One of the most challenging aspects of sportscasting has to be dealing with coaches. If there is a bigger ‘chalk and cheese’ in sports media, I’m not aware of it. Sportscasters want the inside information whereas coaches want to ensure a bubble around their team and players and while on many occasions these two sides work together to achieve a common goal, there are times where everything goes awry.
Canadian hockey sportscaster Eric Blow had this exact situation crop following a tough incident during a game in late 2017 with a heavy hit in a game he was calling.
— Eric Blow (@EricBlow92) November 27, 2017
Following the incident, Blow reached out to the opposing coach in an effort to speak ahead of a return game a week or so later, however he wasn’t sure how to handle the interview given what had happened. He emailed Sportscaster Life to get some advice on how to handle a difficult situation when it comes to coaches interviews.
Here’s the response I gave:
I personally would stick to the facts. Get him to run you through the incident from his vantage point. That gives him the opportunity to say “we don’t want to play that way, etc”. Then follow that up with a question about managing emotions. The players are teenagers and managing emotions in a tense situation like that (I don’t know what led up to that particular part) can be a challenge, ask him about how he manages that with his playing group.
Then from there talk about moving forward. You say they’re playing on the 5th, do you have more matchups? Ask about what message has been sent to the players ahead of Tuesday’s game, playing the game, not this after whistle stuff. Then ask about adjustments the team will have to make without that player for 7 (or less if they play this weekend).
There’s definitely an interview there, it’s just about not injecting yourself into it. Stick to what happened in very factual terms (avoid words like vicious, cheap, etc), allow him to tell his side, then ask on things that will impact the game on the 5th.
Unfortunately Eric’s follow-up interview didn’t pan out very well, as he emailed this a week or so later:
I guess I read a little too much into what that coach was offering to tell me. He only gave me a couple minutes after warmups so I was pressed for time before my pregame show. Despite using your tips and questions he continually deflected them and just preached that the team was moving forward and that the ‘media’ were the ones keeping it alive (pretty sure that was a dig at me). It wasn’t much of an ‘insider’ interview, and essentially became just another predictable pregame interview.
So what do you think about these types of situations? How do you handle interviews with coaches following dramatic events in your game? How do you try and walk that line between getting information and playing nice?