Shannon Sharpe of CBS Sports was shocked and appalled that New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick would dare to avoid his network’s sideline reporters following the team’s AFC Championship Game loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night.
There’s something to be said about being gracious in defeat. We’ve seen the New England Patriots five times in the last 12 years be victorious [in the AFC championship game). We've seen the opposing coaches who lost come out and talk to our Steve Tasker. Coach [Bill] Cowher did it when they lost to them, we saw this last week. Bill Belichick makes it real easy for you to root against the Patriots. You can’t be a poor sport all the time. You’re not going to win all the time, and he does this every time he loses. It’s unacceptable.
Sharpe’s comments might have carried more weight if even a single viewer of Sunday evening’s NFL coverage noticed that Belichick wasn’t interviewed. Or if, for once – just once – something of any interest to anyone was to be asked of a head coach following a football game. Instead, Belichick revealed himself to be one of the 7 billion people on earth who don’t enjoy talking about their failures, and for this Sharpe, in the parlance of our times, called him out.
I understand that sports are entertainment, and that television networks pay a lot of money for the rights to broadcast sporting events, and as part of the price paid for these rights, there’s an expectation of participation from coaches. So, you could make an argument that part of Belichick’s job, as Head Coach of the New England Patriots of the National Football League, is to speak with a television reporter after the game.
However, no one missed out on anything when Belichick opted not to supply the typical stock of bull**** answers to the pedantic questions that plague these post-game interview scenarios. In fact, the only reason this is even a topic of discussion is because of Sharpe’s criticisms following the game. In the NFC Chapionship Game, San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t fulfil his obligation to speak with the FOX broadcast. Since none of the hosts attempted to use his absence as an opportunity to promote themselves, few were actually aware that there was even supposed to be an interview.
Are sports fans today not savvy enough to get by without the cliche-riddled meanderings of media-trained head coaches following a game? What exactly was the CBS interviewer going to discover from speaking with a distraught Belichick? That he was, I don’t know, upset about the loss?
What insights are ever gathered from this dated process? I would hazard a guess that the only time the vast majority of viewers take note of an interview like the one that Belichick avoided is when the coach reacts like a bear that’s been poked with a stick once too often. In these instances though, the media themselves are the catalyst for the response. It’s hardly the recording of an unprovoked, natural moment.
What keeps the National Football League relevant is the public’s interest in the game and the relatively small cost that a lot of people can pay to satisfy their curiosity over seeing who the best is at a particular game. Yes, a television broadcast can certainly shape and bend that interest, but their relationship to the game itself is like a waiter’s to what he’s serving.
Think of the workers of the National Football League, from players to coaches to executives, as a highly skilled chef at a popular restaurant. In this allegory, the meals being created creates are the games and the resulting stories that come from the games. The broadcaster then acts as the server, delivering plates of food to the customer and facilitating their enjoyment.
If, from time to time, the waiter doesn’t feel as though he’s getting enough information from the chef to properly deliver that plate of food to the customer, it’s too bad, but the chef owes nothing to the server. While a waiter is necessary for delivering the food, there are always a stack of resumes in the chef’s office from eager applicants wanting to fill that position. And it’s far easier to replace the waiter than it is the chef, as long as technically, the waiter is paying to be the server of the chef’s production, which is what’s happening in football’s relationship with its broadcasters.