I feel sorry for NFL sideline reporters, who not only get very little airtime during a game — reporting on the occasional injury — but also have to deal with inane answers to the questions they ask coaches and players in the sixty seconds or so they’re given to conduct an “interview.” Nothing important is ever said in those moments, yet the networks continue to insist upon doing them.
For instance, whoever was on the job for CBS at today’s Patriots-Jets game (sorry, I don’t remember her name) got a minute before kickoff with New England head coach Bill Belichick to ask three questions. The first was an irrelevant query about prepping for the Jets, followed by two about Antonio Brown, the wide receiver the Pats got from the Raiders a couple of weeks ago, then cut on Friday after domestic abuse allegations were filed against him. Belichick gave her exactly nothing on that topic with two terse replies along the lines of, “We’re just focused on the Jets right now.”
I don’t blame Belichick. Minutes before his team takes the field, any NFL head coach should only be thinking about the game they’re about to play, not distractions like Brown. I also don’t blame the reporter, who I’m sure was tasked by her bosses to pose those questions, even if she didn’t expect anything valuable in response.
I do blame the network and whichever producer decided to put that encounter on the air in the first place. It wasn’t live, so they knew the coach hadn’t said anything that mattered, so why show it? They would have been better off having the reporter simply explain that Belichick didn’t want to talk about it, and then move on.
There are also the insipid post-game remarks players give in quickie “interviews” after a victory, before heading into the locker room. For example, after the Cowboys clobbered the Dolphins 31-6 today, Pam Oliver — who’s been one of the best sideline reporters for many years — hit Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott with a pretty good question to which he offered this nonsense:
Oliver: That first half wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty for this offense. What happened in the second?
Prescott: Yeah, you just said it. I mean, that’s an NFL team over there and, I tell you, that team plays hard. Record might not show it, but that team plays hard. They had a lot of fight in them all the way to the last series. I give them a lot of credit.
Not only is that not an answer to Oliver’s question, but it’s straight out of the quarterback cliche handbook. “That team plays hard”??? You just crushed them, holding Miami to two field goals. They don’t deserve a lot of credit.
And since it, too, wasn’t aired live, but recorded earlier, then stuck into the network’s post-game show wrap-up — why was it broadcast in the first place?
I would have loved it if Pam had said, “Zak, you didn’t answer my question, so I’m going to ask it again.” I used to do that all the time on my radio show when a guest went off on an unrelated tangent. But doing so seems to be as verboten in the TV sports world as it is in coverage of politics, business, or anything else. All the networks care to do is show how much access they have to the big names, not whether they can garner any information from them.
Or perhaps doing those “interviews” right before or after a game — when adrenaline is high and time is short — is not at all amenable to getting good answers. Since that’s likely the case, I wish they’d just knock it off.