Thursday, January 26, 2012

Say What?

TigerBlog hates when he listens to interviews where the person asking the questions is clearly reading off a script and therefore isn’t able to adjust to the way the conversation is going.

This happens all the time. The person being interviewed takes the question to a different tangent, one that suggests a rather obvious follow-up. And what does the interviewer do? Asks the next pre-determined question, which has nothing to do with where the conversation was going.

TigerBlog has been interviewing people for nearly 30 years now, and he feels like he’s pretty good at it. At the least, he’s decent.

When TB was covering high school sports, interviews consisted of exchanges such as:
“How did you think your team did?”
“I’m really proud of how hard the kids played.”

Somewhere along the line, TB graduated to doing interviews during games on the radio, first while working on the student station at Penn, which was actually pretty good experience.

During most of his time doing Princeton games on the radio, TigerBlog was responsible for doing the halftime interviews, which was fine with him. He’d just look around for a guest and usually just have a conversation with the person, with no preparation in advance.

Sometimes the person he was talking to would be finishing up a particular answer while TB scrambled for another question, but he always came up with someone.

As an aside, the only person who ever turned down TB’s interview request was the late journalist Robert Novak, who sat courtside for a Princeton-Maryland game.

Anyway, most people are rarely either interviewers or interviewed, but it’s something TigerBlog sort of takes for granted. He is rarely the interviewed and almost always the interviewer, to the point of maybe 99.9% the latter and 0.1% the former.

One of the times that TB was interviewed was a few weeks ago, when a reporter from the Harvard Crimson called and wanted to talk about whether or no Princeton’s Department of Athletics had any policies to either limit or monitor the social networking done by its athletes.

TB’s answer was simple: “No.”

When asked why that was the case, TB’s answer sparked this exchange:

TB: “How old are you?”
Kid from Crimson: “18.”
TB: “If someone tried to tell you what to do, what would you do?”
Kid from Crimson: “The opposite.”

TigerBlog thought back to that when he saw on the news earlier this week a story about how Villanova University’s Department of Athletics had hired an outside company to keep tabs on the Twitter and Facebook posts of Wildcat athletes.

This is a complex issue at this point in time, when Twitter especially has become the primary way that people communicate their opinions, as opposed to when it used be done through interviews.

Because of how easy it is to set up a Twitter account and then say basically anything a person wants (in 140 characters or less, of course), the potential for saying the wrong thing is omnipresent.

Just look at the case of high school football player Yuri Wright, who lost out on several scholarship offers and was expelled from New Jersey’s Don Bosco Prep for racially and sexually explicit Tweets (though he did make a commitment to attend Colorado).

Or the case of Lehigh wide receiver Ryan Spadola, who was suspended for the NCAA quarterfinals (which Lehigh lost to eventual-champion North Dakota State) not even for what he wrote on Twitter but for what he forwarded.

So what is an athletic department to do?

Well, the best advice TB can give is to educate the athletes on what can happen and then hope they listen. To mandate rules or to censor? It’s not going to go over well.

Of course, the advice of "be smart" encompasses all kinds of things.

There are the obvious issues about staying away from the profane and the inappropriate. There are NCAA compliance issues. There are team issues. There are competitive advantage issues.

Ultimately, the main reason not to have a firm policy about any of this stuff is that it won't really matter in the long run anyway. Either the athletes are going to take the advice or they're not.

TigerBlog can't remember any issues that have come up to date at Princeton on this subject, or at least anything that caused a problem that even came close to rivaling the cases of Wright and Spadola.

Clearly, the potential is there for a similar situation. All it would take is a lapse in judgement by an 18- to 22-year old to start the ball rolling.

Is it going to happen one day?


Would imposing huge restrictions on the athletes stop it?

Not a chance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice Essay, TB. Do you recall the NCAA enforcement action against the University of NC football team last spring? According to the NCAA, UNC "failed to monitor social media." This was an infraction cited by the NCAA!! I am aghast at this presumption by the NCAA. Are you ready for some covert ops and surreptitious monitoring? Indianapolis is watching you...