24 April, 2014


Maybe, Just Maybe, a Game’s Immediate Aftermath Isn’t Necessarily the Best Time for Reflection

Hell hath no fury like a media pack scorned.

Mike Green failed to address the media out at Kettler Capitals Complex last Friday, breakaway day. To follow the media indignation over the snub on Twitter that afternoon was to be led to think that Richard Nixon had failed to show for his interview with David Frost.

I couldn’t summon any angst in the matter. For one thing, having been an audience to hundreds of professional athletes in media scrums myself, I rarely regard their utterances the oratory of statesmen. All too often instead cliche and jockspeak get uttered in rote fashion. And this is especially the case when harrowing defeat has just settled in.

Here I’ve ever been exceedingly sparse incorprating jockspeak in my analyses, as I was in my old media days. Actually, I dispense with it altogether. Instead, I prefer incorporating the wit and wisdom of other bloggers. Or Gabby. Or the general manager. On big-picture stories most particularly the thoughts and reflections of the manager and coach are the most important, the most illuminating, from where I observe.

But yesterday Mike Green did show up at Kettler and did address the media. And for his taking the time he needed to process last week’s devastating defeat we know a heck of a lot more about his role in the Caps’ demise this postseason as well as the overall state of the team.

“We’ve become a really good hockey team in a short period of time, and I think that has excited the media and brought expectations,” Green said yesterday. “We learned something last year [in defeat] and we learned something bigger this year.”

I’m not sure that sober assessment was at Mike Green’s disposal in the timeframe demanded by media last week, but I for one am glad he offered us this and a good deal many more thoughtful reflections a few days later. I think it was worth waiting for.    

It was wise for Green to decompress for three or four days, to collect himself and deal with demons that he said yesterday had him thinking about “breaking stuff.” The alternative — speaking in the immediacy of emotion-saturating defeat and not from composure and reflection – aids media deadlines but ill informs readers and viewers.  

Increasingly today, due to the prominence of sports in our culture, more and more athletes are media trained. The first rule of media training is: do no harm with your utterances. But the shortcoming of it is that jocks deliver oratory in vending machine rote and routine. And comparable nutrition. To wit, Sidney Crosby. I interviewed him once at Verizon Center a few years back. Nice kid and all, but boy was he programmed. There was no clipped sporting cliche he couldn’t feed you. He has softened up a wee bit over the years, it seems, but he’ll never be Fuzzy Zoeller.   

Anyway, the Capitals do have some thoughtful players who are uncommonly generous with their time, Mike Green most certainly among them. In fact, Capitals PR staff were quick to note on Twitter last Friday that Greener fulfilled as many if not more media requests in 2009-10 than any other member of the team. I enjoyed most listening to Mike Knuble in the postgame this past season. He’s uniquely thoughtful, and uncommonly patient with the press. Often after a sizable press contingent broke huddle around him at his locker and minutes later a young and unknowing blogger would freshly inquite of him, Knuble would treat the new media interviewer as if the questions were the most important he’d addressed. I saw this regularly with the right wing.   

But to get back to Green, the furor late last week out at Kettler and especially on Twitter seemed to stem from a haughty conviction that not only was Green derelict in his media duty but that by virtue of it the vast hockey consuming public in town was scandalized. A lead storyline was denied! To this line of thinking I would respond,  please read last Friday’s Washington Post and the extraordinary, must-read analysis of the Caps undertaken there by Thomas Boswell. Fourteen hundred or so engrossing words of post mortem by Boz, and not a single one of them aided by the utterances of Mike Green. And Boz wrote in big-picture style on the Caps again on Saturday, again without the benefit of any insight from Green. How did Boz pull this off?

Maybe his hierarchy of organizational feedback went something like mine would — the coach, the GM, the captain, even the owner. Having Greener would have been nice, but it wasn’t necessary to construct a big-picture portrait of the Caps this offseason. So why all the bellyaching from the press?

Because last Friday there was a common storyline for them to pursue — scapegoating, to a degree, the Caps’ no. 1 defenseman. One member of the media even brazenly acknowledged it — Green, he said on Twitter, had to “face the music.” The media wanted its pound of flesh. Green wasn’t ready for the encounter. He waited, composed himself over the weekend, and on Monday gave the press instead a lot of time and a lot of introspection.    

That the media in such a situation might possess an outsized sense of entitlement is not news. What was disappointing to me was the in-kind reactions of some new media peeps, who huffed and puffed in chorus on Twitter.

It is uniquely new media over the past decade or so that has in shimmering fashion highlighted the limitations of jockspeak in game coverage and analyis. Instead of shuffling off to locker rooms to accumulate jock-talk they wrote analyses based on what they saw with their eyes. During the hockey season I’m regularly seated among some amazing analytical sets of eyes for this game, and while I don’t discount the theoretical value that game participants can bring to game coverage, there is also the competing reality, brought about by media deadlines, of their being too close to the action to process it thoughtfully, reflectively, in the immediacy of the moment.

Another question: Is every pro athlete, or at least those exceptionally well remunerated, obligated to speak to the media at the end of games or playoff series? A team’s captain, we’d probably agree, yes. A player who dropped the fly ball with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, allowing the tying and winning runs to score? Yeah, probably. But in the context of what needed to be written late last week about the Capitals, media in D.C. had ample and quality reflection from the team architects, its owner, and its captain, in timely fashion. Less arrogance and a sense of entitlement from them in such moments might lead more athletes to choose the wiser reflective path, the one Mike Green chose. And coverage would be better for it.



8 Comments

  1. I felt much the same over the seeming indignation of much of the media over the supposed ‘snubbing’. There is nothing worse than a sense of entitlement in any facet of life and career.

    I’m glad to see someone taking time to get away from the usual ‘We went out there and gave 110%’, even if it might take a few extra days to get to it. Players have so much more to say than the team talking points, if only they could have time to let to words find their way. There is nothing more grating than to hear a reporter ask ‘What was going through your mind when you made that play’.

    Great post Pucks.

    4 May, 2010 at 9:13 am | Permalink
  2. Wally wrote:

    While I can appreciate Mike’s taking the time to compose his thoughts, he DID have a responsibility to speak after game 7. Why? Beacuse he …

    1) is the #1 defenseman on a Stanley Cup contender.
    2) is a two-time Norris trophy finalist.
    3) was responsible for the all-important first goal in game 7 as a result of his ill advised penalty.
    4) was responsible for the second (read: game/series-winner) goal by making a poor play in his own end.

    I think that makes him fair game for questions in the aftermath of game 7.

    4 May, 2010 at 9:47 am | Permalink
  3. Season ticket holder wrote:

    Hogwash!

    He could have simply had the PR guys say that Mike will meet the press next week. Instead, he looked like a spoiled rich kid with hurt feelings.

    The media is the conduit which the players can talk to the fans… and he turned his back on us.

    Do you think we were not upset? We spend our hard earned money on tickets and jerseys that go to help pay his fat paycheck.

    Perhaps the media is not owed a visit, but those who help pay his salary are.

    4 May, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink
  4. Geo wrote:

    Green going into a Jim Mora-style tirade that “I suck, we suck, we all sucked!” wouldn’t have done any good I suppose or quelled the fan rage.

    But I agree that everybody else sucked it up and faced the music, and obviously nobody else was in a good mood either. Even Ovy (I’m sure he took the series loss as hard as anyone), even poor Tom Poti who probably should have been resting from his facial surgery, were there. Even if just for the sake of showing solidarity with his teammates, Greener should’ve been there imho. :)

    otoh, I know lots of head coaches (Mora and Denny Green among them) who would’ve loved to have taken a couple days before talking to the media about a devastating loss. :)

    4 May, 2010 at 11:38 am | Permalink
  5. zamboni_driver wrote:

    Players don’t have any obligation to speak to reporters ever, unless there’s a league rule. Why would you want to stand around after the most disappointing game of your life and listen to some self-righteous moron ask you such insightful questions like “How do you feel right now?” and “What went wrong out there?”. Post-game interviews tend to be horrible because of the questions, not the answers.

    Also, Boswell has never written anything “must-read” in his life, let alone about the Caps. He was able to write 1400 words about something that he knows nothing about because, just like the athletes, sports columnists are better at spitting out cliches and platitudes than they are at doing actual analysis. (*cough*Wilbon*cough*)

    4 May, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Permalink
  6. Sonja wrote:

    STH … get over yourself. He talked two days later. He took time to compose himself, reflect and have something of value to say. Honestly … no one on this earth owes anyone, least of all the freakin’ media, any words at any time if they don’t want to talk. It’s actually the sign of a mentally healthy individual that he decided the when and the where. Would that Boudreau and Ovechkin did the same. Perhaps the media (and the fans) would then have proper sense of their place in the world rather than the overweening pride and cravening desire for more and more.

    4 May, 2010 at 6:42 pm | Permalink
  7. John L wrote:

    As the third highest paid player and a ‘young gun’ with the Caps, Green has a responsibility to answer the questions after Game 7 – his turning tail just represents immaturity both on and off the ice. Let’s put this in perspective, if you fail at a task in your job, does your boss give you four days to ‘collect your thoughts’? No. He should be mature about the situation and admit his mistakes. The guy is a flake, pure and simple. He parties way too much and does not practice or hone his game. He needs a wake up call, not a break to hide in a cave when the game shows how bad a defenseman he really is.

    6 May, 2010 at 12:27 am | Permalink
  8. Brett wrote:

    Perhaps he needs to stop partying and getting drunk the nights before home playoff games. He was out living it up with friends until 5 am the night before game 5 and game 7. Green needs to rethink his priorities.

    6 May, 2010 at 11:10 am | Permalink