Before free agency and big money ruined professional baseball, I was a devoted fan of the game, during which time I developed tolerance and even affection for outstanding athletes who could barely put two words together when interviewed. Reporters used to handle this situation with softball (no pun intended) questions such as “What’s it like to play in front of these fans?” and “Are you excited to be in the playoffs?”. You don’t have to say a lot to meet the interviewing standard in baseball. After all, this is a sport in which former Detroit Tiger Al Kaline was gainfully employed as a color commentator because he could dispense wisdom along the lines of “He swung at the ball and hit it and that’s what you have to do in this league”.
Sitting at an airport watching ESPN just now, I observed that some sports interviews have now (d)evolved to not even be interviews at all. Rather, the journalist essentially instructs the athlete what to say, not even bothering to end each utterance with a questioning tone. The below is only a slight parody of these exchanges:
Reporter: Talk about how this team has really come together.
Athlete: This team has come together so well, it’s great to see.
Reporter: Tell us about how good Coach Smith is for the rookies on this team.
Athlete: Coach Smith, you know, is just great with these young rookies on the team.
Because they are largely repeating the words which they have been cued to utter by the “question”, the athletes are adding no value to these interviews, and that’s economically wasteful given that they make thousands of dollars a minute. I propose instead Mortimer Snerd dolls for each tongue-tied, marble mouthed, or otherwise interview-challenged star athlete. The journalist would simply sit behind the doll (which would be wearing the appropriate uniform and equipment) and make it say whatever he or she wanted. Economically, it’s double plus good: more efficient interviews, valuable athlete time saved and great merchandising opportunities created.