Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Ask bad questions, expect bad answers

Most of you know that I'm a part-time sportswriters. What you might not know is that I have a generally low opinion of sportswriters as a class of people. There's a variety of reasons for that and maybe I'll write a book some day, but one of the big reasons is that I think many of them are lazy and this is often reflected in the "questions" they ask. The inquiries that begin with...

  • "Can you talk about..."
  • "Can you take us through..."
  • "Can you describe..."
  • "How about the..."
Keep in mind that they're inquiring about things they saw with their own eyes, which is probably also the case with most people who will have any interest in reading the story in which the resultant fascinating quotes will appear. So why do they do that? Because of the belief that it makes the story more "real", like by hearing one of the athletes involved tell you about it, you're seeing it from the player's point of view. The problem is that's not what happens, as everyone involved knows it's redundant and silly and the resultant answers end up being not fascinating, but canned, cliched, tedious and sometimes downright surly. I never, ever ask those kinds of "questions", preferring instead to write about what happened instead of relying on a player's quote to illustrate, again, something we all witnessed.
Recently (actually, a few weeks ago, but this happened just before my recent self-imposed hiatus), Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch got in some trouble because he was bombarded with a series of questions like this and was either too bored or irritated to play nice with the gathered sports media...

 Naturally, the gathered sports media got angry. But it's not like they're going to retaliate by asking better questions. So in my opinion, here's how Marshawn Lynch should have responded...
"Marshawn, can you describe the 79-yard touchdown run?"
"Yes. I was given the ball 79 yards away from the goal line and I started running. When I stopped, I was 79 yards away from where I had started running and had scored a touchdown. Our opponents, the Arizona Cardinals, did not want me to run 79 yards and score a touchdown and attempted to tackle me to prevent that from happening. But they were unable to do that."
"How about the stomach issue, early in the game."
"I had a stomach issue early in the game, during which my stomach did not feel well. Then I felt better. If someone had asked early on if I felt well enough to run 79 yards for a touchdown, my answer would have been no. Later in the game, my condition improved enough that I was able to run 79 yards for a touchdown. "
"Can you describe how it feels to score a 79-yard touchdown?"
"Yes. It feels good. It feels better than scoring a 75-yard touchdown, which is three times better than scoring a 25-yard touchdown. Probably not quite as good as scoring an 80-yard touchdown, though. But that's purely speculation as I've never done that. I guess the ultimate would be scoring a 100-yard touchdown because that's the length of an entire football field. I'm sure that feels very good. Some day, if it ever happens, I will tell you, because I know you'll ask about it."

Something tells me that those sportswriters would still be angry, though.

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