For as long as I can remember, athletes have been subjected to postgame interviews. In the immediate aftermath of a glorious high or a dreadful low, players are expected to gain their composure and answer a series of often uncompelling questions.
In many cases, they offer the same types of responses every time, never giving the public a good soundbite or intriguing insight.
Last week, tennis player Naomi Osaka made national news when she declined to attend press conferences during the French Open. The tennis star cited mental health concerns, but tournament officials made sure not to capitulate, probably understanding that doing so would lead to greater consequences in this domain later on.
On Sunday, golfer Lexi Thompson maintained a sizable lead in the US Open, but fell apart down the stretch, ultimately finishing third in the tournament at three under par.
While her competition counterparts performed their post-round diligence by participating in interviews, Thompson declined to do so.
These actions could have longer lasting ramifications across the sports world. After every baseball game, players and managers take center stage to answer questions about their performance and decision-making.
Oftentimes, these questions aren’t difficult to answer and they usually lead to the answerer simply synthesizing what we already saw and knew to be true.
Let me give an example. Recently, when discussing an error he’d made, Washington Nationals’ first baseman Josh Bell said, “As the game goes on, you’re trying to fight for opportunities to score and get back in the game” – a statement of fact that didn’t need to be said.
As for manager Dave Martinez’s analysis of starting pitcher Joe Ross, he said, “…I thought he did great. It was the error, the hit batsman and then he just made one bad pitch to [Andrew] McCutchen.” In this instance, Martinez literally recounts what occurred in the game, offering no insight that couldn’t be gleaned for passively watching the broadcast.
Later, Martinez would say, “It comes back to the offense… When you’re scoring two runs a game, the mistakes become magnified.” Anybody who has watched baseball for a few weeks likely understands that scoring two runs per game isn’t very becoming of a good team. Even the worst teams often average around three runs. Yet, we sit here and listen to them continue to talk.
What about the halftime interviews of head coaches of college football programs? Sure, occasionally you get a coach who likes to hear himself talk, but even then, they might not be saying much.
For example, in a clip from four years ago, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was asked what challenge his team faced going into halftime. The affable, but annoying to some, Swinney spoke at length, reeling off a series of sentences lasting nearly 45 seconds. In that time, all he really managed to convey was what everybody already knew: Clemson often had bad field position, Alabama had two big runs, and the score was 14-7.
In some instances, actual information is produced via a line of postgame questioning – but it’s very rarely about the game itself. If it is about the game, maybe a manager will explain his reasoning for a specific move, but that can often be boiled down to, “We liked the matchup,” or something similar. Occasionally insight is gained by revealing information about a player’s health update, but that’s usually the extent of quality information.
I don’t blame the interviewees for these often boring and repetitive postgame pressers. It’s part of the job, albeit one that they nearly all loathe, but what else can you say? Generally, the thinking fan can deduce what’s going on in-game that would lead a player or manager to make a decision; if it’s play-related, we can often understand what mistakes they’re making at the plate or on the mound.
Seldom, if ever, do players or coaches reveal some sort of epiphany or previously undisclosed secret. In the majority of press conferences, answers can be boiled down to, “They played better than us,” or, “They’re a quality team but we were able to get the best of them.” Frankly, I would be more pleased if interviewees were more straightforward: “We scored more; pitched better; hit better.” There’s no reason in taking up air space to mention anything more. If we’re just going to hear about what we already saw, you might as well make it efficient and concise.
Interviews in general don’t need to be discontinued – only postgame or post-match interviews. Fans like getting the sense that they’re privy to some inside information, but that’s not what these types of interactions usually consist of. Instead of prolonging what doesn’t need to be said at all, why don’t we eschew the formalities associated with all of this entirely? No more “our pitchers made good pitches and we were able to work the count to get good pitches to hit,” and instead focus our time on anything else. It’s time to do away with postgame interviews.