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A Need for Restraint in Internet Era

Former Press-Enterprise Dodgers beat writer turned NL West blogger Diamond Leung brought up a burgeoning issue in baseball -- and all sports -- in a post on his blog yesterday. When asked about his general reluctance to be involved with the Dodgers' on-field photo day, budding L.A. star Andre Ethier confirmed reports that he denied fan requests to take pictures with him, telling those interested that they could take pictures of him, but not with him because, "I don't do Facebook or Myspace, so no pictures."

It's a reflection of the day we live in, where some young athletes fear blogs like Busted Coverage, The Dirty and even Deadspin more than they fear the threat of steroids. Ethier cited the case of former NBA player Terrell Brandon, who was the victim of an extortion scheme in which the perpetrator tracked him down online. But Ethier could have just as easily cited past reports of new Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton (who was snapped in a compromising, drunken state) or his predecessor, Jay Cutler (who has been criticized for his partying since arriving in Chicago). The same could be said for Josh Howard, who was caught disrespecting the National Anthem in a youtube clip.

Those cases were fairly cut and dry, but they underscore how candid photos, regardless of where they're taken, could end up in front of a captive national audience within days, or sometimes even hours. In turn, that can cast a dark cloud over a player's reputation, which gives you an appreciation of how clean some athletes actually have to be to stay out of trouble, and how bleak the partying reputation for some Hall of Famers might have been if the internet had hit its zenith in the 80s (can anyone imagine the partying rap sheet on George Brett or Wade Boggs? I shudder to think).

All of these concerns raise an intriguing dilemma: Who's the bad guy in this situation? Is Ethier being a jerk by turning down photo requests, an act which gives off the air of a prima donna, at best? Or are the blogs themselves ruining the private lives of athletes by their very existence? No one's getting rich off the gotcha blogs (only Will Leitch, the original editor of Deadspin, has turned his blogging gig into a magazine writing job), but they're biggest traction comes in the trade of compromising photos. Does that invalidate them as a sort of postmodern National Enquirer, without the superimposed Bat Boy hanging out in the background?

For his part, Ethier claims he holding his ground on privacy to protect himself and his wife, and to take a stand on the traditional divisions between players and the fans. He's more than happy to give you an autograph, he just doesn't want to do it on a Polaroid photo of you next to his smiling mug.

"We're not in the business like actors that our face sells. It's our performance. It's your hot bat and your hot arm that keeps you on a team. I don't want my face out there. If it's the right time and place, I'll do it."

If he keeps hitting the way he's started the season, something tells us that true Dodger fans will be ok with his decision.

By Cameron Smith  |  April 30, 2009; 1:45 PM ET
Categories:  Dodgers  
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Next: Moment of Levity: The Big Picture


I understand Ethier's concern, but I don't see whe distinction of a picture of him alone and a picture of him with the fan, obviously taken at the ballpark.

Posted by: dlk117561 | April 30, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

dlk: Have you never heard of Photoshop? Anyway, I don't think he comes across as a prima donna, since he has a good reason for his reluctance.

Posted by: EinDC | April 30, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

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