‘They don’t show up.’ That has nothing to do with it.
“The whole thing was, look, here we are in the playoffs, we’re at home, we’re in first place. There’s really nothing to boo about. We’re not going to win every game. As long as we win by one when it comes down to the finish. But, go out there and support us. When Carlos Ruiz comes up to the plate, don’t boo him because you want (Chris) Coste in the game. This man has a job to do today. Encourage him to do his job to the best of his abilities.”
When I was a kid I never remember George Brett talking about the fans booing. Likewise, I don’t recall a quote attributed to Kirk Gibson where he said he needed more encouragement from the paying customers. I doubt Nolan Ryan or Tom Seaver ever went on national TV and told the viewers that the hometown fans were “front-runners,” in any type of context.
But then again those guys weren’t divas. They weren’t always seeking approval from the national media so they could find their smiling face on the cover of a video game. Yeah, they probably wanted the fattest contract they could get from their clubs, but they probably figured that if they were good at their job, the rest would take care of itself.
As far as I remember, those guys never went Hollywood.