By Alex O’Connor
Jonathan Papelbon is currently the closer for the Philadelphia Phillies. Papelbon is know for his hot-temper and more than eccentric personality. Yesterday, he was one of the featured hosts of ESPN’s College GameDay. College GameDay was held on the campus of Mississippi State University, which is Papelbon’s alma mater. However, less than a month ago on September 17th, Papelbon was pulled from a relief appearance and made a graphic gesture to Phillies fans. As a result of this gesture, he was suspended seven games which was one of the largest non-drug related suspensions of the 2014 MLB season. At the time, Papelbon was heavily scrutinized for his exchange with fans and umpire, Joe West. Though this incident happened so recently, ESPN and many college media outlets have forgotten about his large suspension and instead created positive report through his appearance on College GameDay.
The way Papelbon handled the co-anchors, fans and additional media in Starkville helped his image in a positive way. Throughout the entire day, he was immersed in school pride, whether in his dress or his constant cheering with the fans. In addition, Papelbon lit up a cigar on national television, showing that he was completely relaxed and in control of the situation. He also recited many chants with fans and was interactive with co-hosts Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Lee Corso. ESPN allowed this because it creates a large buzz, not only among college football fans, but baseball fans as well. This move only increased their ratings and created more buzz for their program.
Less than a month prior, Papelbon was one of Philadelphia’s least favorite athletes. Though he posted an impressive 2.04 ERA this season, the lack of success of the Phillies and this incident worked against him. He is in the final year of his contract and this may be the last memory that Phillies fans have of him. Philly.com pointed out that the Phillies organization fully supported the MLB’s decision and apologized on behalf of Papelbon. In addition to his large contract, local Philadelphia media were hinting that this might be the final straw for Papelbon and the Phillies.
Jonathan Papelbon’s behavior has gotten him in trouble in the past, and yesterday’s College GameDay appearance helped him immensely. However, the media’s neglect over his seven-game suspension has also worked into his favor. I guarantee that very few people in the crowd thought of his obscene gesture on the diamond, but rather they were focused on the way he was dressed and the many ways he was going to entertain the crowd.