Pressed for entertainment

I’ve got a question for you. Who cares about post-game press conferences? Seriously, who amongst you common fans truly cares about canned, corny questions being answered with canned, corny answers?

Except for the truly devout sports fan, the only people who really care about the post-game press conference are the press, mainly because it is part of the job. But, for me at least, sometimes they can get obtrusive.

Here’s what I mean. Every once in awhile on ESPN, you’ll watch an exciting football or basketball game, full of astounding feats of athleticism and teamwork. After the game you’ll be treated to in-depth analysis with knowledgeable, experienced analysts explaining the intricacies of the important plays that won the game. You’re about to find out how the quarterback knew to throw the game-winning touchdown behind his back while doing a front-flip when the anchor interrupts, saying, “We’re going to live to the post-game press conference as Coach Hayden Fox takes the podium.”

“Coach what are your thoughts on the game?”

“The game was good.”

Sometimes you will see an interesting press conference, but this usually only occurs when the interviewee melts down and shouts at the press. Jim Mora’s “playoffs” rant, Dennis Green’s “they are who we thought they were” rant, and Herm Edwards’ “you play to win the game” rant come to mind. However, by and large, you will rarely hear a reporter ask a provocative question, lest they lose their right to ask questions, and you will rarely hear a coach or player provide a provocative answer, lest they create a distraction for which the entire team must answer.

In fact, the most popular press conference events that have occurred over the past year have been events that have subverted their genre. The first is when Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who in a follow up to his previous year’s Super Bowl silence went to his press conference and answered every question with “I’m just here so I don’t get fined.”

The press was outraged, as they were the year before, that Lynch refused to answer the tough questions, such as “Who’s the best player on your team” or “What’s your prediction for the game.” You know, the tough questions. But the irony that the sports writers failed to understand was that Lynch’s refusal to talk, and the way he went about not talking, made for a far more compelling narrative than if he had simply answered the cookie cutter questions with cookie cutter answers. His press conference, or lack thereof if you chose to think of it as such, got more attention and generated more conversation than any of the others at the Super Bowl.

The second event that subverted the genre, and proved how little people care about the questions and answers, occurred when NBA MVP Golden State Warrior Stephen Curry brought his two year old daughter to the post-game conference. As he gave the usual answers to the usual questions, his infant daughter went about being adorable, and instantly became a YouTube phenomenon. Of course some members of the media, notably on ESPN2’s First Take, were displeased with the distraction. But again, similar to Lynch, this subversion of the format became far more compelling and interesting than anything a regular press conference could produce.

Personally, if I were an athlete, I might think to use this to my advantage.

A reporter, “Will, you had a rough day from the field, going 2 for 56 and getting three technical fouls, which is odd considering you can only get two. How do you respond?”

Will instantly holds up a puppy, distracting everyone on the previous game. The puppy becomes a Twitter sensation.

The next day, the same reporter, “Will, you were even worse today, going scoreless, flipping off the fans and punching a crippled widow hot dog vendor. How do you respond?”

Will instantly holds up a kitten, distracting everyone from the game and lawless behavior. The kitten eventually gets its own reality TV show, “Purring in Portland”.

The next day, the same reporter, “Will, after fouling out in the first three seconds of the game, you went to half court, performed a pagan ritual, and managed to summon Satan and his army of demon angels who are currently destroying the world. How do you respond?”

Will instantly holds up a cute baby, who immediately becomes YouTube’s biggest celebrity, and is elected to the state senate.

Other times reporters will try to ask a three-second question with a 20 second statement. After Game 4 of this years NBA Finals, Cleveland Cavalier Timothy Mozgov was asked such a question. The center responded by asking “that is a long question, can you repeat please?”

How long is it until we get something like this: “Timothy obviously a tough loss, given that . . . (five minutes later) you scored 30 points three months ago . . . (seven minutes later) . . . Neon is a noble gas . . . (10 minutes later) . . . King John of England signed the Magna Carta in 1215, what were your thoughts about the game?”

The only part of the press conference that can be interesting is when the press interviews the losing team, especially if they lost a close game, and even more so if they lost because they messed up. Imagine Chris Webber and his “extra timeout” during the 1992 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Apparently there’s nothing more interesting than asking a bunch of college kids or grown men and women who are on the verge of tears why they lost.

Typically you’ll see the reporters be as diplomatic as possible, trying hard not to get the affected parties to curse them out. Personally I think they might get a more honest and interesting answer if they asked the following.

“Coach, obviously a tough loss, my question is: what the @#$%-in @#$% was that!?”

Of course you’d never hear a good coach give an honest answer to such a question, or an answer that in any way would be construed as controversial. Coach Ash especially fits in this mold. Do you know why? Because he’s smart, that’s why. Look at the New York Giants and the New York Jets. Same market, but one team (the Giants) eschews excessive press, while the Jets seem to create an off-field headline every week. Guess which team has one a few Super Bowls lately?

So in conclusion, I suppose the conferences have their place, but let’s temper the coverage. Otherwise keep keep everything under fifteen seconds. No, not the questions, the entire thing.