Matt Duda: Players, coaches should become reporters themselves



Players, coaches should become reporters themselves
by Matt Duda

It had to happen sooner or later.

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 it.

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 after.”

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 interviewer’s wife.

It would be a classic story of the hunter becoming the hunted. A story that Rusty Tillman would likely enjoy.

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