On the Death of the Athlete Interview

On the Death of the Athlete Interview

One of the more enticing aspects of taking an entirely independent blog and affiliating it with a much larger media entity was the opportunities that would then present in terms of talking with the players we followed so closely from afar. As it turned out, said access is a whole lot better in theory than in actuality. That's not to say access is bad or of no value at all, it's just tends not to be what you might think or hope it to be before you actually have it.

ESPN's Tim Keown does a really nice job explaining why that is in a piece about the death of the interview in sports. His sentiments ring true, especially the "more information and less knowledge" aspect of today's media landscape.

Keown writes:

There is an abundance of information flying through the air, like
bits of paper in a whirlwind, but with a striking lack of context or
depth. The demands have no connective tissue, just 20 or 30 people with
separate agendas trying to get you to talk to theirs before the next guy
interrupts. There is no real interaction, no chance for them to follow
up or request clarification or elucidation or retraction.

attempt to answer the questions thoughtfully and honestly, but when the
media relations manager holds up his hand and says, "Thanks, guys --
that's it," you walk off the field toward your locker, trying to replay
your answers in your mind. Mostly it's a complete hash, and you reach a
resigned conclusion: You have no idea how anything you just said might
be interpreted outside that clustered cocoon.

It's interesting to see this take place in real time. As a greener member of the media, I tend to do a lot of observing on how things go when the crowd gathers around a player at Citizens Bank Park. You can tell by the question asked what each questioner's agenda is for that day. The radio guys want one good sound nugget. The TV guys want something they can throw on air in a nice 30-second clip. The beat writers like Jim Salisbury try their best to keep a real interview setting alive, attempting to dig a little deeper. The best questions always come from the beat writers or the longtime baseball writers like Jayson Stark or Tyler Kepner.

I often hear the seasoned vets of the press corps waxing poetic about the days of Pete Rose talking for hours after a game or how they'd run into the Phils' skipper at the hotel bar on the road and share some stories over a whiskey. It makes me wish moments like that were still feasible today.

But they didn't have Twitter!

This all leads to the question of "why is the interview dead?" Which isn't exactly easy to answer. Athletes, with the help of their PR handlers, know that they no longer have to be as open as they were in the past. Part of that is the media and fans alike place way too much importance onto the unscripted words of athletes. "OMG! Did you hear Jimmy Rollins said something about the crowd being quiet! How dare he?!?" We're certainly guilty. That turns players off from being open and honest. Things *are* blown way out of proportion and taken way out of context. And they can show up, not just in newspapers as back in the day, but on the Internet, on blogs, on sports radio, on podcasts, on ESPN, on MLB Network, on YouTube... and it never stops. Today's media consumer, for better or worse, lives for the headline-making moments.

There are plenty of those "gotcha" type stories these days where often times the question or conversation leading up to the player quote isn't even given.

What's also interesting is that while athletes are saying less and less of substance in the controlled environment of a locker room, they're flocking to twitter and Facebook to do everything from tossing up nonsense, talking music and not-so-subtly meeting girls, to criticizing each other and their own teams.

Embedded sports media used to be the gatekeepers of access via the access teams and leagues had given them. That's more limited than ever, but the fans have new access to players, so much so that the media are doing more and more stories on what athletes say on Twitter as compared to what they said in the locker room.

That's not to say traditional access is fruitless. There are still brief moments when the TV cameras and radio personalities walk away from Roy Halladay after a game and Doc will be standing in the middle of the clubhouse with only three or four writers remaining and will drop some serious knowledge on you about how and why he talks to an umpire between innings.

Cliff Lee has had a few of these moments as well, but for him, there's less mystique, less magic to it all. He's very matter of fact about everything. It's just "work hard and make pitches."

And then there's Charlie's pre game powwow in the dugout. But Charlie is old school. Perhaps that's what makes him so friggin' awesome. He'll open up about his days drinking with Mickey Mantle or dinner with George Steinbrenner in the 70s. He'll even tell you about his days as a kid winning state marble championships.

Still waiting for one of those types of stories from Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, or Jimmy Rollins though.

To someone who never knew the interview during its living years, its proposed death seems to ring true. But you can still get those priceless stories, knowledge, and moments out of players.

You just have to work a bit harder.

>>Death of the interview [ESPN]

Report: Sixers have shown interest in Timberwolves PG Tyus Jones

Report: Sixers have shown interest in Timberwolves PG Tyus Jones

With Ben Simmons and Jerryd Bayless hurt, the Sixers are still lacking a distributor, and so it makes sense that they've been in contact with the point guard-rich Timberwolves.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Sixers and New Orleans Pelicans have shown interest in T'wolves backup point guard Tyus Jones. 

With fifth overall pick Kris Dunn and Ricky Rubio, Minnesota is set at PG. Jones, 20, is third on the totem pole a year after being drafted 24th overall. 

According to Wojnarowski, the Timberwolves are more inclined to trade Jones than Rubio. 

Jones has a connection to the Sixers in Jahlil Okafor, a former teammate at Duke. Both were one-and-dones for the 2014-15 National Championship team. Jones averaged 11.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists for the Blue Devils. 

He played sparingly as a rookie last season with Minnesota (37 games), averaging 4.2 points and 2.9 assists in 15.5 minutes, but stood out this summer, winning Las Vegas Summer League MVP.

T.J. McConnell has started the majority of the preseason at point guard for the Sixers. Sergio Rodriguez got the nod in the last game against the Pistons. Brett Brown is also looking at Nik Stauskas to fill the spot in a non-traditional role.

Elton Brand announces retirement after 17 NBA seasons

Elton Brand announces retirement after 17 NBA seasons

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Elton Brand walked out to the practice court clad in a gray suit and tie. As he approached the media with his family, the Sixers' players and staff gathered to watch and, more importantly, pay their respect to the news he was about to deliver. 

“After 17 years of playing the game that I love, and it’s been great to me, I’m officially retiring,” Brand said standing next to his wife Shahara. “It’s for real this time. It was a wonderful journey.”

Brand, 37, played 17 seasons in the NBA with a career average of 15.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists. A two-time All-Star, he recorded four 20-and-10 seasons. 

This summer he signed his final contract, a one-year deal with the Sixers worth $980,431. Brand announced his intention to retire on Thursday and the roster move will be officially completed at the conclusion of training camp. Brand’s retirement clears up a roster space for the Sixers. 

“Me personally, playing, being out there, the mentoring role, it was great. I enjoyed it,” Brand said. “But I really couldn’t be out there giving my all after 17 years, helping the team, being in the right place on defense, and giving the coaching staff the energy they deserve from their players. I thought it was time.”

The Bulls selected Brand with the first overall pick in the 1999 draft out of Duke, a moment he considers a highlight of his career. He played his first two seasons in Chicago, followed by seven with the Clippers. The Sixers signed Brand in July of 2008. He was a member of the team for the next four years, including two playoff runs. Brand played one more season with the Bulls, followed by two with the Hawks. 

His already-lengthy NBA career appeared to be over at the end of the 2014-15 season, but he made a surprise decision to return to the league in January of 2016 with the Sixers. He appeared in 17 games last season, averaging 4.1 points and 3.7 rebounds in 13.2 minutes. 

While Brand was needed to log time because of injuries, including 20-plus on back-to-back nights, his biggest contribution came away from the game. The young team signed Brand to serve as a mentor to players such as fellow Blue Devil Jahlil Okafor, who struggled with off-the-court issues as a rookie. Okafor developed a big-brother relationship with Brand, talking often — and rarely about basketball itself. 

Brand shared his messages of discipline and work ethic across the locker room. He stayed late after practices to work on fundamental drills with then-rookie Richaun Holmes. On game days he often could be seen dressed in a suit, a visualization of professionalism for his teammates. At the end of the season, Brand paid for the team to take a trip to Miami. 

“We felt his presence,” Okafor said. “Having another vet in there, knowing who he is, his accolades, it was a respect factor to him. Whatever he said goes. I remember hearing his voice at halftime if we were playing poor, he would let us know about it. It was good to have somebody on your team tell you you’re playing bad rather than hearing your coach’s mouth all the time.”

Brett Brown described his emotions as "sad" when Brand informed him of his decision. In less than a year of working together, Brown has learned from Brand's NBA experiences. 

"He's as elite in class as anybody I have ever coached," Brown said, adding, "He's got the ingredients that make him, I feel, highly attractable down the road. Surely he's got stuff to offer after this is all done. Compassionate, hard-working, educated, real, tough. He was a great example for our locker room."

Brand plans to spend time away from the game and has not made any decisions on his next career move. He will be accessible to the Sixers and plans to spend time around the team but not in an official role. He has had conversations with the team about possible opportunities in the future, just not right now. 

The Sixers broke out in applause at the conclusion of Brand's announcement. He didn't know they were going to be present and joked that as the "OG" of the team, he doesn't like surprises. Brand wanted a simple no-frills gathering of media, a low-key departure from the game. It was fitting for a career based on quietly putting in hard work. 

“It’s been an honor, it’s been a privilege to play this game, the game that I love, and I’m certainly going to miss it,” Brand said. “But it’s definitely time now.”