15 Minutes Past the Hour

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You know the nation's media has gone crazy when your name appears in the television news crawl -- either that or you're about to be arrested and no one's told you yet. Last week, I found my name all over sports media, because -- through blind luck -- I was the first to find Jose Canseco's new book about steroids.
After buying and reading the book, I quickly posted a column on my web site with what I felt were the most newsworthy excerpts -- and, because it's what I do, the most ridiculous ones. (Hello, Mike Wallace!) Deadspin.com picked up the story last Tuesday morning, and, thanks to their reach, Canseco's allegations were soon all over the Internet. Suddenly, dozens of reporters wanted to talk with me.

A strange thing happened as I began to get e-mails from across the country. I had no idea who to respond to, and so for several hours I didn't respond to anyone at all. I was reluctant to do interviews, simply because I didn't have much more to say about Canseco. I don't know if he's telling the truth. I only read his book.

First, the e-mails came in, followed by the voice mails on my home phone. The media couldn't reach me, because I was at work, having one of the least productive days of my career. Sure, I would occasionally try to bury myself in a nice spreadsheet, but it's tough to get anything done when you know the New York tabloids are after you.

Eventually, a reporter from The New York Times found my parents' phone number and got my cell number from my father. (Luckily, he only gives out my personal information to the most respected news organizations.) The reporter and I talked for about ten minutes. At one point, he mentioned that he had just asked Alex Rodriguez about my story, and that Rodriguez had no comment. As a complete professional, I managed to suppress my urge to exclaim, "Did you seriously just ask Alex Rodriguez about my story?"

Understandably, because I write a humor column, many were skeptical and thought the story might be a hoax. In order to clear this up, some reporters would e-mail to ask if it was a hoax. I would respond by saying that it was not. Then, they would include a line in their articles like, "Lavin confirmed by e-mail that the story is not a hoax." Apparently, if you do want to create an Internet hoax, all you have to do is tell reporters that it's not a hoax, and that will clear everything up. Good to know.  

By mid-afternoon, I was a little worried since so many didn't believe me. When The New York Times called back, asking to examine my copy, I gladly let them do so. By then, I was ready to be out of the news story, but the news story wasn't through with me. Even after the Times had reported on my copy of the book and the New York Daily News had found their own, I was still getting credit. This was great, but also incredibly surreal.

All night long, the ESPN news crawl actually said "JoeLavin.com reports...." This was a little odd since in the previous week JoeLavin.com had been reporting on the various hooker synonyms used by news anchors covering the Eliot Spitzer scandal. I was amazed to see my name still there, but I soon realized that most news organizations would rather give credit to a random freelancer than to their competitors.

This wasn't my intention, but my reticence seems to have kept me in the news even longer, since the only place people could get the information was through my little web site. Starved for material, some news organizations even began quoting my jokes. I take special pride in the fact that the AP wire story contained this:

Lavin wrote the Ordonez reference was "that old yarn of one player injecting another with steroids, possibly in the buttocks."

That night, about a minute after I arrived home, the doorbell rang. It was a reporter from Fox 25 Boston, who had apparently been staking out my apartment for an interview. She said that I was "the talk of Boston," which only shows how incredibly slow a news day it must have been in Boston. Out of politeness, I invited her in until I realized that I didn't really want to reward that behavior with an interview.

"Could we at least get a photo of you with the book?" she asked.

Having visions of what could possibly be the dumbest-looking photo of me ever, I declined. The day was finally over. I was ready to have a quiet dinner at home while watching my name run across the bottom of my television.  

I'm just relieved it wasn't Mike Wallace ambushing me -- or Jose Canseco. If any steroid users are looking for me, I'm not home.
  • http://JoeLavin.com

    A periodic humor column, disguised as a blog. New columns published on Tuesdays or not as the case may be.

    joe@joelavin.com

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  • I've written for Slate, The Boston Globe Magazine, Salon, McSweeney's, WBUR Radio, The Christian Science Monitor, The Globe and Mail, and many other publications. Thanks for dropping by. I hope you enjoy my Internet column.

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