Improspectives

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Marshawn Lynch and the Broken Sports Media Model

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I’ve long been on record, not that anyone cared, as being in favor of a law banning the post-game interview. Professional athletes who have just spent 60-to-90 minutes of game time busting their guts for our entertainment shouldn’t be forced to answer questions asked for the sole purpose of getting a meaningless quote for an article or a four-second sound bite on television.

Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks is calling out the absurdity of the system prior to Super Bowl L-1, but there are plenty of other examples from popular culture. Crash Davis drilling Nuke LaLouche on his cliches in Bull Durham, Bill Laimbeer of the Detroit Pistons giving the same answer to every question after a disappointing playoff loss, or the carefully measured statements Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, and LeBron James offer in their media appearances come to mind immediately. They all use language to discharge their responsibilities while maintaining as much privacy as possible.

What interesting information could Marshawn Lynch, or any other Super Bowl participant, provide without compromising their game plan? The fact they’re happy to be there and are taking it one game at a time isn’t interesting, but reporters ask their questions so they can get a fresh quote (any quote) to round out their article or broadcast segment.

The problem extends to broadcast and commentary as well. Julius Erving said that he quit his studio commentary gig because he was tired of dumbing basketball down to second-grade level. Richard Sherman, the amazing cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, similarly challenged a reporter, who persisted in trying to get Sherman to compare himself to a cornerback on the New England Patriots, to ask him questions that weren’t at “nursery school” level.

Even the broadcasters know what’s up. In a hilariously open and honest segment on a hockey broadcast I watched last year, two of them admitted as much. A player who had just retired joined the broadcast team in the booth and expressed an interest in becoming a color commentator.

Play-by-Play Guy: Go ahead and give a shot!

Recently Retired Player: I have no idea what to say.

Color Commentator (also a former player): It doesn’t matter…just say it with energy.

Recently Retired Player: The Sharks need to pick it up here!!!

(all laugh)

Color Commentator: See!!??

I’d much rather that professional athletes be given the opportunity to speak with the media after or before a game but that it not be mandatory, even for the stars. I care about the game. Pre-game interviews are not the game. Post-game interviews are not the game. Three days of mandatory media appearances before the Super Bowl are definitely not the game.

We get just as much meaningful information when Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, or LeBron James don’t speak to the media as when they do. Let’s enjoy sports for what they are and stop pretending we have a personal connection to the competitors.

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