I've had to criticize my share of athletes through the years. I'll never forget having to write about the decline of the great Don Mattingly during my days on the Yankee beat.
I wrote how he could not possibly remain the Yankees No. 3 hitter if he was going to only hit 10 home runs a season. Many times I had to flesh out his failings with ugly numbers. I never liked doing it, but knew it was part of my job. I could not lie.
But I also could not make stuff up. And that has always been my approach when having to write critical analysis. Back it up with facts. Don't make stuff up. Don't write what you can't support.
And for that reason, I never, ever, ever...(emphasis, EVER)...felt comfortable writing about what was inside an athlete. I could question Paul O'Neill, for example, when he slammed down his bat and did not run hard to first base on a pop-up that ultimately fell in for a hit...because I had the video evidence to support it. I would not, however, write that O'Neill's head wasn't into the game. Why? Well, how could I know exactly where O'Neill's head (aka his brain) was? A media credential got me into the lockerroom, but not into his brain...or his heart.