If reporters really behaved like we’re portrayed in that Beats by Dre commercial that pops up frequently during the NBA Finals, most of us would be a stain on the locker-room rug by now, squashed by a size 16-sneaker.
Every time I see that ad featuring Golden State’s Draymond Green, I’m reminded to get a rabies booster shot prior to joining the national media at the next big event.
Is it any of it true? Well, dumb questions do get asked, but none dumber than Super Bowl media day, where the league itself invites as many crazies and non-journalists as it can stuff into a stadium. It’s meant to cement the image of the NFL’s showcase game as the ultimate pop-culture mashup. Inviting the Three Stooges to a White House briefing with the president would be just as contrived.
In reality pro sports locker rooms are pretty boring. A guy like Green would actually be beloved, not traumatized, by reporters. He’s gregarious. He’s smart. He sees himself as a team leader. What’s not to like?
If ever an athlete wanted to keep the media at arm’s length, however, there are simpler methods than pulling on a pair of headphones and walking away from the mob. Here are five I’ve seen work very effectively in minimizing the duration and the torment of regular interview sessions.
1. Chris “Birdman” Andersen: Before reporters get a chance to stare at you, stare directly at them. Do it for extended periods. Do it while repeatedly walking in and out of the locker room. Make them wonder if asking about the wisdom and meaning of body art is really worth the trouble. In general, act a little strange, talk a little strange, knowing all the while that it’s just an act but enjoying the benefits that go with it.
2. Shaquille O’Neal: Enter the locker room shouting and laughing and raising a ruckus about whatever is on your mind. Then, once a scrum of reporters has crowded in for a question session, slump low on your locker stool, head down, and whisper the answers so quietly that no one can understand half the words or even be certain that there’s somebody actually in there sitting on that stool, behind the wall of bodies. Finally, exit the locker room shouting again at that old bullhorn volume, leaving the media to compare notes on whether you said “The Big Aristotle” or “The Big Aspirin Bottle” or anything usable at all.
3. Barry Bonds: Bring one of your small children, preferably 2 feet tall or under, into a World Series clubhouse and then allow him to run free, unsupervised and in danger of being trampled, as a couple hundred media members come flooding into the room. This enables you to clear a large area around your locker whenever things get too tight by getting all huffy and yelling, “Hey, watch out for the kid. You’re bumping into my kid! What are you, crazy? Back off!” Doesn’t matter if you’re actually sitting with your back to the room, with no concept of where the child is or what he’s doing. It’s still instantly effective.
4. Dan Marino: Adopt a numbing catchphrase to use in every interview, one that can be adapted to almost any question, and pummel reporters with it for years until their spirits are broken in the attempt to elicit anything else. In Dan’s case, it was “Well, we did some good things, and we did some things that were not so good.” Next, have a prop handy in case that doesn’t chase at least half of the crowd away. Frequently, Dan walked into a waiting crowd of reporters at his locker, picked a toothbrush and a tube of paste from the top shelf and calmly explained, “I’ll be right back. I’ve got to brush my teeth.”
5. Marshawn Lynch: Let it be known that you don’t answer questions and it doesn’t matter who likes it. There may be an occasional fine for stiffing the media but as long as you stick by the rules, as long as everybody gets shut out and there are no favorites, most of us can deal with that and at least partially understand. It’s a strategy that’s been around since Steve Carlton, and probably longer than that. It’s the most genuine way to say, without anger, I’ve got nothing to say and I don’t care to hear what you have to ask. No harm. No foul. No foolishness.