If there’s one thing that any journalist young or old should have – besides a sturdy flask for booze, of course – it’s a recording device of some kind. In fact, if you’re in the business of tracking down juicy quotes, you might as well “bug” yourself with a microphone like an undercover cop (though you should remind your subject that what they’re saying is on the record).
The reason I bring this up is that there’s a common pattern in sports interviewing. It goes a little something like this:
1. Talk show host/journalist asks question that could be harmless or could be a pot-stirring prompt.
2. Player doesn’t think about the deeper implications of what they are saying, gives a provocative quote that: a) is blown out of proportion or b) is totally kept in context because the comment is explosive.
3. Everyone heats up as the controversy boils over.
4. Player denies the comment in some way, typically saying that their comment was taken out of context or something similar.
Steps No. 2 and 4 are especially prevalent in the most recent foot-in-mouth-moment for an NHL player, as Columbus Blue Jackets center Derick Brassard made some comments about the team’s owner that he regrets. That being said, the talented but fragile forward claims that the interview was (gasp) manipulated to squeeze out the maximum amount of controversy.
This situation is typical, except for one bonus point: the interview was conducted in French. Brassard provided his side of the story to the Columbus Dispatch.
Brassard apologized profusely this morning. He could have chosen his words more carefully, Brassard agreed. But he also said the radio station misconstrued his words and inaccurately portrayed his comments when they posted them on their Web page.
“It’s not something I said that I would take back, but it’s something I would do with other words,” Brassard said. “I didn’t express myself well, and the Montreal media … they tried to get a headline of me.”
You can read more about the exact details in that Columbus Dispatch article.
The real lesson here, though, is that players don’t need to operate in a solely cliche-ridden world … but they should choose their words more carefully. My prediction is that this little bit of history will continue to repeat itself over and over again, though.