NORMAN — What do we, the public, have the right to know about celebrities?
Last week, Prince Fielder, the Detroit Tigers baseball superstar, was defended by a teammate, Torii Hunter, during a radio interview. Hunter suggested that Fielder, who has struggled at the plate, was dealing bravely with off-field issues and continuing to work hard every day.
It was only a few words, Hunter trying to defend his pal, but the effect was to pop a cork on a bottle. Suddenly, people breathlessly wondered what could be plaguing the highly paid slugger? And while Fielder himself said everything was fine, the news media began scurrying.
Soon after, a blog report surfaced that Fielder had filed for divorce back in May. Fielder did not reveal this, but someone did a search through court records near his off-season home in Florida. There, because the law demands it, paperwork had to be filed. And there, because the law demands it, that paperwork is accessible to anyone who knows how to properly search for it.
The result? Bang! Instant headlines across the country, including in the Detroit Free Press. Fielder’s divorce, quiet for months, was suddenly worldwide news. And just as suddenly, fans started speculating on things like: how bitter, how much, who was at fault, etc.?
It’s human nature, right?
Well, perhaps we should think more about human nature in this right-to-know era of news reporting. No one apologized to Fielder. No one hesitated to report his divorce. Once it was out there, it seemed fair game.
But why? What does his married life have to do with baseball? Could the divorce be affecting his play? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe it’s a sore shoulder. Maybe it’s a swing adjustment. Maybe he’s fighting with a sibling. Maybe a business deal went bad. Maybe he needs his eyes checked. Maybe it’s just — how about this for a radical concept? — a slump or an off year.