ESPN’s Tom Rinaldiis not on social media but is keenly aware of his reputation as a heartstring-puller and violin music-inducer. Beyond that, though, he doesn’t really know know how the public views him — nor is he particularly interested.
Rinaldi was the guest on this week’s Sports Illustrated Media Podcast and was asked by host Richard Deitsch about a previous interview in the Louisville Courier-Journal suggesting the longform aficionado has never Googled himself.
“Never is wrong,” Rinaldi clarified. “There was a time where I did and then I stopped and I stopped the night before we did the first interview with [Tiger] Woods after the implosion in his personal life. That’s a tough spot. It’s a great spot and a tough spot.”
“The night before, I did throw up on my shoes,” he revealed. “I just told myself ‘I’m never going to look anything up again. I don’t need to get the verdict from a faceless jury. With my wife as my witness, I think she would tell you I haven’t really ever done it since.”
The five-minute sitdown, filmed in March 2010, featured Rinaldi getting as many questions as he could in and a relatively candid collection of answers. The journalist told Deitsch the best way to emerge from such a difficult assignment is as a good umpire or official, to be a part of the scenery and have all the focus on Woods, the subject.
“To this day I still don’t know how that interview has been graded out by others,” Rinaldi said. “I know that I did the best I could, I know the company liked it. I know that I continued to have a working relationship with Tiger.”
There are two major reactions that come to mind here. The first is immense jealousy that Rinaldi’s gig is not reliant on social media or dependent on the 24-7 feedback loop. Surely, thousands of journalists would love to unplug from Twitter and the comments sections with no return date in sight.
The second, though, is to push back on the idea that viewers and readers are truly a “faceless jury.” Like it or not, they are the jury and by totally ignoring online feedback, Rinaldi is ignoring those who will put their name to their critiques as well. Of course, unless he breaks his longstanding rule, he’ll never consider this because it will never reach him.