Of Peter Gammons’ oft-criticized interview with Alex Rodriguez last Monday, the former told ESPN’s Le Anne Schreiber, “my feeling is, this was not Frost/Nixon.” And while the Ombudslady reminds us that even (the real) Frost/Nixon failed to garner a full disclosure of guilt from the disgraced former President, “if any accused celebrity, athlete or politician, is a good enough get to name his interviewer for a sit-down, then he is almost inevitably also practiced enough and coached enough in dealing with the media to avoid revealing anything he doesn’t want to reveal.”
My own assessment is that Gammons (above) asked the hard questions — Did you take steroids? For how long? Where did you get them? Did you lie to Katie Couric? — but that after getting Rodriguez’ opening admission of guilt, he did not press hard enough when Rodriguez gave evasive or self-serving answers to the what/where/when/why questions. I also think Gammons’ lack of follow-up was attributable, in large part, to his genuine sympathetic engagement in the human drama of what the viewer somewhat cynically called “Rodriguez’s first step toward personal redemption.”
Gammons told me, as well as other interviewers, that he was stunned by Rodriguez’ admission that he had taken banned substances for three years.
“When I talked informally with Alex the night before,” Gammons said, “I got the impression he was going to say whatever he tested positive for in 2003 was related to prescription drugs he had taken for a back injury in spring training.”
Gammons said he regrets not challenging Rodriguez when he mounted an attack on Roberts, calling the Sports Illustrated reporter “a stalker” and falsely accusing her of trespassing and trying “to break into my house where my girls are up there sleeping.”
“I know Selena and have great respect for her,” Gammons said, “and I know a lot of people were offended that I didn’t rise up immediately to defend her. It so stunned me, I was sitting there thinking, people at home are going to say, ‘Alex, your first answer already validated what she wrote.’ But in hindsight, I wish I had said, ‘This is not germane here,’ and cut it off.”
After talking with Peter Gammons, I had two strong feelings. The first was, if I ever have a confession to make, I want to make it to Peter Gammons. The second was, I wish I knew how that interview might have gone down with a less sympathetic interviewer.