Interviews: the bane of sports journalism

By Neil Riley

Sports Editor

Few would argue that quotes and interviews are to journalism what concrete and mortar are to a house. Logically, it follows that the athlete interview would be crucial to any quality piece of sports writing.

However, the popularization of around-the-clock sports news and televised post-game conversations between reporters in well-pressed suits and sweaty athletes huffing cliched answers to equally cliched questions has revealed the uselessness of the entire affair.

Too many sports stars approach interviews like Marshawn Lynch, who once sat through 30 minutes of media questions only answering: “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”

Others choose the route which was classically lampooned in Bull Durham (1988). They recite lines like “Y’know, I’m just happy to be here and hope I can help the ballclub,” and are excited to tell reporters how important it is to “play ‘em one day at a time, Y’know.”

I will not harken back to any real or imagined “Golden Age of Sportswriting,” simply because I can barely remember a time before my baseball news came from anywhere but ESPN.

Suffice it to say that my favorite pieces of sports journalism are those that use quotes minimally.  Writers like Grantland Rice and Wendell Smith chose a few choice words from athletes or coaches, but ultimately what came out of their pens was worth miles more than what came out of the mouth of an exhausted, partially-concussed rookie.

Once it became news every time Gregg Popovich bullied a lowly beat reporter from a local newspaper, and most fans were tuning in to listen to “grown men wearing makeup talking about sports,” it was only a matter of time before honest-to-god writers cranking out 1,000 word indulgence pieces were out of a job.

The time for lamentation is long gone, but I cannot help but regret whenever a person whose job it is to put a ball into a hoop is asked how they felt when they hit the game-winning shot.

At this point, it would be surprising if their answer was anything but “it felt good.”

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