Being a sports reporter is, at times, an absolutely horrible job. Sure you get to watch games, travel, and interact with athletes, but there is a horrendous downside. (Which is pretty much everything else.) And this is never more disturbingly clear than when a reporter has their first (or 50th ) awful experience with a half-naked, exhausted athlete. Sometimes they'll be openly dismissive, sometimes they'll yell, and sometimes, well, they'll fart in your face. Most of these stories never end up in the newspaper the next day. So now, Deadspin proudly presents "The Dark Side of the Locker Room" where current and former sports writers can share some of their most distressing interactions. If you've got your own story to share, please send it along to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I've never been able to forget what happened to Ryan Leaf when he screamed at that poor slob in San Diego way back when. The reporter tucked-tail and backed down, forever cementing his place among other ignominious, legendary SportsCenter videos.
That's what I was thinking about when Carl Everett squared off, put his fists up and asked if I wanted to box. And that's what I was thinking when I puffed out my chest, squared off and told him he didn't want any part of me. It probably wasn't the brightest idea I've ever had, but I couldn't shake the image of the shamed Chargers reporter, forever doomed to re-watch his impotence like some horrible, ink-stained Bill Buckner. I kept thinking: If you're going to piss yourself, wait until no one is watching.
At the time, Everett was an outfielder with the Texas Rangers, and I was a columnist for the Dallas Observer, a paper owned by Village Voice Media. This was in 2003. My job back then, as with most alt-weekly monkeys, was to merrily fling feces at my targets and maybe eat a banana if there was time. With Everett, though, I was actually trying to play it straight at first. Considering his volatile reputation, and the fact that he had about 65 pounds on me, I approached him gingerly and asked if he might have time to chat. Plus, considering we were at Spring Training in Arizona and most players were more worried about tee times than inquiring journos, I thought things would be fine.
Almost immediately, Everett got pissed that I bothered him. In the clubhouse. During media hours.
He claimed to have never heard of my paper. Now, the Observer wasn't the Dallas Morning News, but it wasn't fucking Car Shopper, either. We had been covering the Rangers for years. Plus, we had hooker ads in the back of the paper, which clearly made us better than the Morning News. But Everett wouldn't let it go and made a point of asking the clubhouse attendants if they had ever heard of the paper. Of course, they said no — possibly because, oh I dunno, they were from Arizona and not Texas.
In an attempt to smooth things over, I asked him about Roy Jones Jr. moving up to heavyweight. Everett supposedly loved boxing. That turned out to be another misstep in a day full of them. There's no reaching out to someone that off his nut. So, with that, things went from uncomfortable and testy to flat out heated:
Carl Everett: You don't want to talk boxing. You wanna box me? (Turns to me, squares off, puts fists up by his head.)You don't wanna box me.
Me: (Getting pissed now.) No, you don't wanna box me...now can we talk or not?
CE: Go ahead, man. (Rolls his eyes.)
M: OK...are you ready for the center field duties?
CE: Am I ready for the center field duties? (Long pause...clearly irritated.) Yeah, man, I'm ready for the center field duties, that's my job.
M: Some people have talked about your weight. Is it an issue? Does that bother you?
CE: That's just y'all. That's the media. That's you guys. You don't know me.
M: Well, you don't know me, and you were lumping me with the other media and giving me a hard time about my paper.
CE: I don't like the media. I don't like them. I don't like the media.
M:OK...all right...(Searching...backpedaling.) Have you talked to [manager] Buck [Showalter] much? You know, what's it like playing for him?
CE:We haven't played any games for him yet.
M: (Getting more pissed.) OK, then how is he different from the other managers you've been around?
CE: How's he different? (Very sarcastic.) That's what you're gonna ask me?
CE:: Everything's OK.
M: OK...What about last year? Was that tough for you?
M: The losing wasn't tough?
M:(Had enough now.) Why are you being so standoffish?
CE:Nope. You're just mad because I don't kiss the media's ass. I won't kiss your ass.
M:That's fine because I don't kiss ballplayers' asses...Now, the losing didn't bother you?
CE:Nope...I play hard anyway...that was the first time I ever lost.
M:So then it must have been different at least, right?
CE:(Huffing again.) Man, I said I play hard anyway.
M:All right...do you think you can contend this year?
CE:Did you watch the games last year?
M:Well, I wasn't in Texas, but, yeah, I watched some games...
CE:(Cuts me off.) No, you didn't. You didn't watch any games last year, 'cause if you watched some games last year, you'd know that we were a tough ticket. We didn't lay down for anyone.
M:How can you say that? You guys were 31 games out [of first place in the division]...
CE:(Really mad now.) First you ask me some fucking ridiculous questions, and then you're gonna ask me why I answered the way I did...
M:(Also really mad now.) Yeah, that's what I'm supposed to do; that's my job.
CE: (Screaming now...people watching.) If you're gonna ask some fucking ridiculous questions, then I'm gonna give you some fucking ridiculous answers...I mean, that's just fucking ridiculous.
M:(Also screaming now.) Why, because you don't like the fucking question?
CE: No, because I don't like the fucking media. That's it. Get up on outta here. (Motions toward the door.)
M: So that's it, huh? You're not gonna talk to me anymore?
CE:Yeah, that's right. That's it. Get the hell outta here. Go on, get out.
M:Well, this was productive. So that's it...that's the end?
CE: That's what I said. (Does shooing motion toward the door. Tries to get me to leave. I don't. He walks to other end of clubhouse. I go to middle of clubhouse and lean against a table.)
CE:(Mocking me now; yelling across clubhouse.) Asking me, how do I like Buck? Asking me, can we contend? (Makes grand sweeping motion, stares at me.) That's some stupid fucking shit. That's some shit your editor told you to come down here and ask.
M: (I yell back across the clubhouse.) My editor didn't tell me to ask anything. Those are my questions...you must be really mad at something.
CE: (Walks back toward me.) That's right. I'm mad because I don't like the fucking media. Keep it up. Go head, keep it up. Keep talking back. I'm gonna have you escorted outta here. And you better get up off that fucking table. You're gonna learn to respect us. This is our house. You're gonna learn. Get up off that table. (I don't move.) I said get up off that table. (I still don't move.) You better get up.
John Blake, Rangers PR chief: (Nods at me.) John, please get up. (I stand up, but I don't leave.)
CE: That's right. This is our house. You're gonna learn.
The truly weird part was that, a few weeks later, back in Dallas, I was in the clubhouse when I walked by Everett's locker and he started a spontaneous conversation with me. It was completely cordial. At the time, I had long, shaggy hair, and eventually Everett offered to shave my head — just like his. I wasn't sure if that was his way of making amends, or if he didn't remember me. I'm still not sure.
In the end, I didn't let him cut my hair. Something about letting a guy who doesn't believe in dinosaurs take a razor to the back of my head felt like a bad idea. That's probably just me, though.