As outsiders, we don’t really know the true character of public figures, including those in the arena of sports. But we think we do. As fans, we come to the conclusion that so-and-so is a “great guy” based on narrow glimpses we’re allowed into their personalities. A rah-rah here, a cliché-ridden interview there, a charity event, and presto we know all about them. That formulation has been disproven so many times it’s a wonder we’re still fooled by it.

Bryan Price has given every indication of being a thoughtful, decent and even steady man. Last season, Price suffered so many calamities in his work the travails of Job seem like a walk in the ballpark. By outward indications, Price handled it with diligence and grace.

That’s what makes his profane outburst last night hard to comprehend (though not in the same way I can’t grasp a supervoid in the universe that’s 1.8 billion light years in diameter).

In one sense, I get it. Who among us hasn’t fallen victim to temporary outrage?

On the other hand, Price went on for nearly six minutes. And right down to the last obscenity-filled drop, he showed no self-awareness, remorse or recognition that he’d crossed a line. It’s one thing to snap at someone for a moment. It’s another to maintain terrible judgment over an extended period of time. When you listen to the entire audio recording, it becomes striking how long Price stayed out of control. The people who are downplaying this episode are missing that point.

Price apologized this morning through the Reds twitter account: “In my pre-game conversation with reporters yesterday, I used wholly inappropriate language to describe the media coverage of our team. While I stand by the content of my message, I am sorry for the choice of words.”

That’s the bare minimum. It’s a fig leaf to cover the ocean of blue language. And plenty of fans will rightly be offended by the serial profanity so the contrition was welcome.

Another problem with extreme language is that it diverts focus. Instead of counting the letter f, we should be looking at the substance of what Price said, the part not obscured by asterisks.

For Price to say this morning that he stands by the message is shocking.

Reporting the truth about the Reds roster isn’t the problem. The Reds roster is the problem. Reporting that Skip Schumaker batted leadoff is nowhere near as damning as the fact that the Reds roster is in a state where Schumaker appeared to anyone to be the best candidate to do it.

Reporting the truth isn’t what makes Bryan Price’s job difficult. The role assigned to Aroldis Chapman that prevents him from helping the Reds get out of a losing streak does. Being given Jason Marquis for the starting rotation does. Using Kevin Gregg in the eighth inning on Opening Day does. Marlon Byrd does.

Reporting the truth about Devin Mesoraco’s availability isn’t the problem. The stupefying way the Reds have handled his injury is. Price has been managing shorthanded, and I’m sure that’s frustrating. Doing without his All-Star catcher and cleanup hitter must freshen memories of last year’s torment. If anything, the reporting of Mesoraco’s absence helped explain Price’s decision not to have the best right-handed bat pinch-hit in a key situation against St. Louis. And for the record, I’m nowhere near convinced the Reds have offered full candor about the extent of and possible downside of the catcher’s injury.

Bryan Price’s message was wrong about the role of the independent press. He said reporters shouldn’t be sniffing around to find out things about the Reds when that’s precisely their job. A reporter’s obligation is to the reader. The job is to collect information. That said, reporters don’t publish every single detail they unearth. I know for a fact this group of beat writers exercises discretion about what is newsworthy and what isn’t, as they should.

Bryan Price’s message to his clubhouse wasn’t right. He wasn’t defending his team. In fact, you have to wonder what the players think when they see their manager lose his composure for such an extended period of time. It’s one thing for a manager to run out on the field and put on a faux-argument with an umpire for a minute, or to chew out a deserving player in the privacy of the locker room. It’s altogether something else to do what Price did — for six, long minutes — on the record.

Price didn’t apologize to the Reds for the spectacle, making the organization a national punch line for a news cycle or two.

But bad language and bad press aren’t the issues that should most concern the Reds. Bob Castellini has to decide whether last night’s outburst was one-off or a true reveal of a person who is overwhelmed by the situation he’s in. If they judge it to be the former, you offer Bryan Price a rebuke and opportunity for redemption.

If they conclude it’s the latter – and let me stress, as outsiders we have no way of knowing – that’s a different ballgame.