“Tell them that God bids us do good for evil: And thus I clothe my naked villainy with old odd ends stolen out of holy writ; and seem a saint, when most I play the devil.” – Richard, III
So who is Selena Roberts? With Joel Sherman of the New York Post and John Heyman of Sports Illustrated extolling the New York Times’ former sports columnist, respectively, as an “excellent reporter” and the “best [in fact], I’ve ever worked with,” curiosity mounted. I felt compelled to observe first-hand-- well, almost first-hand anyway-- the "Many Lives" of the reporter who can reduce her notoriously cynical colleagues to "hero-worship" (to borrow one of the tropes Heyman himself employs to describe fans indifferent to players' steroid use).
I’d already read and scrutinized her work (See “Selena’s Poison Pen,” April 21, 2009). But still, I wondered, who was the real woman behind it? And how did she become the veritable A-Rod of the New York press? Why does she inspire such fierce loyalty? Where do all the rapt acolytes come from?
So to find out, The Yankees Republic dispatched its own investigative reporter, Peter Fallow, to Westport Connecticut, where the Hall of Fame journalist resides, to answer these questions and to capture Selena Roberts in her multiple guises and manifold lives.
Fallow, recently, filed this report.
SELENA KEEPS STORE
Beneath the facade of the muckraking journalism, Selena Roberts conceals her lust for vengeance and will to power. In the name of exposing the sports world’s misogyny and corruption, she channels her inner Dickens -- a personality comprised of two parts Miss Havisham and one part Fagin.
Past the Wine Cellar, Cohen’s Fashion Optics, Starbucks and the picturesque shops arrayed along Westport Connecticut’s Post Rd., a lone shabby, ramshackle sign, painted in mottled white, obtrudes. Its discolored, eroding typeface; its cracked, weather-beaten awninb; and the seedy shop inside is the one blight amid the posh décor otherwise characteristic of Main Street in one of New England’s affluent, late-sipping suburbs.
The name of the store is “Selena’s Sportswear”. But the motto inscribed on the awning perhaps describes, more precisely, what its owner sells. It reads: “Enter and Ye Shall See the High and Mighty Fall… and Rejoice.”
Yet the ravaged storefront and the tattered and stained bridal dress visible through the front window tell only half the story. The missing details neighboring proprietors, nonetheless, are all too eager to add. They speak of broken sewage pipes, of roach and vermin infestations, and of the faint stench of sulfur. More ominous still, they allude to moral transgressions, grave and sinister.
“Selena’s Sewer, I call it,” said Murray Rosen, the owner of Westport Kosher Meat. “You know, we been trying to get rid of that farschtinkener hovel for years. But we can’t because our alta cocker mayor kisses Miss New York Times’ rear. Yeah, they think she’s a big deal up here. Like one rag is better than the next. What, Charmin wipes your ass cleaner than Scott.”
Across the street the Palace of Panache’s chief interior designer Hayden Brown echoed Rosen’s distaste for the Post Rd.’s notorious blemish. “Look, what the woman does inside her store is her business. But outside affects everyone. And worse than the dirty storefront is that disgusting, old dress she displays in the window. It’s Sporting Goods store; what’s it doing there?”
"She must have lost her virginity in it,” Ms. Brown’s young male assistant snickered. “And cheap, too— with that big book advance, she can’t spring for a cleaning woman? Uch.”
Yet when Ms. Brown was asked to clarify what she meant by “what the woman does inside,” she refused to elaborate. All she’d allow was, “Let’s put it this way. My husband played football at Auburn. I know a thing or two about Selena Roberts that it wouldn’t be lady-like for me to repeat.”
One of Ms. Brown’s customers harbored fewer reservations. “Come on, everybody knows what goes on inside that store,” she said, “Ask any of those kids outside with the hoodies and dirt bikes; they’ll tell you.”
MISS HAVISHAM'S PROFESSION
They did, indeed.
An examination of Selena’s business creates the portrait of an author driven to publish a book on Alex Rodriguez as a “branding tool” to enlarge her public profile and to advance her social mission. No, she doesn’t exactly bear the singularly vindictive motive of a woman scorned, but the Miss Havisham caricature holds sway in Westport’s business community for a reason.
Two weeks later, on a balmy, resplendent Saturday afternoon in April, Post Street bustled with young couples running errands, taking kids out for lunch, or indulging in a little idle window-shopping while basking in the sunshine.
Selena’s Sportswear, oddly, hadn’t opened as yet for business. At one-thirty p.m. steel security gates fixed with padlocks still curtained the door and windows and veiled the interior from view. A motley group of prepubescent boys, along with a single slightly younger, androgynous girl, nonetheless circled the store continuously on BMX racing bikes, as though waiting for a parent to arrive.
“When does the store open?” I asked.
“Who wanna know?” the shortest among them replied.
“Oh, just a customer looking for some new golf clothes.”
“Yo, P., he look in a white dress, yo.”
P. and company erupted in laughter.
“Do you guys know when the store opens?”
“When Momma feel like, yo. You feel me?” Apparently, Roberts had nurtured her brood in the art of loyalty.
In ten years of available public documents, Selena’s Sportswear reported no less than a $50,000 loss every year. Accounting for depreciation and a one-time, paltry charitable contribution of $5.00 in 2006, paid to the Duke University chapter of “Take Back the Night,” Selena’s Sportswear has lost just shy of a million dollars over the last decade.
For evident reasons, Selena doesn’t talk “biz” because Selena’s Sportswear doesn’t sell goods for profit. Commerce isn't its purpose at all. To the contrary, Selena’s Sportswear is a store “front,” quite literally. The commodity it trades is ideology; The service it peddles is indoctrination.
“That yo phat ride, man?” the short white kid called P. Honey asked.
“Yo, that pretty far driving for golf shirts. They run out in New York,” he snickered. The bicycles came to an abrupt halt as P. Honey gestured toward the Empire State plates.
“Yo, this a reporter or some shit, 'mon, boys, we outtie,” P. Honey announced and the troops fell in line with one notable exception.
Incredulous, she rode over to examine the car in its entirety and within seconds, to her consternation and outrage, glimpsed the incriminating bumper sticker—the telltale interlocking N.Y.
“You’re… You’re a Yankee fan,” she spluttered, her eyes welling with tears. “Can’t you people leave her alone? Why don’t you stop persecuting her?”
“Sister Souljah,” P. Honey shouted, “Give it a rest. We outta here.”
“You don’t understand. You don’t know how great Selena is. You don’t care. You want to destroy her.
“Ever since I was little, my parents forced me to play tennis, to practice six hours every day. All they ever talked about was how I had this gift I had to use to become a professional tennis player. Tennis this, and Tennis that. They never asked whether I liked the sport, whether I wanted to play professional tennis, whether I could handle the sacrifice. I wasn’t even allowed to question it. They turned me into a nine-year-old freak, no friends, no education, no interests-- nothing but tennis.
Then one day, I lost this match and couldn’t leave the Court afterward. I sat there, catatonic, for three hours. My parents, they didn’t care. They left me there to stew. But Selena saw me; she comforted me; she rescued me. She told me how stupid sports are. How it's just a game; it doesn't mean anything. She told me how selfish and vain and shallow athletes are.”
“Enough,” P.Honey persisted, trying to stop her.
“Selena told us all about her years covering professional sports in New York, the Yankees, in particular. She let us know how crass and stupid baseball players are. She told us all the dirty, vile things they say in the locker room. How they cheat on their wives and then abandon them. How they really hate women, all women. She taught us how athletes like A-Rod care only about money and fame and success. And she told us how deluded and psychotic you fans are that cheer for and defend them. How you act like animals in ballparks. How…”
“Estelle, shut the FUCK UP, now!!!” P.Honey yelled, threw down his bike, grabbed her handlebars, and pulled her and her bicycle away, but not before this pitiable, precocious, tormented little girl vented her last, eloquent gasp of rage.
“Don’t you get it: I AM SELENA!!”
Indeed, few experiences compare to the humbling meted out by a nine-year-old girl when she illuminates the truth staring you in the face but couldn't see.
Yes, poor Estelle, fated to nurse the vicarious grudges of a woman kept from the altar who longs, above all, to be on stage.
For Ms. Roberts’ question of Alex Rodriguez “Will A-Rod ever worry about what’s beneath the moneymaking veneer? Or will he forever be Mr. Potter in pinstripes?” begs the converse, as well.
That is, Will Selena Havisham ever probe beneath her veil of resentment? Will the spotlight she steals from A-Rod requite old grievances and bind ancient wounds; will the fifteen minutes of fame Miss Selena Havisham gains by destroying A-Rod's already battered reputation enable her, finally, to shed the soiled dress, to exhaust the poison pen and to leave her vindictive scorn behind.
Whatever truth the foregoing story reveals, it, of course, contains not a kernel of fact (not unlike Selena Roberts’ columns.) As I understand it, Fallows' purpose, instead, was two-fold (i) to parody the agitprop the “excellent reporter” published in the New York Times on December 7, 2007, titled “A-Rod’s Properties and Charity Suggest Some Stinginess” and (ii) to mirror the facile and reductive caricature that informs Roberts' work and by all indications, her Manichean worldview. (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/07/sports/baseball/07roberts.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Potter&st=nyt)
As such, the story you have read above consists solely of an exercise in imaginative speculation. Any resemblance it bears to reality is purely coincidental.