It had to happen sooner
As NY/NJ coach Rusty Tillman trudged toward the
locker room shortly after the Hitmen’s 18-12
loss to Orlando Sunday, UPN sideline reporter
Michael Barkann blindsided him with the obvious
how’s-it-feel-to-be-0-3 type of question.
“Get outta my face,” snapped the pissed-off
Tillman as the camera zoomed into his crimson
mug. Barkann could merely roll his eyes
and search for the next subject to tackle.
It took three weeks before the XFL saw its first
explicit rejection of a sideline interview.
True, Rashaan Salaam quietly buried his face in
a towel when questioned about his fumble that
found its way into Las Vegas’ end zone during
Week 2. There’ve also been the occasional
players unable to respond to interviews while
talking on the sideline phone or after being
summoned back onto the field. But this was the
first instance of a reporter being told to shove
And it’s about time.
Not that I don’t like the on-the-spot
reporting that is an XFL trademark. Having
cameras and microphones everywhere has provided
some insightfully entertaining moments like
Tommy Maddox’s frustrated ranting about the
Xtreme kicking game during Week 2. The next day,
then-starting Hitmen quarterback Charles Puleri
shot back at the scathing hometown crowd during
NY/NJ’s loss to Birmingham in Week 2. “You
can keep booing. I love it baby,” he taunted.
“I’ll be back next week and the week
Aside from the few exceptions, XFL players have
so far nonchalantly answered questions during
the game with little negative emotion despite
being confronted with invasive and antagonistic
inquiries. But let’s be honest here. Players
and coaches don’t like reporters. Reporters
are nosy, relentless, sometimes rude, and
occasionally vicious. All it takes is one bad
encounter with the media to imprint a lasting
hatred for the profession. With the number of
times these players and coaches have given
interviews – from their days as high school
stars up through the college and pro ranks –
chances are there’s at least a handful of
thuggish reporters they’d like to see squashed
by a cement truck.
With the XFL’s emphasis on intensity, why
should players hold back their true feelings and
response to these interviews on the sideline?
Perhaps the league could call in Jim Everett to
lead a seminar for players on how to deal with
the media. During a 1996 interview, Everett
fulfilled a dream held by many pro athletes. Fed
up at being referred to as Chris – as in
women’s pro tennis star Chris Evert – the
veteran NFL quarterback shoved ESPN2’s Jim
Rome out of his chair.
Naturally, I’m not suggesting that a player
should smack Mike Adamle when the NBC roving
reporter asks about a costly turnover. But
wouldn’t you love to see that player calmly
respond to a reporter’s question then return
his own? Imagine how a reporter, so used to
asking and not accustomed to answering, would
react to having his manhood called into debate.
Or maybe a player would prefer to look into the
camera and give a heartfelt greeting to the
It would be a classic story of the hunter
becoming the hunted. A story that Rusty Tillman
would likely enjoy.