I took part in a Linked in discussion recently that was launched by someone asking if PR could save Rob Ford, the crack-smoking Mayor of Toronto (hilariously dubbed “the human Spring Break” by Charlie Pierce).
The fact is, there are always going to be some people in public life who just can’t get out of their own way. Mayor Ford is clearly one of them with his ongoing fiasco up north. Another is Alex Rodriguez, who went all Al Pacino as Arthur Kirkland in “…And Justice For All” on us Wednesday.
A-Rod’s act reminded us why the steroid-using/can’t get his denials straight/arrogant narcissistic superstar who exemplifies all that is wrong with big-time sports is just another public figure who can’t resist trying to make a big splash when he’d be better off simply going home and shutting the hell up for a while.
The Yankees slugger and target of Major League Baseball’s wrath showed up for his grievance hearing Wednesday only to storm out in a huff in a well-orchestrated huff when the arbitrator surprised exactly no one on the planet by denying A-Rod’s demand that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig should be compelled to testify. He then issued a statement through “his people” and stopped in to talk to WFAN’s Mike Francesa, only after his lawyer appeared on another NYC sports talk show to take umbrage at the absurdity and injustice of this hearing process. A hearing process collectively bargained for by the MLB Player’s Association on behalf of its members—including A-Rod.
In January of this year, when the allegations about his association with Tony Bosch and his Florida-based clinic called Biogenesis came to light, A-Rod denied knowing Bosch. Not a bad play, given the guy was a known huckster, with a phony medical degree and a track record of selling Performance Enhancing Drugs to baseball players. But Wednesday, A-Rod changed his tune with Francesa and admitted going to Bosch for help obtaining legal nutritional supplements and assistance. Right. Because going to a shady guy with a fake medical degree and a bad reputation for selling illegal substances is so much easier and safer than going to the local GNC.
Wednesday’s act was all about A-Rod taking his ego for a spin. Unfortunately, instead of coming off like Pacino’s crusading lawyer, fighting corrupt officials on behalf of his client, A-Rod came off like Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Jessup—“YOU’RE DAMNED RIGHT I ORDERED THE CODE RED AND I’D DO IT AGAIN!!!!”
More shifting stories aren’t going to look good when this thing gets to court. And it sure doesn’t help build any public sympathy for a guy who appears to be more interested in taking shots at Selig and reminding everyone about how he’s a dad—even though his paternal instinct seemed to abandon him when he was engaging in the extramarital affairs which seemed to have led his wife to file for divorce back in 2008.
And then, there’s Ford. Is there anyone left in his camp with the ability to shut this guy down? I know his family is supposed to be a little unusual, but earlier this week, when Ford apparently imagined seeing someone “confronting” his brother on the City Council floor, Ford did his best rampaging hippo imitation and almost ran a female Councillor. I would think Councillor Ford might find it in the Ford clan’s best interest to tell the guy who somehow stumbled and bumbled his way into the top spot in Toronto government to chill out for a while before he makes them all look like buffoons.
Haven’t we gone well past the point of this story where it’s obvious to anyone that a rehab stint is a much better option for the Mayor than getting within a country mile of a camera or a live mic again?
There are some cases where the best PR is no PR. If you obviously can’t relate to the public, and Ford and A-Rod have proven to be superstars in that regard, then your best play is to get out of the public eye. Fast. But we seem to be getting a painfully clear reminder that an oversized ego or a rampaging id can get in the way of a sensible PR strategy.