When the story of Red Sox manager John Farrell’s alleged relationship with Comcast SportsNet reporter Jessica Moran was reported Friday night by the Globe’s Mark Shanahan, I was juicily glued to my computer, searching for dirt.
The story had all of the licentious grease stains that busy-bodies like myself swarm toward—especially during spring training when watching the Portland Sea Dogs play the lion’s share of the late innings can be anything but enthralling.
As I sat in my basement, searching pictures of Jessica Moran—who I hadn’t known before the story broke—and scratching my head, my wife sauntered downstairs and started reading over my shoulder.
“What’s this about?” she asked.
“It seems John Farrell is having a relationship with this woman who is twenty years younger,” I said, still scratching my head.
“Is he married?”
“He’s in the process of divorcing his wife.”
My wife rolled her eyes. “Then who cares?” she said. “You and your male soap operas.”
“You mean sports.”
“Same difference,” she said. Her point was made: It does seem that I—along with many other New England sports fans and media—devote an inordinate amount of attention to the sordid stories of athletes’ personal and, particularly, carnal activities.
My wife is right in some respects. I am making a soap opera out of strangers’ business. I tend to agree with Farrell when he said his “private life is private,” although I certainly understand the professional conflict of interests that gave this story its legs.
But there’s plenty of precedent here, particularly in New England sports, and particularly when it comes to the Boston Red Sox. In the late-Richard Ben Cramer’s epic Esquire “What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?“, Cramer writes of how Williams was criticized for not returning from Florida for the birth of his daughter, Bobby Jo. Later, when The Kid’s wife Doris filed for divorce, Boston newspapers luxuriated in the story, running the headline “Ted Gets Divorced” and printing “box scores” of the settlements.
Then former knuckle-baller Jim Bouton exposed baseball’s seedy sexual underbelly in his 1970 memoir Ball Four, giving fans an insider’s look at all things lascivious surrounding the game.
In 1989, Wade Boggs—whose number will be rightfully retired on May 26 at Fenway—did a Barbara Walters interview where he borrowed from a Robert Palmer song and admitted he was “addicted to sex” after Margo Adams went public about her four-year affair with Boggs, who was married.
Most recently, in the last 15 years, give or take, there has been a run of NESN girls who converted the rumor mill from hydraulic to nuclear.
It started with Hazel Mae who was allegedly connected to a former Red Sox player or two. Tina Cervasio passed on the party, but Heidi Watney, Cervasio’s beauty-pageant replacement, was famously rumored to be the home-wrecker of Jason Varitek’s marriage. Then, when bombshell Jenny Dell hooked up with her now-husband Will Middlebrooks, who recently signed a minor league contract with the Brewers, it was the final straw that ended in… well, Gary Striewski.
You can almost guarantee that the John Henry’s NESN has a chastity belt locked on sideline reporter Guerin Austin as we enter the 2016 season.
Like I said, I can understand the professional and ethical conflicts inherent when female reporters covering the team have personal relationships with players or management. It compromises the coverage and from a journalistic standpoint, it is highly unethical.
And, granted, players and management are more than compensated for these intrusions into their private affairs, but it only seems decent that—as fans and human beings—we mind our own business and focus the baseball-related narratives. As my wife suggested, this does seem like a soap opera, only we’re not dealing with fictional characters and inane storylines. When dealing with public figures, it’s easy to forget that these are real people with private lives.
Maybe we, present company most certainly included, should respect it.