However, his reaction to the honor, the first time a knuckleballer has ever been awarded the highest accolade a pitcher could receive, proved consistent with the communications acuity he has displayed ever since being called up to the Mets in 2010.
In an age where high-profile sports figures seem to be breaking every reputation rule left and right – think Lance Armstrong – Dickey continues to hit home runs.
In a column he bylined for this morning's New York Daily News, Dickey wrote, “It would be shortsighted and ridiculous to suggest that this moment is all about me. The achievement couldn't have happened without so many people pouring their love and faith and kindness into me.”
He went on to thank, among many others, his wife, fellow knuckleball pitchers, and, of course, New York Mets fans. (Full disclosure: I am one.) He closed his column with: “Please know that this Cy Young Award is for every one of you.”
I follow sports closely enough to know that while many star athletes pay lip service to the fans, this particular 37-year-old sudden superstar is genuine. If you've ever heard him speak – and truthfully, if any of you work with pro athletes on any level, I strongly encourage you to have them study his interviews – he is thoughtful, intelligent, and remarkably humble. And one other word with which all PR pros are quite familiar: transparent.
In March of this year, Dickey's self-written memoir, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest For Truth, Authenticity, and the Perfect Knuckleball, was published. In it, he shared his painful story of being sexually abused as an 8-year-old and living with so much anger and shame that he contemplated suicide just a few years before the Mets signed him. Talk about being an open book.
At the Institute for Public Relations' annual Distinguished Lecture and Awards Dinner last Thursday, James Murphy, former chief marcomms officer at Accenture, received the organization's highest honor, the Alexander Hamilton Medal. In his acceptance speech, he urged the PR industry to put truth above all else.
At yesterday's PRWeek Conference, the need for authenticity in communications was among the prevailing themes of all the sessions.
And if you'll allow me some creative license, one could easily categorize a crisis as a “knuckleball” that communications pros have to face all too often.
It's no coincidence that the title of Dickey's book contains two of the most important words in any good communicator's vocabulary – “truth” and “authenticity.”
I had the great honor of having lunch with industry legend Harold Burson last week. His list of PR accomplishments is well documented, but I was taken most by the grace and charm he displayed, attributes that no doubt have helped him achieve his iconic status. Those who have come across RA Dickey often use the same adjectives to describe him. What's the connection? Both were born in Tennessee, the former in Memphis, the latter in Nashville.
The Volunteer State sure does produce some fine communicators, doesn't it?