Moss and the Media

Has there ever been a sports interview that has ever been anything but a complete bore? Athletes generally have nothing to say, and should not be expected to have anything to say. Their actions on the field do the talking.

It is the job of sportswriters and commentators to describe the action, to put it into perspective, and to add a little poetry when the drama on the field demands it.

Lately, however, sports announcers have taken to acting like they are serious journalists. They seem to think athletes are obligated to answer their inane questions. They also feel they have a right to probe into the minds and lives of athletes as if they are public property.

So, when somebody like Randy Moss refuses to talk to the press, the press reacts with anger and indignance, as if Moss reneging on a sacred duty. They harshly criticize his play on the field, even though he is the best in the game, and openly admit that they would be nicer to him if he submitted to interviews.

Randy Moss is proud and not entirely stupid. He knows that if he were to submit to interviews, he would have to suppress his honest, blunt style. Otherwise, reporters would feast on his colorful quotes and use them to destroy him, as they have tried to do in the past.

One recently retired sports figure wrote an anonymous article about dealing with the press. He said teams actually hold seminars to train athletes to say nothing controversial or remotely interesting. When you see them say, “We just have to go out there and give 110% on every play,” it is because they are trained to repeat stupid, meaningless clichés.

In fact, the player reported, many players work hard to conceal their intelligence from the press. If reporters find out they have opinions on anything at all, they will be hounded endlessly.

Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton never gave interviews. The media portrayed him as sullen, difficult and moody. Former teammates, however, have a different view. Carlton was a voracious reader, a lover of classical music, an intelligent conversationalist and a wonderful teammate. He just didn’t want to become a media darling, for he knew that media attention can eat you alive.

The great Ted Williams had a different solution. He made sure his every sentence was so filled with profanity that he couldn’t be quoted without deleting nearly everything. He was truly foul. Reporters eventually left him alone.

Dennis Rodman, formerly of the Chicago Bulls, was a wonderful character. He spoke his mind, but it got him in trouble. He was in the headlines all the time, and in the end self-destructed. The media loved him, the media helped destroy him.

David Wells of the Yankees tells it like he thinks it is. For revealing in his book that he pitched a perfect game with a pounding hangover, he was fined. Former Braves pitcher John Rocker made some controversial comments about the people of New York. As far as I can tell, the comments were pretty much true, but like Wells, Rocker was fined for making “slurs.”

It might be reasonable to hound politicians for saying stupid things. Trent Lott’s comments one year ago revealed a pattern of ugliness in his career that really required him to resign his leadership post.

But athletes? They are just entertainers. They are not paid to be role models, and they do not make policy. They are just big guys who can kick a ball, throw a ball, hit a ball, or push somebody over.

Randy Moss is right not to give interviews. His play on the field is eloquent enough. Giving honest interviews would just distract reporters from an athleticism more poetic than any words the self-important present day sportswriters could conjure up.