Andy Warhol once observed that everyone’s famous for fifteen minutes. Of course, Warhol died before the internet age further abridged the nation’s memory and attention span. Today, fame’s half-life doesn’t last a quarter of an hour.
Take the NFL Giants’ Tom Coughlin. Remember this September when the Daily News’ human weather vane anointed him New York’s paradigmatic coach? (See “Giants Coach Is The Man All Other New York Coaches Want to Be,” Lupica, 09/06/09.) It was around the time the press was searching for the moment’s facile theory to explain why the Yankees manager they’d portrayed as an autocratic and abrasive control freak in 2008 miraculously had become the authoritative, congenial father figure in 2009. All at once the echo chamber bleated in symphony, “Credit Coughlin.”
No doubt originally conceived in the bowels of Howard Rubstein’s p.r office and then spoon-fed the press, the Girardi story ran as follows. Following his equivocal debut as the Yankees manager, Joe Girardi retreated to home and hearth in Florida to search his soul. And on the road to St. Petersburg he had a revelation. Perhaps, his Olympian peremptory manner had alienated a few players and his penchant for secrecy, a few reporters after all. Then and there, Joe resolved to mend his ornery ways and to appeal to higher counsel. Within days, the manager digested Coach C’s Super Bowl Instructional Manual: yes, you too, in one easy step can remake your image. Later, New York’s favorite championship coach received a phone call. (Yankee sources assure me Joe Torre, in Hawaii, wasn’t accepting calls.) Perhaps, Tom told Joe to take the kids to play pool, and if they were good, to buy them ice cream.
If honest, the Giants Coach would have imparted some old newspeak wisdom. Want to change how the press portrays you? Easy, win, baby; just win. For those who lose can do nothing right and those who win do nothing wrong.
Remember the furor Girardi’s heterodox and erratic decisions throughout the post-season ignited? Well, if you do, you’re alone. “Oh, you think I recklessly squandered my relievers, overtaxed my starters, and pushed my closer to the brink of physical injury?” “Well, buddy, you can kiss my ring.” To the victor belongs the history and the press was rewriting it before the champagne dried. With Coughlin’s help, they wrote, Girardi had transformed himself into a winner.
Until six weeks later, that is, when the scribblers reversed creditor and debtor on the bill of gratitude. It seems now the mentor has been saved by his disciple. How quickly they learn! Indeed, just this week, NBC’s Josh Alper mused that were it not for Girardi’s World Series, the Giants might have dismissed his once celebrated mentor. “Coughlin isn't getting fired, though you have to wonder if that outcome might be different if the Yankees hadn't won the World Series.”
Don’t ask for whom the pendulum swings... it swings at thee.