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Gray’s question wasn’t for the fans

Jim Gray isn’t sorry he pressed former Cincinnati Reds star Pete Rose during his interview after the announcement of baseball’s All-Century Team.

Wednesday, October 27, 1999

Jim Gray isn’t sorry he pressed former Cincinnati Reds star Pete Rose during his interview after the announcement of baseball’s All-Century Team.

He was just doing his job.

The NBC sportscaster said Rose should have expected the question.

Yes, in an interview for "Pete Rose – Stand-up Guy."

But this wasn’t just the Pete Rose show. It was a chance to honor some of the greatest baseball players of all time. The fans understood that. Why didn’t Gray?

Sports – and life – are full of men who haven’t quite lived up to their billing as human beings. Does the name Darrell Strawberry ring a bell? How many chances does a drug abuser get?

Forgiveness seems to be applied only to some these days. Some transgressions are overlooked, while others become reasons to crucify and diminish the accomplishments of others.

Yet, even with all the less-than-desirables who seem to proliferate professional sports – and politics – these days, Pete Rose seems to be the golden whipping boy. And that might be because even years after the incident, he still refuses to admit he did anything wrong.

Only he knows whether that is really the truth.

But all that doesn’t matter. This is not what people cared about Sunday – rightly or wrongly. They felt Rose had paid his dues and that he should be remembered for his performance on the baseball field and not a mistake made years ago.

Gray had a right to ask any question he wanted. But to say that he asked it because the fans were entitled to an answer is a cop-out.

He asked it because that is what HE thought fans SHOULD care about, and that is the problem. Perhaps he was irritated that the fans had reacted so welcomingly to Rose or maybe he was angry that what he thought was important was not what fans seemed to think. He couldn’t possibly be wrong himself. He is with NBC New York.

And in those last few words is why regular people sometimes have trouble identifying with bigtime media. We don’t care about the same things.

Few fans watched the parade of baseball greats and wondered why Rose was among them. They were celebrating a time when bats swung mighty and when baseball was a passion that captured the imagination of the country. They were honoring not just the men, but the sport, too.

And, for many, Gray ruined the moment.

If he wanted to do a piece on Rose and betting on baseball, he should have arranged the interview upfront. Ambushing Rose on national television only reaffirmed what most Americans already feel about the media – attack artists with agendas.

Gray didn’t demand an apology on behalf of the fans. He asked for himself. He didn’t ask the fans or take his cue from their reaction that day. He did the story he wanted to do.

He wasn’t the brave, trailblazing reporter. He was just another guy trying to get his 15 minutes of fame – and maybe make a career as the man who got Pete Rose to confess.

Doesn’t sound quite so noble, does it.