Let’s do away with in-game and halftime interviews | Philly Views
March 20, 2017

Let’s do away with in-game and halftime interviews

Written by Kevin Kinkead

At halftime of Saturday’s second-round win over Notre Dame, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins told CBS sideline reporter Allie LaForce that his team needed to stop fouling the Fighting Irish.

Here’s what happened next:

LaForce: “What’s the biggest adjustment you’ll make at the half?”

Huggins: “Hopefully stop fouling.”

LaForce: “Alright, simple as that. Thanks Coach.”

Huggins: “Thank you.”

Huggins isn’t known for his loquaciousness, but he’s usually good for a laugh. A video of the above exchange should provide that.

A few hours after the Mountaineers’ win, Gonzaga went into halftime with a double-digit advantage over Northwestern. Bulldogs coach Mark Few spoke with CBS reporter Jamie Erdahl.

Jamie Erdahl: “Coach, with an 18 point lead, what aspects of your offense have been executed well?”

Mark Few: “Well, I think for the most part we’ve been pushing it … a lot of things have happened good for us in transition. We gotta continue to do that. And then we’ve taken decent care of the ball down there and that’s a big key for us.”

Erdahl: “You likened this Northwestern team to just another physical Big 10 team. How have you been able to handle that?”

Few: “Well, I mean, they are physical. We’re not getting a whole lot of great looks inside and they’ve been able to dig out some offensive rebounds against us. Again, it’s just one half, okay? We gotta come back and play the same half we just got done playing.”

And if those interviews weren’t enlightening enough, here’s Gregg Popovich opening up about his San Antonio Spurs.

Mark Jones: “Back for the start of the fourth quarter, Coach Popovich, your thoughts on the third quarter?”

Gregg Popovich: “We’re behind.”

Words of wisdom from the king of in-game interviews.

Obviously most of these exchanges are pointless, but coaches are usually required to do them for broadcast and contractual purposes.

Just like Marshawn Lynch, they’re only here so they won’t get fined.

My least favorite interview is when somebody has to put on a headset and talk to the broadcast team. You see this a lot in American soccer. Sometimes it takes place at halftime and sometimes they do it in the middle of a game, which becomes really awkward when one team is about to score and the coach pauses mid-sentence.

Philadelphia Union manager Jim Curtin sometimes gets roped into these interviews, but it’s usually a hapless assistant wearing the headset. Credit to Jim, who is always great with the media, but who wants to speak with us after conceding a stoppage time goal?  

Ask yourself this:

When’s the last time you heard something profound during an in-game interview? When’s the last time you said, “Wow, I never thought about that…“?

The answer is probably never. And a coach isn’t sharing deep thoughts with us anyway. He or she isn’t telling us that Bradley Fletcher is playing ten yards off the line of scrimmage and vulnerable to double moves, but you already knew that.

Some of my colleagues complain about not having enough access to players, coaches, and executives, but I’m the opposite; I think we have too much access.

We’re allowed into their locker rooms and practice facilities and office buildings. Media interviews take place before the game, during the game, and immediately after the game. We’re standing at one locker doing an interview while a naked teammate is putting his pants on at the adjacent locker.

I’m a believer that game days and locker rooms are sacrosanct and should be free of outside interference.

One of the worst experiences of my journalism career involved covering a Phillies game at the 2014  trade deadline. I was sent to Washington to see if Jonathan Papelbon had anything to say regarding rumors of his imminent departure.

For context, reporters are actually allowed into the Phillies clubhouse before the game, which results in a scenario where media members stand around awkwardly and wait for somebody to talk.

When the Phils’ closer showed up at his locker, a crowd of about 15 people surrounded him and a local TV reporter proceeded to ask him the same question in five different ways.

Do you think you’ll be traded?

Do you want to be traded?

Are you okay with being traded?

What happens if you get traded?

Have the Phillies said anything to you about being traded?

Papelbon, predictably, said nothing of interest.

The media horde was then brought to the dugout, where General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. fielded questions about the same topic. Manager Ryne Sandberg was also made available.

This all happened before the game. After the 10-to-4 win over the Nationals, reporters again had access to Sandberg and the entire locker room.

That’s a lot of media availability, and that’s just one game out of 162.

The Eagles beat is somewhat similar.

The NovaCare Complex used to feature a media work room and lunch buffet, so covering the Birds was like working a nine-to-five job while eating for free.

That actually changed last year, and reporters were booted to another building, but they still have partial access to the team cafeteria. Lunch is four dollars, or something like that, which is still cheaper than the Taco Bell at 25th and Passyunk.

Anyway, you generally do some writing, watch a bit of practice, get some quotes, grab lunch, then head back to the media room. Most NFL writers go an entire season without ever stepping foot in their respective media outlet’s headquarters.

An Eagles writer has access to the locker room post-game and several times per week after practice. Doug Pederson is usually available on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday.

The offensive and defensive coordinators speak once per week and players in leadership roles, such as Malcolm Jenkins and Carson Wentz, are placed at a dais to field questions.

Some people don’t think it’s enough. They want Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie and Don Smolenski and the guy who put the windmills on top of the Linc.

I do understand not having enough access to ownership, so I agree with that gripe. I’ve spoken to Philadelphia Union owner Jay Sugarman four times in eight years.

That said, do we really need to hear from Doug Pederson three times per week? What else could we possibly ask him?

Less is more, which sounds ridiculous in the 24/7 world of sports media, but I really do believe that. I’ve always felt like I get better quotes from players and coaches when I speak to them on a less frequent basis.

Respite from the media results in more thoughtful answers because you’ve generally had time to digest game film, training sessions, and recent developments. We’re looking at diminishing returns when we ask Dave Hakstol the same questions three times in 72 hours.

Here’s the thing; quotes aren’t as important as they used to be.

Players and coaches can speak to fans directly through social media and other channels. Reporters don’t have to be that conduit anymore. Just look at how President Trump communicates to his supporters through Twitter.

Plus, millennials don’t necessarily care about that type of content. The typical 24-year-old Eagles fan shows lukewarm interest in Pederson’s weekly press conference.

Research shows that he or she enjoys analysis and commentary. That fan is more inclined to watch all-22 film breakdown rather than listen to Dave Fipp talk about how good Bryan Braman is.

You can create unique and interesting content without needing constant availability from players and coaches.

And while Gregg Popovich provides humorous moments for social media and Sports Center, do his halftime interviews really add anything to the broadcast? No, and that’s why he trolls us, because he knows that the entire thing is a big, fat joke.

Access is great, and we should appreciate what we have, but I also think we can survive for 24 hours without shoving a camera in somebody’s face.

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