By Matt Dolloff (@mattdolloff)
BOSTON (CBS) — Professional sports is a highly visible industry. Like politicians and entertainers, athletes and coaches are public figures whose career performances inescapably draw daily coverage for mass consumption. They may draw strong criticism or scrutiny; it’s up to them to ignore the noise.
Sports media can be harsh. Here in Boston, we sports media folk are often as passionate and intense as the fans, and can be unfairly critical or overwhelming to those who stumble or underperform. But some people simply can’t work around that kind of pressure, and instead convince themselves the media is the problem. In Detroit, it seems Lions head coach Jim Caldwell is unwilling to take accountability for his team’s dismal season and deflecting to the “negative” Detroit media – because what do Lions reporters have to be negative about, right?
Some athletes can handle the pressure, and others cannot. Players and coaches are humans after all and reporters tend to tap into the strong, raw emotions fresh in their minds when things go wrong. That’s when tough questions could find them under attack.
Sports media is not infallible – inaccuracies, falsehoods, and straight-up asinine opinions bleed out in sports writing everywhere every day, and athletes and coaches have the right to respond to them. But sometimes they lash out at writers and pundits over mere facts, reporting, or meaningless opinions (to them, anyway) of insufferable talking heads when they’d be better off blocking it all out.
It’s a small reason why Bill Belichick and the Patriots win so much; they are intensely focused on preparation and generally don’t bother fueling the media’s appetite for headlines and page views. And if someone blames media coverage for their problems, it only further proves that they brought their problems on themselves.
Teams don’t have to like speaking to the media, but it’s simply part of the job. They don’t have to care about what we say, either – Tyler Seguin probably doesn’t know who I am, let alone care what I think of him, nor should he. But the people on this list apparently convinced themselves that the media made them miss the shot, drop the ball, or call the play.
Rick Pitino’s Infamous “Negativity” Rant
On March 1, 2000, Rick Pitino’s frustration over the futility of his Celtics slipped off the edge. He stormed into his postgame press conference and delivered an instant classic press conference rant.
When it comes to famous (or infamous) press conference quotes, “Larry Bird is not walking through that door” is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. At that point in history the Celtics had gone nearly 14 years without an NBA Championship – an eternity in Celtics years. Fans and media had grown restless with Pitino stumbling so badly in Boston, especially after the decorated college coach’s success in his previous coaching stint, with the Knicks.
But no, it’s not his own failure, of course. The players aren’t getting enough positivity and support from the fans and media.
Here’s most of the speech:
“Larry Bird is not walking through that door, fans. Kevin McHale is not walking through that door, and Robert Parish is not walking through that door. And if you expect them to walk through that door, they’re going to be gray and old. What we are is young, exciting, hard-working, and we’re going to improve. People don’t realize that, and as soon as they realize those three guys are not coming through that door, the better this town will be for all of us because there are young guys in that (locker) room playing their asses off.
“I wish we had $90 million under the salary cap. I wish we could buy the world. We can’t; the only thing we can do is work hard, and all the negativity that’s in this town sucks. I’ve been around when Jim Rice was booed. I’ve been around when Yastrzemski was booed. And it stinks. It makes the greatest town, greatest city in the world, lousy. The only thing that will turn this around is being upbeat and positive like we are in that locker room…and if you think I’m going to succumb to negativity, you’re wrong.”
Too late, Rick. You just did.
Jim Caldwell Blames ‘Negative’ Detroit Media For Lions’ Ineptitude
The Detroit Lions are 1-7 to start the 2015 season, recently went 0-16, have never played in a Super Bowl, and have not won a playoff game since the 1991 season. So Lions media has a lot of fuel for negativity – something head coach Jim Caldwell apparently doesn’t understand.
When Caldwell called Detroit “the most negative media market he’s ever experienced,” he was right. He previously coached in Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Tampa Bay, where the media weren’t as cynical and the teams generally weren’t as bad. When he coached Wake Forest to a 26-63 record, he barely had to deal with anyone outside of Winston-Salem.
So of course, he was not used to a media market like Detroit, a city with problems that go far beyond sports. When your biggest team is as much of a disaster as the Lions always manage to be, there’s bound to be a negative atmosphere. But Caldwell doesn’t seem to realize that he could make that negativity go away if he, you know, got his team to play better. But that’s not nearly as easy as insinuating that the media’s negativity is affecting the locker room.
Barry Bonds Blames Media For Problems Both On And Off The Field
Barry Bonds was one of the best baseball players of all time, with or without PEDs. But he was also among the most easily unlikable people in the history of the game. He was the ultimate form of the pampered, coddled superstar who felt everyone around him, especially the media, were beneath him because he could hit a ball well. He was as arrogant and condescending as it gets.
As Bonds’ career began to decline in 2004, he told reporters one day that he was “exhausted” not just physically, but mentally from all the scrutiny and coverage of his alleged PED use. “I’m tired of my kids crying,” he said.
He accused the media of deliberately trying to tear him down. Not necessarily untrue, as it usually goes with disgraced stars, but Bonds’ story was one that nobody would expect to be left alone.
“You guys [reporters] wanted to hurt me bad enough, you finally got there,” he said. “You wanted me to jump off the bridge, I finally have jumped. You wanted to bring me down, you’ve finally brought me and my family down. Finally done it. From everybody, all of you. So now go pick a different person. I’m done. Do the best I can, that’s about it.”
Bonds was one of the least self-aware superstars of all time. He failed to realize that he brought most of the negative media coverage on himself because of the way he treated people. And there’s a 100% chance that he listened, read, and cried about everything said about him. He was selfish and insecure, and instead of realizing that about himself he turned it back on the people who pointed it out.
Olkahoma State Coach Mike Gundy Rips Reporter With WWE-Esque Tirade
This remains one my personal favorite press conference blow-ups. I still can’t believe this was serious. How is Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy not just acting here?
His rant here reminded me of Sid Vicious or “Macho Man” Randy Savage from the WWE. Alternating unhinged screams with menacing whispers. His anger stemmed from a column by Jenni Carlson in The Oklahoman questioning the attitude of then-OSU quarterback Bobby Reid, whom she said was benched because his coaches questioned his mental toughness ability to play QB at the college level. She included embarrassing details that painted Reid as a coddled child.
Carlson’s column may have been unjustly harsh, and somewhat inaccurate. But true or not, it was a column, not a news report – so opinions are going to be had. Never mind that Carlson stood by the facts in her story, even after letting Gundy berate her in front of everyone. The richest part of this whole thing, is that Reid later told ESPN that Gundy’s rant did not help him – in fact, it “basically ended my life,” Reid said.
How, you ask? It turns out that Gundy really did feel he had been coddled and may not have had the toughness to remain a starting QB. Reid had been dealing with a coach who was in the process of burying him at the time. So when Gundy went on that rant against Carlson, Reid looked with a cynical eye. He knew that Gundy was playing both sides of the fence, going to bat for a player whose attitude he, on some level, agreed on with the writer. It’s hard to say Gundy really believed that Reid actually ‘did everything right.’ He just wanted to look like a hero.
Well. Turns out Gundy was acting.
Jimbo Fisher Blames ESPN For Negative Coverage Of Florida State’s Legal Troubles
Florida State was in the middle of trying to defend their 2013 National Championship early in the 2014 season, but that wasn’t the story with them. Quarterback Jameis Winston, now with the Tampa Bay Buccanneers, got embroiled in a sexual assault investigation and infamously got caught stealing crab legs from a Publix. Running back Karlos Williams also got investigated for both domestic violence and robbery at the same time.
Something had to be wrong in the locker room with head coach Jimbo Fisher and the way he was running things, right? According to Fisher, nope. It’s the media’s fault for informing the public of things. Things that happened.
Fisher went off the deep end when a reporter asked him if he felt that his reputation was taking a hit for backing Winston – after a win, no less. Maybe not the best timing for the reporter, but it was still a fair and relevant question. Fisher wasn’t having it. Watch the outburst here.
Fisher abruptly ended the presser and walked off grumbling about questions that weren’t supposed to be asked. He would have rather avoided addressing the issue head-on and blamed the media for being such jerks about it, than simply be honest about himself and his team and take some semblance of accountability for losing his grip on some of his players’ behavior.
That’s not it…Check back soon for Part 2.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Read more from Matt here. Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at email@example.com.