SPORTS

Bautista, Nash, Seguin among athletes using Players' Tribune to open up

04/07/2015 09:00 EDT | Updated 06/07/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Patrick Patterson read his own press long before he decided to write his own press.

Generally speaking, the versatile Toronto Raptors forward would seek out mostly the positive portrayals.

But seemingly, he remembers mostly the negative ones.

"There was one saying that I'm not going to last in the league too long because my rebounding numbers aren't all there and I don't, statistically, do too much for my team," Patterson said recently after practice.

"That's how they were grading it — they don't grade it as far as my plus-minus or my impact on the court with my teammates and the ball movement, etc., etc.," he added, agitated anew.

"Then there was another article on the (Raptors) saying that we're not contenders, we're pretenders. ... That irritated me a little bit."

Increasingly, athletes have a complicated relationship with the media — and perhaps it's why athletes are increasingly becoming the media.

The 26-year-old Patterson is a among a growing throng of contributors to Derek Jeter's online venture the Players' Tribune, a platform for pros' prose that is gradually becoming, like a dimly lit restaurant, a place for tough conversations.

Steve Nash announced his retirement there. Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista probed how steep language barriers can bury fellow Latin players. Montreal Canadiens enforcer Brandon Prust explained (and supported) the pugilistic psychology that has become a hotly debated sore spot for many fans.

While a representative for the venture didn't respond to a request for an interview, the Tribune's editorial director told the New York Times that Jeter was heavily involved on a daily basis, reading "everything."

The methodology for each article varies — some players dictated their stories to a reporter, others swapped text with editors — but in all cases, players get the final edit.

And finally unfettered by a filter, typically tight-lipped athletes feel they can open up.

"That's the difference — it's all your own words," Prust said in the Habs locker-room. "You can say whatever you want. No one's really writing their own story and using a couple of quotes. Everything is right from your mouth. There's nothing added.

"It makes it unique that way."

Patterson wrote about the gut-punch disappointment that accompanied his trades from Houston to Sacramento and then, last season, from Sacramento to "the North Pole (Toronto)."

Imbued with humour and clear memory (he was at a screening of "Hunger Games: Catching Fire" with his mom when the fateful text arrived), Patterson's article did little to conceal his initial horror at playing for the Raptors.

"Pretty much no-holds-barred," said Patterson, who re-signed with Toronto in the off-season after helping to key a playoff run. "Whatever I was feeling, I said."

If the Tribune is to professional athletes a new-media venue for venting, many are thus far using it to vent about the media.

Dallas Stars sniper Tyler Seguin wrote about the Boston media's apparently sensational insinuation that he had been an "immature, unfocused party animal." Once-Philadelphia 76ers guard Michael Carter-Williams lamented the media spin on his team's supposed tanking effort. Jeter himself explained the value of not answering reporters' questions and thus avoiding "unnecessary distractions."

And in a scathing piece, Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz raged against a Boston Globe reporter "with the red jheri curl" who had told the hulking Dominican he "fit the profile of a steroid user."

"I wanted to kill this guy," Ortiz wrote. "But you can't react. That's what they want."

With Russell Westbrook and Marshawn Lynch as high-profile examples, many players are beginning to treat the media as parasitic clubhouse interlopers, unavoidable and insatiable.

Even players with a relatively friendly relationship with reporters feel a certain vulnerability.

"It's a tough situation that we put ourselves in," said Patterson, who was nevertheless warm and candid with an unfamiliar reporter.

"Some reporters are actually good and honest, and some reporters will twist words and use things how they see fit.

"It's hit and miss," he added. "There are some good people who we typically like talking to and can open up with and share our personal stories with, and they respect it and write a remarkable article. And then there's other people who will twist it around and make it a negative and ugly."

Another twist, perhaps, is that the Players' Tribune is offering athletes something beyond further control of their narratives.

It's also providing a bit of experience in the field that will beckon so many of them in retirement: the media.

"I got my degree in communications," said Patterson, who graduated from the University of Kentucky. "I've always enjoyed sports, I love movies, I love talking to people, I have no problem with that.

"So whether it's something in the film industry or something in the media ... I'm definitely happy."

— With files from Canadian Press reporters Bill Beacon in Montreal and Stephen Whyno in Toronto.

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