Thursday, November 3, 2011

Media Day

Ah, the press conference. In the world of sports communications, it's supposed to be a fairly big deal.

Here at Princeton, it used to be, at least.

TigerBlog remembers being at one in 1992, the night Princeton clinched its fourth straight Ivy men's basketball title. There, in the Caldwell Field House lounge, came this exchange:

Writer - So, you're a senior, and you won, and that's four in a row, and you've never not won, and now you're going to the tournament and you were the favorite and now you go out with another title.

Sean Jackson - I'm sorry. Did you ask me a question?

That's one situation that comes up often in the press conference/interview situation. The non-question question.

Basically, the interviewer makes a declarative statement, leaving it up to the person being interviewed to nod their head, say "yeah" or "well" and then elaborate.

TigerBlog has been in a zillion press conferences, and he find them an odd setting. In the front of the room is a player or coach, and then there are a bunch of people who furiously scribble down every word that is said, even though 99% of the time nothing is said.

One of TB's favorite press conference moments came when Princeton was in Hawaii for the 1998 Rainbow Classic. There was this exchange:

Hawaiian writer - Coach, it seems like everyone on your team can shoot the three-pointer.

Bill Carmody - That's how we play. Everyone has to be able to shoot. Our center can shoot threes. [pausing to look to his right and pointing at TigerBlog]. Our SID can shoot threes.

Pete Carril could turn press conferences into standup comedy routines, sermons, eulogies, sociology lectures or anything else.

Bill Tierney could talk for 100 years at a press conference and never once say anything bad about any player, official, spectator, event, world leader or anything - other than himself, for whom he blamed for anything that ever went wrong.

Your average run-of-the-mill press conference features someone who walks in while distributing stats or something and without stopping says "up front we have coach so-and-so and the following players." Usually, the coach will make an opening statement, something along the lines of "it was a great game."

For bigger-time press conferences, there will be place-cards with the attendees' names on them, as well as a moderator. If you're looking for the Hall-of-Fame greatest moderator of all time, it's TB-Baltimore, who simply owns the room when he does it.

When TB was a sportswriter, he hardly paid attention during press conferences and he almost never asked a question. Why go down a specific path of questions with everyone there if you want to write about a topic that you don't want to give away at the time?

Instead, TB would until after and then go for the one-on-one interview, even the brief one on the walk back to the locker room.

When TB was the men's basketball contact, he decided that the formal structure of the postgame press conference was too much, so he used to bring the coach into the Zanfrini Room first and then bring in two or three players and spread them around the room and let people talk to them one-on-one.

The first few times he did this, nobody realized that TB's point was to simulate an informal locker room setting and that he wanted the writers to get up and walk around to the player they wanted.

Today is basketball media day here at Princeton. These days, TigerBlog is the interim women's basketball contact, until the OAC fills its current opening.

It is Mitch Henderson's first as the head coach, while Courtney Banghart will be entering season No. 5. Both teams begin the 2011-12 season next week, with the women home against St. Joe's Friday night, Nov. 11, and the men home Saturday, Nov. 12, at 5 against Wagner.

Way back when, the goal for media day was to have a few local TV stations here, because TV cameras made it look like a bigger deal.

Media day was also big because the players would be in uniforms for team pictures and because the media guides would be there, so all the players would be browsing. Every year, the local papers would have a picture of three players in uniforms with their shirts out, reading a media guide.

Every year, like clockwork.

This year figures to be way more informal.

Still, as long as there are media people, there will be press conferences, formal and informal.

TB can't remember most of the ones he's been to; the ones he can remember mostly make him laugh out loud.

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