In a world where we are constantly besieged by information, how can you keep a secret, especially a serious one from a select person or group when literally the whole world knows? That situation has come up not once, but twice, in recent weeks involving elite athletes and some tragic news going on around them, and in both cases officials made the conscious decision to withhold information and literally let the games go on.
The first incident occurred during game one of the World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets. The father of Royals pitcher Edinson Volquez died hours before the game started, and Volquez pitched for six innings without any knowledge of his father passing in The Dominican Republic. While team members, and the social media world were abuzz with the news, FOX opted to shield a good deal of the news from the broadcast, worried that the pitcher or someone around the dugout may hear of the news and pass it on to the pitcher. Reporter Ken Rosenthal could have broached the subject in game but he chose not to, and manager Ned Yost decided that since nothing could be done other than cause a distraction, Volquez’s work went on despite literally the world knowing of his loss. When he was told, the pitcher was understandably upset but appreciated and understood the choice of management, and he then went on about his personal business.
Then this past Friday night in Paris we had the tragedies that unfolded in and around the city, even just outside the National Stadium, as Germany was playing France in a soccer friendly inside. Despite the sound of explosions heard during the match, officials, knowing at the time that the issues were outside of the stadium, chose not to tell the teams of the goings-on around Paris. All of that was happening while social media and texts were informing those in the stands, and the media was following the developments online in the press area while the match continued for a while. Again the decision was made by officials that there was no immediate impact that the players or coaches could have with regard to what was going on, and with safety not being an issue, a sense of normalcy continued. As the minutes unfolded things did change, but keeping information to a minimum to not create a panic was key, and that involved keeping athletes in the dark once again while the world around them knew of tragic news.
The two incidents, one very personal to one athlete, the other potentially involving many athletes, showed the power of taking well thought out, and proactive steps to keep the calm and avoid unnecessary distractions in a crisis situation. By thinking about all the ways the general public can engage and get information, some of which could be accurate, some could be inaccurate, and how that information could or could not be communicated to very visible personalities, officials were able to help control the news flow and keep a sense of order and decorum. In one case it was shielding an elite athlete from personal news so that he could complete his job at hand, in the other it was shielding a group of athletes from a developing and very fluid and tragic situation which they, at that point, had no ability to have an influence over.
Both cases showed one thing very clearly though, even with all the technology and information that abounds, taking the time to assess a situation and best control flow can still be attained, even while the whole world is watching.