Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Media Relations Note

What kind of a guy is Bill Belichick? My experience is the answer depends on the day of the week. My experience also is this formula holds true for every coach in the NFL.

Raymond Berry, Dick MacPherson, Bill Parcells, Pete Carroll, and Belichick are as different as men in the same profestion can be, but when it came to assessing their emotional state or using them as sources of information, all you needed was a calender.

Here's the formula. Keep it in mind every time you see a coach on TV or read a quote from the poor guy.

After the game on Sunday: The worst, win or lose but especially lose. The coach can be as laid-back as Tony Dungy or as driven as Belichick, doesn't matter. The coach is toast. He's been through an emotional and intellectual wringer that's likely taken a year off his life. Just exactly what is a coach supposed to say two minutes after a cruncher like the one Belichick went through last Sunday night? The miracle is there aren't many more Jim Mora "playoffs" or Denny Green "crown their asses" meltdowns in post-game press conferences.

Monday: A little better. But that's when coaches get the first injury news of the week, and it's seldom good news.

Tuesday: No media access. Good for both sides.

Wednesday: Big interview day of the week. The coach isn't hostile, but can be terse, as this is "silly sound bite question" day.

Thursday: Much better. The coach is most likely to approach candor on team-related issues.

Friday: Best of all. If one is willing to scrap the search for breaking news and just chew the fat about football, this is when the coach is most likely to resemble a normal human being. It was Friday when Belichick showed reporters his dad's old NFL game films and waxed eloquent on the single wing. It was the Friday before the first Tuna Bowl that Bill Parcells was willing to tell Boston (but not New York!) reporters why the hell he'd kicked the ball to Desmond Howard in Super Bowl XXXI. Parcells went on to explain all the disastrous decisions he'd made in that game. It probably won't surprise you he still defended each and every one.

It doesn't too much insight to see the pattern here. Football coaches are at their most relaxed and informative when they have the time and space to be, when the emotional wrench of the last game is longest past, while the preparation for the next one is nearly complete. They shouldn't be judged by their reactions at the most gruesomely stressful moments of their lives. Asking a coach about a loss like last Sunday's right after it happened is the exact journalistic equivalent of those TV interviews which begin "So how did it feel to come home to a triple homicide?" How the fuck do you think they feel, moron?

The late Will McDonough was one of the best storytellers I ever met, and at a long ago Super Bowl, I was lucky to hear this one from the Globe's ambassador without portfolio to pro football. McDonough, of course, was one of if not the first print reporters to also do network television assignments as well. His first big gig at NBC was a Super Bowl, where McDonough was assigned to do the post-game interview with the losing coach, who was going to be either Joe Gibbs or Don Shula.

At the Saturday meetings with the coaches and star players, McDonough had only one brief request of the two Hall of Fame mentors.

"I want you to ask one thing," McDonough told each man. "When you see me coming, remember this. It wasn't my fault."


Post a Comment

<< Home