Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

IPPOLITO: Lighten Media Obligations

Marshawn Lynch’s oft-repeated quip from Super Bowl Media Day — “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” — is undoubtedly the early frontrunner for quote of the year.

Jokes aside, however, Lynch’s statement from Jan. 27 reflects the growing tension between members of the media and professional athletes.

As much as some star athletes like LeBron James claim the press as their friends, others, like baseball legend Ted Williams, are noted for being openly disdainful toward the press. This fragile relationship between athletes and the media exists because leagues and teams often mandate media availability in contracts, forcing athletes to speak at the podium — or else face hefty fines.

As a result, when players speak with the media, what they say often adds little value for fans and followers of the game. For example, listening to Lynch repeat tired cliches about the Patriots that had already been stated by everyone else on his team did not add any substantial value to stories written before the Super Bowl.

One argument advanced by leagues and media personalities that clashes with Lynch’s derisive comments during Super Bowl Media Day is that contract-mandated media availability spreads awareness for the sport and promotes the game. Sports writers need material to do their jobs and teams want publicity, and interviews are the ideal mechanism through which writers connect fans and the public-at-large to athletes and teams.

However, when pre- or post-game conferences consist of nothing but bland and scripted comments, they risk becoming extremely predictable and essentially exist only to fill column space — a pattern that is becoming increasingly common in sports media today.

Moreover, conversations among writers and athletes are inherently limited because athletes are told, for obvious reasons, to limit the kind of information they discuss with the media. There is a reason why Peyton Manning never actually explains what “Omaha” means or why Tom Brady doesn’t give an Xs and Os breakdown of the Patriots’ game plan.

The limits on athletes breed broad statements and sports cliches; they fulfill the contractual obligations of athletes and give writers enough ammo for that night’s column, all while failing to educate fans and readers about the team itself or the dynamics of the sport.

In some of the worst cases where athletes cannot or choose not to discuss relevant information about the actual game, reporters turn elsewhere for stories and consequently, the rumor mill about team chemistry or a coach’s job security fires up.

This context is what inspired Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant to lash out during last week’s All-Star Weekend. Durant was again asked about the job security of Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks. Durant, who had previously mentioned his support for and belief in Brooks, flatly said, “You guys [the press] don’t know s—.”

Durant is hardly the first athlete to suspect that the media intentionally created controversy and he certainly will not be the last — we all just survived the media-created firestorm that was Deflategate, after all.

Like so many other components of journalism, sports reporting needs to adapt or risk an inevitable decline. The popularity of new sites like FiveThirtyEight and Grantland prove that sports fans seek a broader understanding of the game itself through analysis of Xs and Os and advanced statistics, not solely interview-dependent beat reports that merely give brief summaries of games. Mainstream sports media must do a better job of explaining the how and why, instead of just the what.

In theory, experienced beat writers and sports columnists are allowed to do the exact same thing; the statistics are readily available from reputable sources and the reporters already watch every game of the teams they cover. Beat reporters may even have an extra advantage because they can observe practices and training sessions where many components of the on-field product are formed and perfected.

Deep down, though, one cannot help but think that sports writers enjoy the forced situations of the status quo and relish in episodes like, “I’m just here so I don’t get fined.” When drama exists, their stories attract more attention and bring the writers more notoriety.

These writers should enjoy their popularity while it lasts because if this section of the industry fails to change, they may never be this popular again.

Michael Ippolito is a sophomore in the College. THE WATER COOLER appears every Friday.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Hoya Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *