Calling the Shots: Athletes lose respect for the media

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www.sports.yahoo.com

New York Rangers coach John Tortorella gives a bored and careless look to the media after losing game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Devils.

Brett Fishbin, Senior Sports Editor

Sports generally do not change much. A football field has always been 100 yards, and a free throw has always been fifteen feet.

In the early 1900’s, baseball players would arrive at the park, knowing they would play at least nine innings of ball, or perhaps a few extras if the game remained tied.

However, in our technologically expanding society, the culture that surrounded these traditions has revolutionized several times. Those 1900’s ballplayers had the pressure of 20,000 or so observers, and maybe a few newspaper writers. Now, athletes and coaches are faced with overwhelming attention from the media and the knowledge that everything they do or say will be immediately broadcast and seen by millions.

While this pressure is understandable, a troubling trend has arisen. Athletes and coaches have lost respect for the media. Think of it from a player’s perspective: you just lost a huge playoff game and all you really want to do is go home and try to think about something else for a few hours.

Then, like a choreographed dance in a Broadway musical, fifty sharks in suits appear from stage left, armed with cameras, microphones, and credentials. It is easy to understand why a star athlete or coach may look at them with disrespect, but it doesn’t mean that it is not a problem.

Athletes and coaches do not have normal jobs; they are paid to be entertainers, meant to provide stress relief (ironically) and entertainment to the busy lives of normal citizens.

Because of this, it is their duty to cooperate with the media and answer questions that fans want to hear. They need to do it not for the aggressive ESPN reporter, but for the fans.

Let’s look at an example. The New York Rangers, engaged in a tight playoff series with the New Jersey Devils, are coached by John Tortorella.

While Tortorella is known as a terrific hockey coach, he is often criticized for his media shenanigans. Earlier in the season, he showed disrespect in a variety of ways, ranging from ranting about someone’s cell phone going off, to answering questions that had not even been asked. More recently, he has given even less. After each (reasonable) question asked, a typical Tortorella response is “Yes,” “No Answer,” “We’ll keep that in the room,” or simply “No.”

While some were amused by his act, I truly believe that it is an embarrassment, not only to him, but to the team as a whole.

Why is a hockey coach entitled to deem himself superior to something that may be important to fans? Even from a humanistic perspective, Tortorella should understand that the media is simply doing its job.

This is certainly not an isolated incident. In 2005, Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers was frequently questioned about the alleged use of illicit pine tar. After dodging such questions for much of the season, Rogers eventually erupted and shoved two cameramen.

After one kept filming, he then shoved him again, and threw and kicked the camera. While Rogers was eventually reprimanded for the incident, it was another instance of a recurring superiority complex demonstrated by sports figures.

Another similar incident occurred, concerning former Yankees pitcher Randy Johnson when he screamed at a cameraman repeatedly to get out of his face.

I could continue to provide countless examples, but the point has been made. Athletes and coaches should realize that just because they are physically gifted, they are not exempt from respecting others.

The media can certainly be overwhelming and aggressive, but they are there to serve the fans, the very people who make men like Tortorella, Rogers, and Johnson matter at all.