Easily the most amazing part of Alex Rodriguez's press conference Tuesday afternoon was that his confusing and at times incoherent message was carefully designed by a group of professionals who make their living advising public figures in these types of crisis situations.
For the past week Rodriguez has been advised by a team that includes his agent Scott Boras, talent agent Guy Oseary, publicist Richard Rubenstein and a company that specializes in crisis management called Outside Eyes. It's probably the greatest example that over thinking, over analyzing and over staffing an apology creates more problems than it does solutions.
Any time you have a room full of people who spin things for a living, you can easily forget that the goal isn't who can come up with the best talking points ("young," "stupid," "naïve," "curious") but who can craft the most believable, heart-felt apology.
Watching Rodriguez open his press conference by reading a prepared statement from a few sheets of crumpled papers he had no doubt rolled up nervously was like watching a child tensely read a book report on a book he hadn't actually read.
It wasn't so much that the words he was reading clearly weren't his, but that when he had a chance to speak from the heart he continued to be dishonest and contradict himself on basic questions on which he should have simply come clean. For example, he apologized for taking performance-enhancing drugs and for being secretive in doing so, but later said he didn't know what he was doing was wrong. When he was asked if he didn't know what he was doing was wrong, why was he so secretive, he said, "I knew what we were taking was potentially something that perhaps was wrong. I really didn't get into the investigation, perhaps like I would've."
"Potentially" and "perhaps" wrong? That's almost as bad and evasive as privately apologizing to Selena Roberts for publicly slandering her but refusing to apologize publicly.
Responses like that will do more harm to Rodriguez down the line than any failed drug test. The American public has a short attention span and is surprisingly forgiving to those who offer genuine, heart-felt and believable apologies. If Rodriguez had said he knew what he was doing was wrong and was old enough to know better but simply wanted to gain an advantage, he would take some big hits but eventually moved on. Now, I'm not sure anyone knows what to believe with Rodriguez, who is not only thought of as a cheater but a liar.
Throughout his press conferences he kept saying that he was "24, 25" when he was injecting himself with performance-enhancing drugs, as if to say he was too young to know what he was doing. The truth is if he was taking testosterone and Primobolan from 2001-03, that would mean he was more in the range of 26, 27, 28. That means he was a 10-year veteran who was two years away from his 30th birthday when he allegedly decided to stop taking these drugs. We're supposed to believe that he was some young, stupid, naïve kid who was making an amateur mistake with his cousin? We're also supposed to believe that a man worth $250 million was secretly injecting himself twice a month for three years with drugs his cousin brought over from the Dominican Republic but he didn't know what he was doing was wrong and wasn't sure what the benefit was?
Again, it isn't surprising that Rodriguez would continue to dig himself deeper into a hole. It's amazing that he hired a team of professionals to help him shovel.
One of the strategy points of Outside Eyes, according to its Web site, is "Message Development" and it states, "You have one shot to answer the question "What do you do?" Does your answer leave a confident, memorable first impression? Outside Eyes prepares clients to say everything they need to say and nothing they do not. We make sure your 'elevator speech' is concise, compelling, and effective."
I don't know who worked on Rodriguez's "elevator speech," but whoever it was woefully failed in helping him with his "one shot to answer the question." His answer didn't leave a confident, memorable first impression and his speech was anything but concise, compelling and effective.