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Willie Harris is Off the Grid

Staying medium while celebrating a win. (By By Luis M. Alvarez - AP)

At least once a week, an athlete or coach tells me that he doesn't read the newspapers, doesn't listen to sports radio, and tries to tune out the media buzz. Sometimes, I believe them. Sometimes, I don't. It's awfully hard to be a sports professional and divorce yourself entirely from the sports media, and it's also hard not to be even the slightest bit curious about what the world is saying about you.

Well, Willie Harris gave me the speech last week, and I believed him. It started when I asked him about Nyjer Morgan's status as a fan favorite. Harris was happy to rave about Morgan, and happy to thank fans for their support of the team, but he said repeatedly that he didn't know or care who their favorites were.

"We love their support, don't care what they think," he said. "You've got to be like that. If you care about what someone thinks about you, you ain't gonna last long. If every time somebody's talking about you bad, and you care, that'll eat you alive. Right or wrong?"

I'm a bad person to ask, because I care obsessively, so I didn't have a great answer to his question. But I presented the reverse to Harris: sometimes fans are talking good. Sometimes, they love you. Wouldn't he like to hear that side of it?

"Me personally, I don't never know if they're talking good or bad," he said. "I don't read the papers, I don't get on the computer, I have no idea."

And this is where it got interesting, because he wasn't saying that he doesn't go on the computer to read about the Nats, he was saying he doesn't go on the computer, period, full stop. He said he uses the clubhouse computer to leave tickets for friends, but that's it. What about e-mail, I asked.

"I don't have e-mail," he said. "For what? I've got a cell phone. If somebody wants to talk to me, they call."

Uh, Facebook?

"Hell no man," he said. "None of that stuff interests me."

See, this isn't some locker room cliche about not reading the newspapers, this is a full-on modern media blackout. Just the same, I tried to tell him some of the good stuff that's out there; that last year, for example, Webby Nats fans were fond of playing Chuck Norris type games with his name, the whole "Superman wears Willie Harris underwear" kind of thing.

"That was last year, though," he said. "Last year was good. Last year's gone. I'm hitting .230. It's ridiculous. I really don't want to know what people are saying now, that's why I don't get into that stuff. I'm already into my own head. If I see something somebody said, it'll just piss me off. They can't hit a change-up, they can't hit a slider, but they know everything else about what he needs to do or we need to do?"

And at this point, I need to interject. Another Washington Post story this summer quoted Harris on how you can't let losses bring you down once you leave the clubhouse, and that quote likely gave people the wrong impression. Harris cares, and he cares deeply. He was just talking about survival in the Major Leagues. It's the same thing with wins; if you go out and celebrate in a fit of joy after every W, you just won't last a season, much less a career, without losing your mind.

"If we win today, we come in and talk about what we did good, what we done bad, and we leave it right there," he said, as the Nats' were in the middle of their eight-game win streak. "If we made mistakes, we try not to make those mistakes again, and if we played well, we thrive off of that. You can't be worried about losses here and there, because it'll just wear you down. You've got to try to forget about it, and I don't want to say not worry about it, but you don't want to be thinking about what happened two months ago when we have two more months ahead. It's no good. We're in the dog days, now, cuz."

Anyhow, the point is, that yes, he cares, and no, he doesn't know what you think about him, not because he doesn't like you, but because it wouldn't help him to know. And I did ask him whether he wouldn't inevitably get on the grid and sign up for an e-mail account once he retires.

"No," he said. "I've [lasted] this long."

By Dan Steinberg  |  August 12, 2009; 10:04 AM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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Why don't the different races on the Nats celebrate with each other? In every picture its always Dukes, Harris, Morgan, Guzman, etc (see also smurf jump) and in others it's Willingham, Zimmerman, Dunn, etc (see handshake). Can't we all just celebrate together?

Posted by: fushezzi | August 12, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

How John McCain of Willie Harris. Its 2009 buddy, get with the times!

BTW: Nyjer Morgan's sock game is FEROCIOUS!!

Posted by: KyminDC | August 12, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

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