Last night my wife, Jane, casually mentioned to me that LeBron and D-Wade did so much better a job of handling the media’s questions at the post game press conference than did Paul George. First of all, Jane doesn’t make a habit of watching post game pressers. For her to be even the slightest bit critical of Paul George was a pretty big shock to me. For those readers who don’t know, this blog originates out of Fresno where Paul George went to college. Here, he is everybody’s darling, the guy who, although not having a particularly spectacular college career, knocked NBA coaches and scouts on their butts at the Chicago pre-draft camp. Subsequently, he was selected in the first round (tenth overall) by the Indiana Pacers. He played so well that when his first contract ended, his agent and the Pacers negotiated a contract for 5 years and $90 million. One of the first moves he made was to buy all the tickets for a non-conference basketball game at his alma mater (Fresno State has a 15,500 seat arena and has struggled to attract crowds much greater than 5,000) and give them away (in groups of four) to anyone who wanted to see the Bulldogs play that night.
While I hadn’t seen last night’s press conference, it didn’t take me too long to realize that George was responding to reporters asking him about topics such as why the Pacers lost, was there a reason he wasn’t as aggressive as usual, what did being down 3-1 mean (isn’t that answer rather obvious?), what were the plans for regrouping once the series moved back to Indiana, did he think his team could beat the Heat, etc.
Reporters have jobs, players have jobs, coaches have jobs, people in the studio have jobs and on and on it goes. There is a 10 minute “cooling off period” following the game which is difficult for most people, especially at this time of the year. His team is one game away from elimination, from the championship he and the rest of his teammates have been waiting to claim after losing to this same team who beat them last year. Sure, you can say, it’s part of the job, it’s why they make big bucks (actually, every player is open game, independent of how much they make) and they shouldn’t complain but, as difficult as it is for some people to understand, they’re also human.
What has gone from a time of asking the participants to enlighten the viewers and readers regarding the game and the ins and outs of it has morphed into an almost inhumane meanness, a “can I ask the question that sets him off, so people will not only remember his response but who asked it” - possibly opening up all sorts of opportunities for me. The “investigative journalist” began with Woodard and Bernstein. That was necessary, they knew they were on to something big. Today seems more about creating something big. Even when, in the grand scheme, it’s not so big at all.
Maybe those asking the deep, insightful questions really believe what they’re doing is a vital service for society. I recall when the Los Angeles Clippers were eliminated in the second round and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin came out for their final post game press conference of the season. It was apparent both were distraught, that after the franchise brought in Doc Rivers and allowed him to not only coach, but make player personnel decisions, that they truly felt they had a really good chance to win an NBA championship. And they had a good bit of company in that belief – for several good reasons. CP3 was the penultimate point guard, the guy whose only thoughts and actions during a game were, “What can I do to put us in a position to win?” In Blake Griffin they had a guy who redefined himself and his game, not that he’s by any means a complete superstar but a guy who is on a mission to do just that. His improvement in field goal and free throw shooting, as well as expanding his offensive repertoire from last season to this, has been nothing short of remarkable. Doc Rivers proved to be the perfect choice to lead the group, molding and motivating DeAndre Jordan into, arguably, the #1 defensive force in the NBA, bringing in the right pieces through free agency and developing a bench so that nearly anytime the Clips took to the floor, they were better than even money to win.
Some of the questions in that press conference for Paul and Griffin were necessary while others were highly questionable, but when I heard the last couple, I literally shuddered. “If Donald Sterling is still the owner, how does that affect you?” and “Do you think players will take some course of action?” The blank look on each of their faces illustrated that the topic, at that time, was the furthest things from their minds and they were stumped for answers – especially to such controversial, time-inappropriate questions. At the proper time, they certainly would have responses – intelligent, well-thought out ones at that. But, to ask them, right after they’d been eliminated from the NBA Playoffs? Really? Luckily, the Clippers’ PR guy had the sense to put an end to the conference right then. But not until everybody watching could feel how awkward the situation had become.
My initial thought was, “How insensitive can people be?” Imagine if the person being questioned were his or her child? Would they not want to intervene in that situation? How about if it happened to be the writers themselves - having to answer questions (10 minutes) after some similar negative event in their lives had occurred? Just because they’re grown men, can people not realize they still have emotions, especially after all the time and effort they’ve invested? Keep in mind these same media members will be reminding fans of the “voids” in each player’s or coach’s career, e.g. how many “rings” they’ve won – when, every season, only one team will win it all.
It’s almost like in golf when, after a major, the media can ask every golfer in the world, except one:
“How does it feel, not to have won a major, again?”
Of course, they’ll get over it