Working your way out of the abyss: is there a career save for Brooke Hundley?
A couple of months ago, Brooke Hundley was a young Ithaca College grad whose job - production assistant at ESPN - may have been all scut work, but which nonetheless had a fair amount of glamour attached to it. And looked like it could be one of those springboard opportunities that could make a career in "the media" for someone.
It's doubtful that Ms. Hundley is going to be one of those someones - at least not for a while.
For those who manage to avert their eyes from sordid headlines involving people they've never heard of, Brooke Hundley (age 22) was involved in a brief, albeit intense, affair with ESPN baseball analyst Steve Phillips (age 46; married with children - 4 of them).
For whatever reasons - naivete likely a major factor among them - Hundley somehow convinced herself that she was the love of Phillips' life, and that he would be divorcing his wife to be with her.
Those seeking the sordid details are but a google away from them. In capsule: Hundley wrote a pathetic and unhinged letter to Phillips' wife describing her "relationship" with the woman's husband; contacted Phillips' teenage son via Facebook; showed up at the Phillips' home to confront the wife (who called 911); took out a restraining order against Phillips; and lost her job at ESPN. Phillips lost his job, too. And he's apparently losing his marriage, as well. (Predictably, he's also signed himself in for treatment for sex addiction.)
Naturally the entire tawdry mess - including a copy of the letter to the wife, and the 911 recording of the wife's call for help - are all out there for the world to enjoy. And comment on.
Sure, Phillips is coming in for his own ration of criticism, but much of what I've seen is leveled at (or written about) Brooke Hundley. There's the expected criticism of the affair, and her entirely self- and other-destructive post-affair actions. And then there's all the bunny boiling analogies to the Glenn Close character in Fatal Attraction (which, oddly enough, came out in 1987, the year Hundley was born, unless she's a Nov-Dec baby). Not to mention the attacks on Hundley's looks. She's an average looking young woman, which, at least among male commenters, seems to make her unworthy of male attention and brings into question just what Phillips saw in her. (Unforgivable: she's not a hottie!) Of course, what he no doubt saw in her was his own narcissistic self-reflection, and a way to nab a little on the side for the low, low, price of a few empty promises and text messages about not loving his wife (a plain old housewife, as opposed to a scintillating careerist, as Hundley depicted herself).
Although Phillips has lost his job at ESPN, there's no doubt in my mind that, if he lays low for a bit, someone will hire him for something: local TV sports reporter, sports-talk radio, baseball management. (He's a former Mets' GM). They may wink and trash-talk him, but the boys network will forgive and forget. The one thing that will be held against him is that Brooke Hundley wasn't a glam girl, which he'll no doubt counter by talking about how good she was in bed (or in the back seat of a car).
For Brooke Hundley, I don't think the career world will be so forgiving. The read on her will be some toxic combination of naive, crazy, vicious, stupid, rash, foolish. She, of course, brought this upon herself by making a big mistake, and upping the stakes by an order of magnitude in making that mistake so public in the current era. (One snippet that I saw from her since removed LinkedIn page mentioned her knowledge of social media. Well, what she didn't know about social media yesterday, she sure does today.)
Quite rationally, someone would have to think twice before hiring her. But, once she returns to the rational state from whence, presumably, she came, Brooke Hundley may actually be an intelligent, decent, hard-working young woman who was swept away in an emotional tsunami (first love? sure sounds like it, poor thing) that she's still, topsy-turvy, roiling around in.
And she's only 22, so her folly really shouldn't result in a life sentence.
So, assuming that she's fundamentally an okay person who will be needing a job, here's my career advice to Brooke Hundley:
- Do not sell your "story" to some tabloid-fan-zine publication. You're B-list flavor of the day, but the more you expose your side (and yourself), the more crap will surface on you when your name is googled by prospective hirers. Don't sell, even if someone offers you what right now will seem like an awful lot of money for an unemployed 22 year old.
- Even if it's a quasi crock, come up with a statement that covers two themes, a) 'I'm really not a bad person, I was just in an exceedingly vulnerable, emotional state and I acted out of character'; b) 'I apologize to Ms. Phillips and her family for any pain and embarrassment I may have caused them.' This should be the only thing you state publicly. Also, rehearse a version - out loud, with someone who cares for you - in a mock interview, in case it comes up. (Even indirectly: this will be the elephant on the table for a while, I'm afraid.)
- Start using your middle name professionally - even if it's Bertha or Ethel.
- Find the most sympathetic (and competent) people in your professional network and ask them for their advice on how to repair the damage you've done to your career.
- If someone offers you a job even vaguely in your field, take it - even if it means moving back in with your parents.
- Let the people who care for you take care of you. (And, no, Steve Phillips is not one of them.)
I'm not going to tell you that someday you're going to look back on this and laugh. But, with luck, someday you will look back on this and merely wince and cringe.
You can and will survive this.