My wife suggested I share some of your complaints of my recent columns. My wife has a great sense of humor.
Actually, she saw this is a great opportunity.
She was right. Of course.
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A few weeks ago, I imagined how a traditional coaching session might go if Reds President/COO Phil Castellini wanted to reconnect with fans. The Twitterverse was not universally amused when the Enquirer tweeted a link to it.
“How much are the Castellini family paying you?”
“Disgusting. Journalism doesn’t exist anymore.”– @MarktalksReds
“This may be the worst thing I've ever read at the
@ENQSports. Embarrassing it passed the editorial process and got out into the wild. I'm embarrassed for you.”
“This is weird.”
This was different, no question.
I took you deeper into my world, the coaching world.
A coach validates HOW YOU FEEL about a situation, given HOW YOU SEE it. A coach supports you without judging you or your viewpoint. A coach asks empowering and thought-provoking questions to help you get past what has you stuck or struggling. A coach does not tell you what to do or how to do it; a coach follows your agenda and helps you set step-by-step goals, achieved your way.
If Castellini wants to reconnect with you, this hypothetical session showed how he could use his experiences to design a meaningful plan for him and you. If he does not, so be it. Coaching only works if you commit to it.
I have used some of these techniques here and on social media. This took it to another level. If it confused or incited you, or felt weird, it is understandable.
I had a fascinating Twitter exchange with @TimTScott. He at first deemed the column “the most ridiculous thing I have ever read” and “very insulting” to Reds fans, adding I would “fit right in” working for the Castellinis. Out of curiosity, I asked what about it felt insulting to fans.
He felt fans were depicted like “a bunch of malcontents” while I seemed “more than eager” to validate Phil’s “petty gripes,” when the issues are “deeper” than “messaging.” If it came across to him that I was validating Phil’s views, not his feelings, no wonder he took exception. I told him so.
Tim sees a team that not only loses, but now offended him. It pains him. He sees a younger audience turning from baseball, never experiencing the Big Red Machine or Wire-to-Wire Reds and the World Series feeling he knows. Tim clearly cares about his Reds. I told him that, too.
He suggested some “positive steps” the team could take to rebuild trust and show ownership cares about winning as much as fans do. The more we interacted, the more I appreciated his conviction. Tim was kind, thoughtful and apologetic and told me he realized I was sincere in trying to help. He offered to help me, too. I was touched.
I love these conversations. I learn a lot. I try not to reflexively judge people who blast me. I appreciate that Tim was open to my curiosity. Imagine if the Castellinis showed more curiosity and engaged with you – which was supposed to be a takeaway from my column.
Instead, it produced a different response. Which is kind of cool. I can learn from that, too. I will challenge myself, if I try this again, to be clearer about how the process will work. And I invite you to go back and reread the column and see if you feel differently about it now.
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Two weeks later, I wrote a bookend to that column, with a different strategy. I wrote an open letter on behalf of Reds fans to Reds owner Bob Castellini and son Phil.
“Mike are you the peoples' poet? How does one gain a level of self-importance that fosters speaking for unnamed thousands? People like you are stirrer-uppers and agitators who go around sticking their noses into business that does not concern them. Baseball does not need your kind of oversimplified and childish opinions.”
– David, Kettering
Who wants a self-important, meddling agitator with childish, oversimplistic, unnecessary opinions? If this is your perception, no wonder you want me to butt out.
What if there were another way to look at the column?
Part of coaching is asking you to view the world from a different perspective. What if there is meaning in acknowledging, validating and summarizing for publication what some of you as Reds fans are experiencing?
Part of coaching also is working with you to frame your message, so you can genuinely convey what you want and how you feel and connect with your audience. You cannot control the Castellinis’ response. I cannot control David’s reaction.
The People’s Poet? That was funny. The Voice of the Fan? Maybe this time. The Mouthpiece of the Castellinis? If you believe it. Which is the real me?
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One email writer was not too pleased with my column about co-authoring Bob Huggins’ biography when he was University of Cincinnati basketball coach.
“You have no idea what loyalty means(.) You are an ass.”
Clearly, auto-correct struck again. It should be BASS. Happens to me all the time.
Seriously, a powerful tool I use in coaching is to ask you for your definition of key words. Your definition can go beyond the dictionary. Mine, too. Remember the debate about the definition of “fan”?
Your definition of “loyalty” might be different than mine. You might draw the line differently. This also came up when I wrote about the crisis of conscience facing Browns fans after the Deshaun Watson trade. You get to make that decision. You know what matters to you.
When I see that three-letter word M.W. called me, I can choose to get angry. Or I can choose to check the dictionary and see that a synonym is “burro.” Which makes me think “Burrow.” Which makes me think “Joe Burrow.” Which makes me smile.
Or think about auto-correct. Which also makes me smile.
My wife was right.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Mike Bass readers reactions to columns on Bengals, Reds, Bob Huggins