KRAVITZ: Why I hate post-game press conferences (How The Sausage Is Made)

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James drives to the basket against Indiana Pacers' Myles Turner in the first half of Game 7 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 29, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
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KRAVITZ: Why I Hate Post-Game Press Conferences (How The Sausage Is Made)

After every NBA Finals game, TV turns shortly thereafter to the post-game press conferences. You've seen them, I'm sure. Reporters raise their hands (which is infantilizing), some intern comes by with a boom mic, you give your name and affiliation and ask your brilliant, penetrating question.

I've been a part of roughly 20,000 press conferences in my long and misbegotten life, and I can honestly say, I hate them. Hate everything about them. Hate the concept of them.

They are, unfortunately, a required part of the news-gathering process because major players, like LeBron James, Steph Curry, James Harden and others are only available in the press-conference setting. The rest of the athletes can be found in the locker room, which is a much more palatable and informative set-up, even if you sometimes find yourself getting hit upside the head by cameras in the cramped area.

I hate press conferences for a couple of reasons:

One is, it makes the media look bad, at least sometimes, and heaven knows, the media has a bad rap these days.

Two, you rarely get anything insightful out of them, with coaches and athletes resorting to empty platitudes and well-worn clichés.

On the first issue, yes, it makes the media look like a bunch of dolts. Sometimes we ask questions fully anticipating the obvious answer ("How big was that Curry three-ball late in the third quarter?), Sometimes we ask non-questions ("Talk about the J.R. Smith brain cramp late in the game"). Seriously, anybody who asks a "talk about'' question should be summarily flogged

It should also be noted that on night games, the print media is back in the press room, hammering away at their computers on deadline, perhaps listening to the press conference from afar. So that leaves the TV guys, who are looking for a sound bite, or the radio guys, who want roughly the same things, with a smattering of digital folks asking the kinds of questions that print guys would want answered (hopefully).

Now and then, press conferences can be revealing – especially when it involves someone like James or another athlete or coach who is media-savvy and willing to share some insights – but by and large, they are an exercise in empty palaver.

My favorite question is always, "What adjustments did you make in the second half?'' Seriously, the subject isn't going to tell you what the adjustments were, and even if he/she did, you likely wouldn't understand. That's especially true in football, which is a wildly complicated game that is filled with minor adjustments and nuances. I recall a night when former Carmel coach Kevin Wright gave me full access to his team on a night they played Warren Central, and at halftime, he made adjustments that might as well have been in Mandarin. When it comes to football, unless you've played at a relatively high level – meaning college, at the very least – it's darned near impossible to fully comprehend the small changes a coach makes from possession to possession.

When I report, I want to be in the locker room and I want, to the degree that it's possible, to be one-on-one with the athlete. A lot of times, I'll watch the group ask their questions, then linger, sidle up to the subject and get more insight for my column. For me, an interview should be a conversation and not an interrogation. Press conferences might as well feature Torquemada. I understand their necessity – you can't have 100 reporters gathering around LeBron's locker after the game – but the subject doesn't want to be there, the athlete doesn't want to be there and, generally speaking, the media doesn't want to be there.

Sometimes, these things go terribly wrong. Like the other night, ESPN's Mark Schwarz asked James a number of times about Smith's blunder near the end of regulation in Game 1, and James, who answered the question early, had enough and walked off – which is quite unusual for him.

Then there was this cringe-worthy give-and-take at the French Open with Serena Williams. For the record, this is real. Which makes me want to give up my press pass.

Reporter: I know you want to get back to (baby) Olympia; work with me here, please.

Williams: Work with me (smiling).

Reporter: We're in this together, baby.

Williams. No, we're not; you not going home to a screaming baby.

Reporter: I've been waiting about 14 years to ask you this question. After the 2004 Wimbledon match with Maria (Sharapova), I had the opportunity to interview Donald Trump on his LA golf course, and he said that Maria's shoulders were incredibly alluring and then he came up with this incredible analysis: That you were intimidated by her super-model good looks. My question is, have you ever been intimdated by anyone on a tennis court, and what are your thoughts about that occurrence?

Williams: I honestly don't have any thoughts about that. I can't say I have been intimidated by anyone. That's all. That's it.

That is astonishing in its stupidity.

If you've been in this business long enough, and I have, you've had your press conference moments, some good and some bad.

I can still remember the scene after a Big Ten Tournament championship basketball game. IU led Iowa with a couple of minutes to go, but the Hawkeyes came back late and won. Well, the tournament organizers asked the media for their all-tournament team with about five minutes remaining, at which point, IU was winning by a decent margin. So the all-tournament team had more Hoosiers than it did Hawkeyes.

Moments later, then-Iowa coach Steve Alford came to the podium, saw the all-tournament team, and took several shots at the media for their wrong-headedness.

I wasn't having it.

"Steve, the all-tournament team is selected with five minutes left in the game, and at that point, your team was trailing,'' I told him.

Alford stared a hole through my foreheadhead. "Well, even if you guys had seen the whole game, I'm not sure y'all would have known what you were watching.''

I began to argue back – I'm not going to sit there and take it – but the moderator interrupted.

Another time, I asked then-Kansas State coach Frank Martin what I thought was a pretty innocuous question. His team had just come off a multi-overtime victory and was scheduled to play Butler some 48 hours later. So I asked how he planned to handle his team the next day given the length of the previous game and the relatively quick turnaround.

He went off. I don't remember the precise response, but it was something like, "Yeah, we're going to run them hard. Maybe even a marathon. We don't want them to have any legs for Butler.''

Yeesh.

I always enjoyed press conferences with Bob Knight. Early in my coverage days, he'd decided to make me persona non grata, so I made a point to ask a question at every post-game press conference, knowing that he would look around the room, ignore me and ask, "Anybody else have a question?'' Good times.

Sometimes, though, you mine gold. During one of the Buffalo Bills Super Bowl runs, I was at a press conference with hundreds of other journalists and asked head coach Marv Levy if he'd ever faced any anti-Semitism or any resistance as one of the very rare Jewish coaches in the league. The attendant media groaned audibly. And then Levy gave this long, insightful answer about growing up Jewish in a Christian business, how his father refused to let him use his religion as an excuse for failing to rise to the top, and on and on he went.

Despite the occasional good moment, I hate press conferences.

But that's where a portion of the sausage is made.

And nobody wants to know how the sausage is made, believe me.

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