The Best Defense Are you an athlete in a heap o' trouble? The solution: an all-out media counteroffensive

September 12, 1999

Who among us hasn't, at one time or another, made tens of
millions of dollars? Put our father up in one of the houses we
own? Charged the old man rent for the privilege? Evicted Pops
when his check was late? And assaulted our delinquent dad while
doing so?

Scandalous? Hardly. What's scandalous is this: Those vultures in
the media will make a story out of anything, as they did last
week when baseball star turned landlord Kevin Mitchell was
alleged to have done all of the above to his 56-year-old father,
Earl. But just because the story has broken, Mitch, doesn't mean
your image has. Au contraire. There are infinite ways to
rehabilitate your reputation. Simply use the power of the media
against itself, in a kind of journalistic judo.

For starters, deny everything. It wasn't me (O.J. Simpson). It
was my wife's uncle (Darryl Strawberry). This will confound the
press just long enough for you to confabulate a more plausible
defense.

When you can no longer deny, defy. Tape an ad for the And1
apparel company, celebrating your status as an American
maverick. (Latrell Sprewell did, and look at his Q rating.)
Market away your malfeasance. It's a short trip back from ex-con
to icon. Ask Pete Rose--he's tanned, rested and ready for the
Hall of Fame.

Counterattack. Charge racism, jockism, reverse ageism. Use any
word loaded with implications. (Every ism has 'em!) Remember,
you are the victim here--of an addictive personality, of an
absentee father, of a vast right-wing conspiracy.

Sob softly on ESPN's Up Close. Proffer pseudopsychological
explanations for your rent-obsessed behavior. (Examples: You
once had bad seats at the musical Rent; you were once robbed of
a hit by Edgar Renteria; you once called Oscar De La Hoya "Oscar
de la Renta," and he beat you savagely for the slipup.) Watch
host Gary Miller nod sympathetically like a bobble-headed doll.

Appear to apologize without actually doing so. Admit that
"mistakes were made." Regret "the appearance of impropriety."
Express remorse "if anyone was offended." Acknowledge having
caused "pain in my marriage."

Release a statement through a team spokesman: You would like to
comment but cannot. Cite pending litigation. Cite the Epistle of
Paul the Apostle to the Colossians. ("Fathers, provoke not your
children to anger....")

Read from a text written by your attorney. Feign earnestness
while doing so. Afterward, you can disdainfully toss the text
into your locker, as San Diego Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf
did last season. But before you toss--and I cannot stress this
strongly enough--make sure the TV cameras are off.

Get your side of the story out there. Maybe Dad head-butted your
fist? Perhaps Pops harbored a puppy in the house in express
disregard of your No Pets policy? The point is, how much can one
landlord reasonably be expected to endure? Take your case
directly to the American people.

Memorize these phrases: I was misquoted. That was taken out of
context. This whole thing has been blown out of proportion.

As a last resort, accept full responsibility for your actions.
Announce that you will seek anger-management counseling. Address
the press at a battered-tenant outreach center. Pose for a
grip-and-grin, grandly delivering to a homeless man the kind of
oversized novelty check ordinarily reserved for tennis champions.

Purchase a full-page ad in USA Today. Ask for your father's
forgiveness. Implore him to come back. Offer one month's free
rent.

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: DAN PICASSO

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)