Sideline Slants

So you want to be a television sports journalist? Can you imagine getting paid to watch the biggest sporting events of the year in person and not having to sit in the peanut gallery? Can you imagine talking to some of the best athletes and coaches in the world?

Don’t let me burst your bubble, but being a TV sports journalist may not be all it’s cracked up to be. For one thing, you may have to ask seemingly insulting or inane questions.

For another, sticking a microphone in someone’s face at an emotion-charged time can’t be all that fun when that someone would rather talk to anybody but you.

Then there’s the little matter of the job itself. Is it just me, or does anyone else feel that interviews at halftime and immediately after games are a waste of time at best and obnoxious at worst?

A post-game news conference is one thing. These so-called impromptu interviews are quite another.

The interview with Roy Williams after KU lost the national championship game is Exhibit A for in-your-face reporting. After losing a hard-fought game to Syracuse, Bonnie Bernstein asked Williams if he was headed to North Carolina. He indicated he hadn’t given it any thought.

Considering that the game had just ended and his team had lost the title game by three points, it was a reasonable answer.

But Bernstein pressed Williams until he said, “As a journalist, I understand why you have to ask that question. But the guy in your ear that is telling you to ask that is not a very nice person.”

Williams finally cracked, uttering an expletive deleted and the rest is history

What on earth was CBS thinking? Did they honestly believe they’d get a scoop? Even if Williams had given some thought to the North Carolina job, does anyone think he would have used that platform to announce his plans?

When it comes to TV interviews during and immediately after games, I can empathize with players and coaches. It’s not easy saying something substantive in a sound bite when you’re in the middle of an emotional sporting event.

But here’s one interview I’d enjoy watching.

Interviewer: “Coach, your team had a tough first half.”

Coach: “Exactly what do you mean by tough?”

Interviewer: “Well, you’re getting beat by 16 points.”

Coach: “And your point is?”

Interviewer: “Certainly you’ll want to make some changes in the second half.”

Coach: “What changes do you suggest? You guys seem to have all the answers. We’ve guarded guys that could leap before, but all the others came down.”

Interviewer: “Well, I guess you could try to play some zone.”

Coach: “If you’d done your research, you’d know that the last time we played this team we tried a zone and got beat by 31 points.”

Interviewer: “Maybe you could try a full-court press.”

Coach: “Nope. One of our forwards is so slow that if he ever got caught in the rain he’d rust.”

Interviewer: “Why is one of your best players sitting on the bench in street clothes?”

Coach: “Oh, he injured himself when he fell off a ladder while he was picking strawberries. We have so many injuries, the team picture is an X-ray. In fact, we have so many injuries, we’re considering hiring nurses for cheerleaders.”

Interviewer: “How do you explain the fact that your team has lost four of its last six games?”

Coach: “Easy. We’re a team in transition. We’re going from bad to worse.”

Interviewer: “So are you conceding the outcome of tonight’s game?”

Coach: “Concede? Never. Their players put their pants on the same way our players do. It just takes them longer to pull them up.”

Interviewer: “Isn’t there anything you can do?”

Coach: “Sure. Recruit better. And I’m excited about next year. One of our recruits is so fast he can eat ice cream in the rain without having it drip.”

Interviewer: “Well, maybe your team will be able to spring a surprise in the second half.”

Coach: “Funny you should say that. We were the surprise team last year. We did worse than anybody expected.”

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