Hideki Matsui and Mariano Rivera: Behavioral Models for TV - Charlie Warner - MediaBizBloggers

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New York Yankee World Series MVP, designated hitter Hideki Matsui, and the incomparable closer Mariano Rivera were models of mature, professional dignity in the final game of the World Series – behavior rarely seen in the trash heap of commercial television.

Matsui, the calm, taciturn Japanese slugger drove in a record-tying six runs in the sixth and final game of this year's World Series against the scrappy Philadelphia Phillies, and Rivera, baseball's greatest, most effective closer of all time, got the final five outs to shut down the dangerous Phillies in a 7-3 Yankee win.

These were impressive performances, but what stood out as much as their on-the-field heroics were their calm, confident, mature behavior and, most of all, their dignity – the way they handled their accomplishments. They didn't jump up, pump their fists, look to the heavens, or even smile. They just did their jobs in a non-demonstrative, professional manner.

Dignity is rarely seen on commercial television – not on cable where WWE wrestling is the consistently top-rated program, not on cable news which features bloviating and hysterical vaudeville performers who spin opinions and sensationalism without ever landing a blow on the facts. Witness the disgraceful coverage of the recent Ft. Hood killings in which the cable news channels got it wrong for hours and depended irresponsibly on erroneous Twitter and Facebook rumors too much.

And dignity is certainly not seen on prime time television, as brilliantly analyzed and skewered by James Wolcott in the current (December) issue of Vanity Fair in a piece titled "I'm a Culture Critic…Get Me Out of Here." Wolcott's intelligent article isn't up on the Web yet, so you'll have to buy the magazine or wait until next month to get Wolcott's superbly written piece online.

Wolcott makes the point that Reality TV has "...not only ruined network values, destroyed the classic documentary, and debased the art of bad acting, but also fomented class warfare, antisocial behavior and class warfare." Yes! Go get 'em James!

You'll get no dignity on Reality TV or anywhere on commercial TV, where programmers have to get ratings with programs (news and opinion programs included) that appeal to the lowest level of taste and educational attainment and to the basest of instincts.

We don't see much dignity in sports, either; certainly not in hockey, soccer, or football. But occasionally in Major League Baseball, which is slower, more intellectual, and dominated less by raw emotion than other sports, we get glimpses of maturity and professionalism.

The Fox TV network carried the World Series and to its credit, announcer Joe Buck and analyst Tim McCarver were fittingly mature and professional in their approach, in ironic contrast to promotion spots for the local Fox-owned TV station in New York that ran in some local breaks. The promo spots were for the Fox station's local news programs and showed scenes of silly anchors laughing, a camel snorting, and another anchor juggling to reinforce the notion of news as lowest-common-denominator vaudeville.

But in the World Series games themselves, Matsui and Rivera, from Japan and Panama respectively, were models of the kind of dignified behavior it would be nice to see on TV.

Hey, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Jim Cramer, Lou Dobbs, Keith Olbermann, and network CEOs and programmers, were you watching? Will you please try to model the behavior of these two Yankee superstars?

Until he retired in 2002, Charlie Warner was Vice President of AOL's Interactive Marketing division. Before joining AOL, he was the Goldenson Endowed Professor at the Missouri Journalism School where he taught media management and sales, and he created and ran the annual Management Seminar for News Executives. Charlie can be contacted at charleshwarner@gmail.com.

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