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On Belichick “snubbing” reporters after championship game

The topic of media access is one that keeps coming up for me. I’ve tweeted about it a lot but haven’t really blogged about it. I figured today was a good day for a quick post on it with the understanding that I plan to talk about it more going forward.

Yesterday after the Ravens’ AFC Chip win over the Patriots, Coach Bill Belichick refused to give an interview to the big boys at CBS. He was subsequently dressed down by TE-turned-analyst Shannon Sharpe for being a perennial poor sport. Throughout the season, the league and media have these little dust ups where some player or coach decides against performing his football wifely duties and decides to ignore the media or, in Bart Scott’s case, stage a revolt. And the man-of-the-house media points out that this is his 3rd headache this week and demands to know why he can’t at least “lay there” while they go through the motions.

When I look at each situation separately I understand why such a big deal is made. The media (in particular those who show sporting events like ESPN, FOX, CBS) need to get soundbites from players and coaches in order to enhance story lines and the general audio and visual experience. There is also the fact that the media  is an extension of the public and, besides twitter, is the most direct insight into what players and coaches think that fans are privy to. Disrespect them, you disrespect the fans who buy the tickets and the general public which funds expansive stadiums and whatnot that allow for league staff and officials to bring home a check.

And even the fan blogs, many of which I consider to be on troll duty 24 hours a day, are helping to heighten interest in the teams that they “support.” They play a role, however small or questionable, in the growth of professional sports. There just has to be some give and take, and I get that.

But media doesn’t occur in a vacuum. And players and coaches don’t see separate incidents so much as they  feel cumulative agitation at the way the media goes about business. First of all, I think an argument can be made -and maybe one day I’ll attempt to make it-that the media demands on players and coaches is too much. The media is around for almost every practice plus pre and post game. Then there’s obligatory radio interviews and exclusives with prominent columnists.

For the most part, those demands aren’t spread around. They fall almost all on the shoulders of the team’s head coach and star players. And when they say the wrong thing thousands of articles and posts pop up. In this digital landscape even the simple truth is controversial. Everyone is looking for a story. And when there isn’t one they force it. Even Belichick’s NON reaction was fodder for the media spurring thousands of posts like this one.

By the time a big game like a championship happens you can almost see a coach, like Belichick, saying in his mind that he’s talked to these people all week (season?) long and what more could they possibly get from him. Belichick, and any player or coach, knows that the media is hoping for a juicy reaction they can loop over and over again. There have absolutely  been some priceless moments from players and coaches after wins and losses that I’m glad that the media caught on film. Sports, after all, IS entertainment and reactions whether classless, tasteless, heartwarming, unexpected, or predictable all entertain in their own ways. But I understand a want to avoid. 

Perhaps Belichick, oh master of the unnecessary trick play and score run up, is the wrong example to use in this post or any one that mounts a defense of anything he does ever. But I’m not really defending him so much as reminding myself not to always succumb to knee jerk reactions. I love to interview players and coaches and I believe that when I do I bring something different to the table. However, as someone working to stand out in this business I recognize that it’s a difficult environment to get guys to talk in when many of them are already talked out by the time I (and other bloggers and reporters) have a chance.

Belichick may have been talked out or he might just not be a very nice guy or he may just have no interest in emotional displays in front of millions. I don’t know.  I just believe there is a conversation to be had about how all of us (media and teams) can conduct business more humanely and maintain some flexibility as we fulfill our obligations to each other.




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