In the wake of Shaquille O’Neal’s suggestion Dwight Howard had shunned the bright lights of Hollywood in favor of the sleepy backwater known as Houston, TX (the 4th largest city in the U.S., by the way) because he couldn’t handle the pressure, dozens readers patiently waited for Sports On Earth’s Will Leitch (above, left) to weigh in on the pros and cons of playing in New York City. Along the way, Mattoon, IL native Leitch lists Gotham’s pluses (endorsement opportunities, late night grilled cheese sandwiches) and minuses (it’s expensive, lack of privacy, etc.) While Leitch failed to cite NYC’s cultural diversity in the former category (unsurprisingly), he’s fairly sure “The Media” is the biggest argument against playing in the Big Apple (“this would be the dealbreaker for me”).
This is the media capital of the country, which means that no matter how much you succeed, no matter how much joy you provide, everyone’s going to pounce on you for no reason, just because they can. I mean, they called Derek Jeter “Derek Eater” and “Captain Munch.” Does that sound like a place where you want to spend your time? If you have one bad game in New York, newspaper back pages call you a choker, or a fraud, or a failure, and it sits on stands all day, with people just staring at your picture next to some snappy pun about your last name. Oh, and if you have any personal issues — that is to say, you are like every other person on the planet — nothing is off-limits. So I hope you keep a perfectly clean sheet.
You’re so much better off playing for Detroit, where there are, like, three total reporters, or St. Louis, where two star players can be detained for soliciting prostitutes and no one notices, remembers or cares. Take the pressure off. Go where no one is watching. Go where you can be left alone.
Don’t play in New York City, free agent athletes of the world. It’s just not worth it. It’s the best city in the world. But not for you.
If there is a single media-related reason why professional athletes have particular reason to look over the shoulders, it’s not the plethora of beat reporters or the fact NYC has 3 daily newspapers (4 if you count the James Dolan-owned Newsday). It’s the website Leitch founded. Incredibly, Deadspin managed to put the screws to public figures including but not limited to Ben Roethlisberger, Josh Hamilton, Sean Salisbury, Manti T’eo, Matt Leinart, Chris Berman and Chris Mihlfeld. And this is in spite of none of the above WORKING IN NEW YORK CITY.