Zapruder Analysis of Ken Griffey Jr.'s Horrific SportsCenter Interview
On the spectrum of sports interviews, there are many categories -- in-studio sit down interviews, brief post-game quick hit interviews, standard one segment phone interviews, to name a few.
But if the spectrum of sports interviews were to be rated by "clunker potential," i.e. the possibility that the conversation comes off as contrived, self-serving, or awkward (or all three), easily the interview type that scores highest in that category is the "athlete endorsing a sponsor" interview.
It's why so many listeners hate Radio Row during Super Bowl week. The interviews aren't real bookings. They are, by and large, athletes who are pimping some sort of product or sponsor which they get to plug in exchange for the "privilege" (tongue in cheek) of speaking to them for seven minutes.
Believe me, I totally understand why listeners don't like these interviews. It's mainly because they don't feel like real interviews, they feel like a miniature interview with an infomercial stapled to it.
Well, Ken Griffey, Jr. set a new bar for "worst sponsorship interview ever" on SportsCenter yesterday, and that is not easy to do.
Appearing with Linda Cohn yesterday on SportsCenter to pimp Upper Deck's 25th anniversary as a manufacturer of baseball cards, Griffey appeared to want to be literally anywhere else except doing an interview with Linda Cohn. When he wasn't catatonic, he was totally dismissive, almost like there were terrorists holding him at gunpoint off camera and he was part scared and part like "all right, when are you dipshit terrorists gonna stop pointing those guns at me, I'm Junior, dammit..."
Here are the "highlights" of Cohn's "conversation" with Junior:
Riveting stuff, huh? In case you missed anything, or don't have a full 1:52 to watch a professional reporter try to draw more than three words and a few grunts out of an athlete (and to be clear, Cohn does an admirable job of staying professional during this fiasco), here is the full transcript:
LINDA COHN: Oh just seeing that video brings back great memories. I used to cover this guy when I worked in Seattle before coming to ESPN, so pleased to be joined by 13 time Major League Baseball All-Star Ken Griffey, Jr., who is here on SportsCenter live on behalf of Upper Deck in which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. How ya coin', Ken?
KEN GRIFFEY, JR.: Hey, how are you?
LC: Great, growing up you had a big baseball card collection. Did you have a favorite?
KG: Yeah, one. My dad. That was it.
LC: Your dad, of course. Besides your dad, was there somebody else?
KG: No. Didn't know anybody else.
(NOTE: Here was clearly a transition where this video jumps ahead to the end portion of the interview. I shudder to think that there was actually more of this interview we didn't get to see. Yikes.)
LC: Yeah, you were one of the best at going into home plate hard, you were one of the best at....before we let you go Ken, we know you've been doing a ton of interviews for Upper Deck, a few Twitter questions for you... first, which young outfielder do you see today that most resembles your playing style?
LC: McCutcheon. Andrew McCutcheon. He's a good one. Here's another one... who do you think is the best player in Major League Baseball right now? All around best player?
LC: (cackling like Griffey is Chris Rock) ...you guys buds?
KG: (sheepish grin and sneer followed by a disdainful grunt)
LC: And looking back on your career, Ken Griffey, Jr., what do you think (you) will be remembered for far above all else?
KG: Smile. (Flashes a phony grin that makes you want to strangle every athlete doing a sponsorship interview ever, and now calls into question the care free, backwards-lid demeanor of "The Kid" from the 1990's.)
LC: That's a good thing. We'll let you go with that, that smile...
KG: All right.
LC: Ken Griffey, Jr., thanks for joining us on SportsCenter, good luck the rest of the way, in everything you do.
KG: Thank you. You take it easy.
In case you're wondering, in the portions of the interview captured in this YouTube video, Griffey used a total of 23 words for eight answers. (I am including the portion where he sneers and grunts and doesn't say words as one of the answers. Sorry, Ken. Your act doesn't sit well with this official scorer.) That's an average of 2.88 words per answer, which if we were to have sabermetrics for interview subjects, makes Griffey the interview equivalent of Tim Bogar, and on the list of interview subjects puts him barely above Rocky Dennis' mute friend Dozer in the movie Mask.
Except one key difference -- Dozer was awesome (and fat!). Griffey sucks.
As expected in the age of social media, Cohn almost immediately took to Twitter to express her disgust with how the interview went...
What a waste. @realBIGjame— Linda Cohn (@lindacohn) March 5, 2014
Apparently, someone got in Griffey's ear and told him what an asshole he was...
Just got off phone w Ken Griffey Jr. He apologized sincerely for how he came across in @SportsCenter int. I accepted his apology.— Linda Cohn (@lindacohn) March 5, 2014
And here was Griffey's apology on his Instagram account...
I want to apologize to Linda for the way things went today. I was in the middle of a cough attack and felt a little ill and didn't want to walk off the set. Linda has always been professional to me and my family . I'm sorry, Junior @espn @sportcenter @lindacohn
So there you go. Cough attack. I guess I shouldn't be so judgmental. Next time an athlete acts like a dick during an interview, I'll just assume he spent the last ten minutes wheezing and spewing phlegm.
My bad, Junior. Carry on.
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