Call Him Mario: A Hit Piece On A Hit Piece
Photo Credit: NHL.com
This is in response to an article from The Athletic, a new sports coverage site looking to get new subscribers. This piece calls out Mario Lemieux regarding the Penguins' upcoming visit to the White House, that typically, even despite the uniqueness of our current political landscape, every championship sports team does year in and year out. The writer, Marc Antoine Godin (a beat writer for the Montreal Canadiens) wrote his article as if it was an "open letter" to Mario. I took exception to this. I'd link to it so you could read it, but you have to pay money, which is fine, but you'll read why in this case it's not fine. Here are my words:
Dear Mr. Godin:
Wait, you know what? Can I just call you Marc? “Mr. Godin” sounds too “fake polite” to call someone I’m writing a hit piece on, and if we're being honest, it’s a little hokey to write an “open letter to said public figure” nowadays, just comes off as I don’t know, unoriginal? Almost like you pulled it from a box full of writing gimmicks.
Allow me to just clear some things up a bit before I delve in: if you wrote a letter to “Mr. Lemieux” why didn’t you just send it to him? You know, kick it old school with a paper and pen? A little snail mail? Maybe a neat hockey-themed forever stamp? There's also no tagging of him on Twitter according to your page?
Ahhhhhh, wait, that’s right. It was “open”. Okay, I get it. So people can read it. Everyone can read an open letter!
But, forgive me if I’m a little slow on the uptake here. People can’t read it unless they sign up for The Athletic? $7.99 a month - is that right? Okay, well that’s not really “open”, but whatever. In today’s media world, people can write (Tweet) whatever they want without really being totally factual. I mean, Trump does it and heck, The Athletic is a perfect example too. You guys made a big red button that said “Start Free Trial” that put me immediately into “$7.99 a month” world after I entered my debit card info. No free week trial of the snake oil as advertised, just locked in for the whole damn bottle with my subscription auto-renewing on November 2. Hey, fair enough - independent journalists need to make the green any way they can I guess, but do you think Mario (sorry) - “Mr. Lemieux” - actually paid $7.99 to read your “sort of but not really” open letter?
Okay, sorry Marc, maybe “snake oil” was a bit harsh. Again, these hypothetical “letters to people” aren’t my strong suit. And I’m still kind of pissed about the whole free trial thing if we’re straight shooting. There are some great, reputable writers on The Athletic, and for what can be said, maybe you really slay it when covering the Canadiens. I have no clue whatsoever. Josh Yohe was an excellent writer too for the Penguins and you guys snagged him, a real Steel City sports journalism gem.
Whoa. Quick theory here, Marc. Now just throwing this out there, I’m probably wrong, but could you be like the Penguins’ “bad cop” to Yohe’s “good cop”? Or better yet, were you like the fall guy to wrangle in potential Pittsburgh readers with a hatchet job article on one of, if not the city’s most beloved sports figures so Yohe can keep them lingering around with well thought out, well analyzed articles on the Penguins ongoings? Could that be it, could that be the case?
Hm. So that’s it. It very well might be a political thing with you guys. You may actually be standing behind those words against “Mr. Lemieux” (damn, again with the quotations, so passive aggressive of me), who according to you, needs to show the “same courage” that his team shows “on the ice every night” (how does winning back to back Stanley Cups correlate with not riding a plane to D.C. exactly?) However politically fueled (and free trial deceptive) you and James Mirtle’s new site may be, it just seems so convenient to take some unwarranted umbrage with an adopted Pittsburgh hero who battled cancer, survived and still continues to help the fight against pediatric cancer at the same time you’re firing up a paid site heavily in search of a boatload of Pittsburgh readers. I mean, what in the world could someone say bad about Mario freaking Lemieux? You sure tried to conjure up something. (Did your directive “come from the top” too?)
And this letter that “Mr. Lemieux” probably won’t pay a subscription to read is all because he’s having his team follow the time-old tradition of visiting the White House? You used the Edmund Burke quote “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (I paid my $7.99 I might as well quote the damn thing) How do you know what he’s doing is "nothing" exactly? He’s taking action, the team’s going, they’re staying the course and more often than not, staying the course can make touchy things such as politics and protests very less hostile. Doing nothing is doing something, really. Not poking the bear, so to speak, but again, according to you “neutrality has become a near impossibility”. Really? In today’s world, is everything that cut and dry? Twitter and social media will lead you to believe otherwise, with most people choosing to read articles and watch shows that only substantiate their own beliefs and claims, but hey, at least The Athletic here is a champion of taking a political side. Good for you, Marc. Good for James Mirtle, too. That’s how we readers like our paid sports web sites, hell, that’s how we like all of our sports, just chock full of political stances. Because nothing brings us closer together.
Too bad "Mr. Lemieux" doesn't get that.
Still reading folks? Well here's a couple of screenshots of my one-sided email correspondence I had with The Athletic support staff regarding my "free trial". I canceled out of the site so we'll see how things go. I added a bit of sarcasm for humor so I'll probably be getting stonewalled but I'll be happy to update if things develop, positively or negatively: