23 January 2011

The Sports Interview

How to be uniquely predictable 
Do you think you can take the win today? Does anyone ever answer no to this question?
Same questions, different outcome, same answers. That is the Sports Interview. Practice the stance, the tone, the responses, the balanced enthusiasm. Do not reveal too much. Never say anything bad about a sponsor, coach, or teammate. Always say you are ready to win, and tried your best after losing. Be slightly arrogant. Always say you will win next time or say something nice about the losers. Always thank the fans and everyone who contributed to your personal glory as far back as your first grade teacher. 
The Sports Interview is a learned skill. I am certain I just spent my time watching a unique game or stage, but the interviews afterward are all the same. It leaves me thinking I just deja-vu'ed the last 3 hours.
Why didn't you win today?
Matt White was sacked today as directeur sportif for Garmin-Cervelo. The article was standard, the interviews were standard, no one said anything bad about anyone, no one really told the truth. I learned nothing. Bridges are too short in the world of sports to ever burn bridges so tightly strung together. I always questioned why Matt White was in a leadership position for Garmin in the first place. Whenever I'd watch the team's strategy talks in the back of the bus prior to a stage start, there was a awkwardness between the riders and Matt White. But I will never know if what I perceived was true or why Matt White was fired today. No one talks. 
I love my team. I love the management. I love the fans. 
Same old responses. I am happy with this (highly dysfunctional) team, I am happy riding for my (less talented) teammate, using the team sponsored equipment (regardless of fit). I happy handing my bike to my teammate or carrying his food for 7 km up a climb, I am happy giving up the win for a teammate while worrying about my own pro contract next year knowing I only have another 4 years in the sport to make my own mark. But I will remain positive and predictable in every Sports Interview. Because I am paid to do so. Perhaps that is the true discipline of an athlete.
I recently attended a cycling team launch party in Denver. I watched Dave Towle introduce and interview each rider. He made them seem unique. Dave Towle is very good at what he does, but he needs the athletes to give a little during the interview to make it somewhat interesting. I remember watching Neal Rogers of VeloNews interview David Zabriskie at the Tour de France a few years back, Rogers unleashed a much too planned out 10 sentence long question to Zabriskie packed full of facts and then paused expecting an insightful response. Zabriskie gave him 3 words and looked at Rogers with a smirk. Nose dive.

It is tricky from both sides of the interview, here Mark Cavendish gives back a little attitude at a "silly question" by an interviewer (in the video on this page) Video: Cavendish ready for sprints at Tour of Qatar By: Cycling News

Chris Horner comfortably chatting at the Tour of California is Palmdale, CA in 2010
Please say something different - please
I wish the Sports Interview was a bit more unpredictable. That is why I like Mark Cavendish, Jens Voigt, Chris Horner, and Mario Cipollini. They are Characters and not predictable, somehow managing to both ask and answer questions with true individual style, not like well trained professional football, baseball, hockey, or golf stars. It is refreshing, and worth my time to listen to them. The rest is just filler. I accept I may never know the real facts, but I wish it didn't waste my time. 
The battle is good
Battle and controversy in sport is what keeps the fan interested. I liked the battles between Cavendish and Greipel, Armstrong and Contador, Armstrong and Pantani, Cipollini and the Peloton:

What is your strategy against Cavendish today? Greipel: Wait until I'm on a different team and take him out.
What is your strategy against Contador today? Armstrong: Show him no support until his pistols don't fire and he is accused of doping.
What is your strategy against Pantani today? Armstrong: no gifts!
What is your strategy in the race today? Copollini: I intend to win and will grind it out till the end with machismo.

What is your strategy against Matt White today? Jonathan Vaughters: If he won't wear loafers and argyle - he's fired!

I think I will start posting when I see a good interview/video.  They are rare. But when an interview is good, it is well worth my time. 

My brother just sent me this scene script from the movie Bull Durham:
Crash Davis: It's time to work on your interviews. 
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: My interviews? What do I gotta do? 
Crash Davis: You're gonna have to learn your clichés. You're gonna have to study them, you're gonna have to know them. They're your friends. Write this down: "We gotta play it one day at a time." 
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Got to play... it's pretty boring. 
Crash Davis: 'Course it's boring, that's the point. Write it down.

Post post follow-up 04/04/11: some smack talk from Dave Zabriskie, he could be talking about any sport in this oddball interview video by DZ