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.

You
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]

Thrust into bigger role, Sixers' Holmes stars in win over Wizards

Thrust into bigger role, Sixers' Holmes stars in win over Wizards

BOX SCORE

For as much as the Sixers’ bigs are talked about, Richaun Holmes often is left out of the conversation. 

He’s not the centerpiece of the team like Joel Embiid nor was he heavily involved in trade talks like Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. He is the backup center who bides his time on the bench and quietly stays ready when he gets the nod.

And on Friday, he was the standout player in the Sixers’ 120-112 win over the Wizards (see Instant Replay)

“He’s been sort of the person that people forget about because of the logjam of five men,” Brett Brown said. “We all sort of think, ‘Well, he should just accept it because he’s behind Joel and Nerlens and Jahlil. Good ol’ Richaun. Go to the D-League and it’s OK.’ And that doesn’t work. He’s a pro, he’s competitive. He’s handled it. He’s really been a wonderful teammate.”

Holmes was bumped up in the rotation following the trade of Noel to the Mavs. He moved into the second-unit role while Okafor started in place of the injured Embiid. 

Holmes recorded his first double-double with 12 points (6 for 9 from the field) and 10 rebounds (three offensive). He also blocked a career-high five shots, tying Embiid for the most by a Sixer this season. The second-year big man put together this impressive performance in 26 minutes off the bench. 

“Just play hard,” Holmes said of his approach. “Just go out there, show what you’ve been working on, play hard every second you’re out there. That’s the motto I’ve got.”

Holmes is averaging 16.1 minutes and has appeared in just 32 of the Sixers’ 57 games. This season he also spent time with the Delaware 87ers of the Development League to get playing time. Holmes embraced an opportunity similar to Friday’s a month ago when he scored 18 points in as many minutes against the Clippers. 

“I try to approach every game this season the same way, whether everybody was playing or people were hurt,” Holmes said. “Prepare like I’m going to play 30 minutes a game. I think having that mindset helped me to stay ready at all times and be aggressive when I had a chance.”

Brown did not rule out the possibility that Holmes could start at some point if he continues this production. The Sixers are limiting Okafor to 20 to 24 minutes per game, according to Brown. That, combined with Embiid’s injury, could lend itself to an increased role for Holmes. 

“I think in that environment, it wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary for Richaun to get a start from time to time,” Brown said. 

Even if he remains on the second unit, Holmes proved he can provide a spark off the bench. Dario Saric noted how Holmes’ impact on both ends of the floor bolsters the frontcourt in addition to a more offensively-minded Okafor (11 points, two rebounds). 

“I think he played unbelievably good in both ways,” Saric said. “Everybody knows he’s an elite guy finishing around the rim, and he stepped in Nerlens’ place, he replaced him unbelievably good. I hope he will get the same minutes for the next game because we have Jahlil, who is more like a post-up player, who likes more to score from the low-post block, and we for sure need some guy like Richaun who will play in both ways." 

Perhaps the person least surprised by Holmes' game was Holmes himself. It was the result he puts in long hours to produce.

“It’s all about the grind,” he said. “All about keep working, keep trying to move up, keep trying to get better every second and it’ll pay off.” 

Ilya Bryzgalov talks goalies playing in contract year, Las Vegas and more

Ilya Bryzgalov talks goalies playing in contract year, Las Vegas and more

Gotta love Bryz, right?

Former Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was his usual humorous, unpredictable self in a recent interview with Sportsnet.ca's Luke Fox.

From what he's doing now to talking pressure as a goalie, here are some of the highlights ...

On a goalie's mental state when job security is up in the air (referenced to Flyers goalie Steve Mason)
“So many goalies take the job for a long time, so it’s easy to be out of game. You worry. You want to find a long-term job, pay bills. It’s not a secret. That’s why when there’s no [contractual] certainty and you don’t see 100 percent confidence from your team, it might affect your game. If the season’s not going well, you start thinking about it.”

On his son playing goalie
"He chose it. He’s the guy who gives his team a chance to win. Make some saves. But he plays as a player once a week, too. Shoots the puck on goalies every Wednesday pretty much.”

On being a hockey dad
“I’m pretty calm. I only get upset when I see the referees make the bad calls. The kids work so hard and play so passionately, you can’t take sides. Only when the referee’s unfair.”

On being a pro hockey player in Las Vegas
"I’m family guy, settled down. I’ve never been too emotional or casino-addicted. For me, no problem. For the young guys to play there, it causes trouble, man. Difficult trouble. … The young ones with the cash? Las Vegas can provide lots of scenes, know what I mean?"

The rest is just as good. For the full Q&A, read Fox's article right here.

Also, Bryzgalov will be a part of Sportsnet's trade deadline coverage next Wednesday.

And side note: Bryz remains active on Twitter. And remains random as ever.

Just look at his last tweet ...