You're not a sportswriter. Was your approach different, talking to guys like Schilling or Nomar, than it is talking to the editor of the New York Times or to political candidates?
Yeah. It’s definitely a unique interplay. In a couple different times in my career, I’ve been thrown into, or jumped into, a situation that had its own set of rules or its own kind of rituals and everything, and had to feel my way around it. One of my first assignments working for magazines was covering the 2000 presidential campaign. That’s equally bizarre and unique. There are rules about when you can approach candidates, and if you’re allowed to try to talk to the candidate alone, or if that’s not fair to the other reporters, all this sort of stuff. And the candidates expect that reporters are going to respond to them and treat them a certain way. That was definitely true of athletes. But for a lot of guys on the team, I don’t think there was a huge differentiation in their mind between me and any other reporter who wanted to talk to them. The main difference was that I was asking them about broader-scope perspective stuff. Or not what happened in that game or that day or that week. But I felt the same sort of slightly anxious nervousness or intimidation that I felt when I sat down with George Bush or Al Gore. Or really anyone. I get nervous before almost any interview. I sort of got over my, “Oh my God, I’m in the same room with David Ortiz” pretty early. You’re around them so much. But I had the same fear of saying something stupid or asking the wrong question all the time.
We've had a pretty placid season so far, by Red Sox standards. Are you nervous at all that this book — which revisits details of the Theo/Lucchino rift and other sensitive topics, and which reveals that Manny once called the owners “motherfucking white devils” and that Nomar thought they were bugging his phone — will stir the waters?
So much of what’s in the book involves people who aren’t there right now. If Pedro was still here, I think the stuff about his contract negotiations or injury concerns would have been a huge deal. Or if Nomar were still here, I think certainly all of that stuff would be more of a distraction. But I don’t think Mike Lowell or Alex Gonzalez or Mark Loretta or Coco [Crisp] really gives a shit about what happened in 2004. And this team — everyone talks about how the striking thing is that the defense is so good, and that’s obviously not been a hallmark of Red Sox teams past — but another really striking thing to me is how businesslike they are. And I don’t say that in a negative way, but, y’know, you think of the Dirt Dogs, and Kevin Millar, and even Pedro … the character of the team was much more — not only playful, but outwardly social. Johnny Damon was obviously a huge personality. I just think that this group of guys is different than that. So I think it’s entirely possible that a lot of the stuff gets a lot of attention, but doesn’t serve as a distraction to the team. But who knows? I’m almost always wrong about what people’s reactions will be to anything I write. I could be completely wrong on this one too.
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