The Most Hated Man in Boston

By ADAM REILLY  |  July 10, 2007
070622_shaugnessy_main2
CHB VS. JURASSIC CARL: Shaughnessy’s red Afro inspired his current nickname. Former Red Sox head case Carl Everett (a creationist whom Shaughnessy dubbed “Jurassic Carl” was asked by another Globe reporter, Gordon Edes, for a story. Everett refused, saying he didn’t talk to Globe reporters, especially “you and your Curly-Haired Boyfriend,” which was subsequently shortened to “CHB.” The acronym has become a favorite moniker of Shaughnessy haters.
(Source: Sons of Sam Horn)
Playing the game
But wait. For the sake of the argument, suppose that every single Shaughnessy criticism mentioned above, even in its most extreme form, has some validity. He’s totally predictable; he wants to be the story; he’s a jerk; he hates the Sox; he’s an old-media dinosaur; he abhors context; he’s Carrot Top’s uglier twin. Does that really make him a “piece of garbage”? Does it justify punching him in the face? Or withholding life-saving first aid as he expires on the sidewalk?

It’s hard to answer this question objectively, because I’m in the same profession as Shaughnessy. But I can say that Shaughnessy’s alleged faults are, to a large extent, the faults of print journalists everywhere. We all develop prose tics and patterns; we’re all kind of annoyed by self-important bloggers; we all like it when our stories make something happen; we all know bad news is more interesting to write about than good. Also, most of us aren’t matinee idols. Shaughnessy’s sins are ours; he is me, on a bad-hair day in 2020.

Yet the awkward fact remains: if we’re lucky, most of us — even at a major daily like the Globe — only hear from a handful of angry readers in any given year. Back when Ron Borges was the Globe’s lead football writer, the wrath he engendered might have compared with what Shaughnessy gets. But with Borges gone, the breadth and depth of anti-Shaughnessy animosity is unrivaled.

Some people believe that’s just how Shaughnessy wants it. “He’s disliked because he wants to be disliked,” contends Bruce Allen, the publisher of Boston Sports Media Watch, a Web site dedicated to critiquing local sports coverage. “He’s embraced the role of the antagonist, and he really plays it to the hilt. . . . I dislike his style; I don’t dislike him personally. But he understands that being controversial — and being hated, even — is probably the easiest way to get attention drawn to his work.”

Perhaps. But after talking with Shaughnessy, I’m not convinced he wants to be regarded as Boston’s Biggest Asshole. This past week, while Shaughnessy was at the Boston Borders signing copies of his new book — Senior Year: A Father, a Son, and High School Baseball (Houghton Mifflin) — I skulked nearby, eavesdropping on his conversations with readers. As far as I could tell, he was unfailingly soft-spoken and polite; of course, he was also moving product.

Two days later, sitting in his Globe cube, Shaughnessy offered his take — warily at first — on why some people dislike him so much. “A measure of this comes with the territory,” he began. “We are in the business of writing things about people, and being critical at times, so we are going to be criticized. So I accept that as part of the deal.”

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