Back in the summer of 1992, I worked as a summer intern at the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette. I was, admittedly, a fool: 20-years-old, way too cocky, naive in the ways of all things media. One afternoon, simply because we were morons, another intern and I called the Chicago Cubs and requested credentials for a game at Wrigley. We went, had a killer timeâ€”then returned to find a livid sports editor wondering what in the hell were we thinking. Answer: We weren’t.
I long considered my act the dumbest thing a summer intern could possibly do … until now.
The other day I was scanning the web when I stumbled upon the blog of Jose de Jesus Ortiz, the Houston Chronicle’s excellent baseball scribe. Beneath the headline, MCNAIR’S DEATH NOT A LESSON TO ONE IDIOT, Jesus wrote of a female intern at a certain media outpost who was asked by a ballplayer whether she’d like to join him at a club later in the evening.
Wrote Jesus: “That was the first stupid decision made by the player, who just happens to be a married father. The young lady then accepted his phone number, which was a major no-no in the context of how it was offered. As if that weren’t silly enough, the young lady, who has nearly 700 “friends” on Facebook, decided to post this message on her Facebook account for over four hours: “Was asked out by (team name and player name) last night and I have his cell phone number to prove it.”
Jesus was classy enough not to “out” the intern or the ballplayerâ€”and I’ll follow his lead. But, as with many things in life, there is a disconcerting aftermath. According to a baseball source, the ballplayer was a member of the Washington Nationals. Furthermore, because of the incident, the Nationals are now considering a permanent, all-encompassing ban of interns from the team’s clubhouse.
While summer interns are usually young and somewhat clueless, this would be a terrible shame. The hands-on experience of covering professional sports is invaluable. Why, one of the great moments of my young career was doing a profile of Mariners pitcher Dave Fleming for my hometown paper, The Patent Trader. Walking into a big league clubhouse, interviewing the manager, seeing how things workedâ€”priceless.
As for the intern, one can only hope a valuable lesson was learned.
** Note: Several years ago the Nationals tried to ban me from their clubhouse when I was writing a semi-controversial story. When it comes to PR, they are, well, the Nationals.