By now, you’ve surely seen the glory that is former MLB slugger Sammy Sosa’s Pinterest page, which was unveiled by Deadspin yesterday and quickly pinned on every blog and Tumblr across the Interwebs. If the year ended today and I was forced to throw together my Pulitzer-winning Biggest Sports Moments of the Year feature, there’d be little doubt that this would be No. 2 behind only this GIF of Oregon’s cheerleaders.
Of course, the year doesn’t end in January, because that would mean we’d miss my birthday and that would be a dick move, Father Time. It also means that we’d miss out on the rest of whatever whirlwind public relations tour that Sosa’s handlers are creating for him, as he of course is one of baseball’s steroid era’s biggest personalities and probably in need of a little baby kissing, what with that whole Hall of Fame eligibility thing.
But why, then, was his Pinterest page so hilariously awful? Why does every picture have the same caption on it, proclaiming this to be the real Sammy Sosa? Well, because his team isn’t all that great at social media.
“We're learning social media, we’re not pros at it yet, but we’re working on it,” she said, also confirming that Twitter user @TheRealMr609, though unverified by the site, is authentic. She added that she and Sosa manage the Twitter account. (Via)
Fair enough. It takes baby steps for people to put together just the right kind of campaign to get a guy who hit 609 home runs in his career back in the good graces of the dickishly fickle Hall of Fame voters. That’s why I was quite pleased to be invited by Sosa’s team to spend two days with them*, as they mapped out his new image rehabilitation plan and offered me insight into what it takes to restore a one-time hero’s forgotten glory.
The visit started out rather simply, with a one-on-one between Sammy and myself. He was very warm and humble when he greeted me as he looked up from his iPhone. “Oh hello,” he said as he flashed his trademark grin. “I am the real Sammy Sosa. Baseball has been very good to me.” It turns out that he would say that quite often.
“You are here today to get to know me, the real Sammy Sosa,” he said. “But I want to get to know you, the real Burnsy.” Again, his charm was undeniable, even as that mustard sweater was more distracting than it was flattering. I told him that I played baseball growing up, and that I’ve been a Cardinals fan my entire life, and like millions of baseball fans, I was greatly energized by his famous home run race with Mark McGwire.
“You are a Cardinals fan!” He rose from his desk, seemingly agitated by my admission. I was worried for a moment, but my fear quickly turned to relief, as Sosa is incapable of hiding his smile. “It’s okay, friend, we are all baseball fans together,” he assured me. “You, as a Cardinals fan, and me as the real Sammy Sosa.”
At this point, though, I couldn’t help but admit that his sweater was abhorrent. He was more than happy to rectify this annoyance.
He returned in a flash. It was almost alarming how quickly he changed from that ill-fitting mustard rag to this navy suit, but he is a man possessed by a new desire to please everyone. “I like this suit, because it makes me look important,” he shyly admitted. I said, “Sammy, you’re 8th all-time in home runs. Of course you’re important.” He looked up and his grin was ear-to-ear. “Here,” he said, as he removed his hand from his pocket. “I made this for you.” He handed me a small origami teddy bear.
“It is a Cub, like me.”
I suggested that he show me around his new office. It was clear that he had put a lot of thought and effort into his new digs, and I figured that there was no point in not getting the grand tour. “Yes, I will show you Sammy Sosa’s office, because I am the real Sammy Sosa and this is my office,” he once again assured me. I wasn't bothered by the reminders, but his insistence that I carry his driver’s license was a bit much.
Always the consummate professional, Sosa wanted me to see “where the magic happens”, as he said while laughing considerably harder than one should. “Here, I check my emails and send emails and I pin my pictures to my Pinterest account,” he explained as if he had just invented the Internet. I asked, “Why Pinterest?” and he paused, somewhat confused by my query. But he shook it off and replied, “This is my Pinterest account, the real Sammy Sosa. Now come, I will show you my pictures!”
Sammy almost pulled my arm from its socket as we ran from one side of the office to the other. He giggled the whole time, like a toddler who just received a new toy and couldn’t wait to show it to his friends. Sosa pointed excitedly to one picture in particular, a framed photo of him with President Barack Obama. “I met the president,” he shouted. “He is from Chicago, where I played for both the White Sox and the Cubs, as the real Sammy Sosa.” I playfully told him that I was jealous, and he removed the photo from the wall, handed it to me and whispered, “He is our president.”
The next day I arrived at Sosa’s office to meet his entire PR team, only to find that they were already hard at work. As I entered his lavish, expansive office, I could hear his people shouting their ideas to Sosa, as he was situated behind his dark oak desk. “We should invest in the new MySpace,” one person yelled. “We need a Tumblr with pictures of Sammy and kittens,” another argued. “No, we stay the course with Pinterest,” the loudest voice demanded. “That is where we will find our greatest sympathy.” I joined the circle and greeted this team. Sosa leapt from his chair and shouted, “My friend! You will meet my other friends now!”
“This is my friend with the purple shirt,” Sosa told me. “He is in charge of picking out my colors. I told him that you did not like the mustard and we have no more mustard.” I told the man in the purple shirt – I later learned that he goes by “C-Note” – that I truly had no objections to the mustard sweater, but he seemed indifferent. “Hey bro, at the end of the day, the color of the ink on my check is still blue,” he said as he examined himself in a mirror.
“I want you to meet my other friend and his camera,” Sammy said, quickly turning his attention. “He takes the pictures that I post to my Pinterest page, and people pin them to their pages and they love me again.” It dawned on me that Sosa hadn’t been completely briefed by his team on the purpose of such sites like Pinterest, but I figured it would be best if I didn’t interrupt. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. C-Note and his partner – a man who introduced himself as “Dr. Dyna$ty” and pointed out that he spelled it with a dollar sign – wanted to keep the focus entirely on Sosa.
“And check it out, Sammy,” C-Note yelled as he fiddled with Sosa’s iPhone, “this is the Twitter account of that girl I told you we met at Atlantis last year, the one with the huge bombs.” Sosa’s laugh was infectious, and his two advisors were blatantly intent on making sure that not only would that laughter well never run dry, but also that anyone outside the circle knew that it was Sosa laughing because of them. While this concerned me for Sosa’s sake, he seemed to be fine with it. He showed me the phone, “I laugh because he means her breasts.”
I will give this PR team credit, though. They knew when it was time to laugh and they knew when it was time to get down to business. I promised them that I wouldn’t divulge too many details, but I was genuinely surprised that the core subject wasn’t getting Sosa into the Hall of Fame. At least not yet. First, they said, they wanted to get him more TV appearances, and maybe even score him some cameos in a few movies.
“You see, Sammy’s main draw is his charm,” Dyna$ty told me. “We want to capitalize on that by making it seem like Sammy isn’t just about the Hall. We want people to know that he’s ready to sock dingers beyond baseball. We’ll start with a stand-up tour and then hopefully Anger Management. Charlie Sheen is crazy about this guy!”
It was obvious that the biggest problem for their grand plans wasn’t a lack of ambition, but Sosa’s comprehension of what they were expecting from him. This was a clear cut puppet regime, but as long as they had the puppet’s best interest, I couldn’t necessarily complain. Sometimes, though, I felt bad for Sosa as I watched him struggle through an idea. But C-Note had his own special way of keeping Sosa in the conversation, as he’d remove his shoe and show everyone his colorful socks. Sosa loved those socks.
In the weeks following this meeting, Sosa would send me several pairs of these socks in various colors with notes that read: "Now we are sock brothers".
The day wore on and I could tell that all of these new ideas were taking their toll on Sosa. By 3 PM – what his handlers referred to as “a little booze n snooze” – Sosa told us that he was getting tired and needed a nap. By this point, I felt that I had all I needed for this story, as it was really just a simple tale of a one-time hero who was looking for forgiveness and a new place in our hearts. I thanked everyone for this opportunity and promised Sosa that I would keep in touch, as he had already hung a photo of us on his wall in the same place where he once kept a picture of Obama.
“Come friend, I will walk you to the door and I will say goodbye,” he whispered. I swore that I could see him fighting back tears.
When we reached the door, I turned to shake his hand and, much to my surprise, he was once again wearing that navy suit. “I want you to remember me how you met me,” he said as tapped his two fingers against his heart. He handed me a gift bag and opened the door for me as I left his office. In the car ride to the airport, I opened the bag to see what else this humble man could have felt necessary to give me. It was his mustard sweater, except he had autographed it.
“To my friend Burnsy, may this sweater always light your way home. Your friend, the real Sammy Sosa.”
Sammy Sosa can stick to Pinterest, because he’ll never need a Facebook page to tell him that we are friends.