Television coverage of sports has had some fantastic inventions over the last several years. For example, I'm a huge fan of the score and time of the game constantly embedded in the upper corner of the screen. (Watch YouTube clips of old games and see what a pain in the ass it is not having that.) Also, the yellow first down stripe has been a godsend.
And where oh where would we be on Sundays in the fall without the Red Zone Channel? I shudder to think about that.
But there is such a thing as "over-invention," and dammit, I'll say it. I think sometimes nowadays we try to know too much about what goes on in a game. It's almost overly voyeuristic.
Along those lines, somewhere along the way, a sports production exec decided we needed to get the in-game thoughts of NBA head coaches, which would be fine if they would ever give us anything of substance.
But despite the best efforts of some coaches to disguise hundreds of words of verbal diarrhea as "candor," ultimately, we learn nothing from these interviews.
This is why I love Gregg Popovich's overt disdain for this in-game sideline charade.
What some people call Popovich's bullying or asshole-ishness, I call the Spurs' head coach's exposing the ludicrousness of an exercise that should have had a figurative bullet put in it long ago.
First, let's be very clear on the "bullying" thing. What Pop does on these sideline interviews is NOT bullying. THIS is bullying:
Also, again to be clear, I'm not saying get rid of sideline reporters. The good ones absolutely serve several tangible purposes.
I'm not even saying get rid of interviewing coaches during the game altogether. At the end of the half on the way to the locker room, a couple questions make sense because it's the beginning (or end) of a legitimate break in the game.
Also, without those interviews, we wouldn't have moments like this:
But interviewing coaches either during the game (as we see in baseball) or during a brief timeout in between quarters flies in the face of logic. Hey, Coach, take a minute out of this high-intensity juncture of a contest you've been preparing for for days to answer a couple questions. To me, it's as stupid as interviewing a player on his way to the free-throw line after drawing a foul.
Gregg Popovich knows this, and it's why during Game 3 of the Spurs-Grizzlies series, we got this gem of a moment when ESPN decided to feed poor Doris Burke to Prickly Pop:
What's great about that interview is that the only way anybody breaks the record for "Fewest Words Answered per Question Asked" (the famous WA/QA statistic) is if he gets Pop to stare at him and not say anything. Two questions, two one-word answers. Awesome.
And if you think everybody in the production truck wasn't laughing their asses off at that, just know that John Granato and I interviewed TNT's Craig Sager during the first round of the playoffs about a month or so ago, and I asked him if they take bets before the game on the total number of words he will get Popovich to say.
Incredibly, the answer was "yes."
Speaking of Sager, let's see how he did in a recent exchange with Coach Pop:
Thirteen words, and he needed to slip in a third question just to get to double digits. Still, a stellar 4.33 WA/QA by Sager. In actuality, Sager should get bonus points for just getting a third question slipped into the mix. Pop usually doesn't let that happen. Just ask Charles Barkley:
An incredible 46 words on the two questions -- 23.00 WA/QA!! -- is stellar, but was it worth the embarrassment of being scolded for the third question? (As a viewer, I say absolutely.)
The best WA/QA I could find in notable Pop sideline interviews on YouTube was this gem from David Aldridge:
Fifty-one words (25.50 WA/QA rating), but roughly 35 of them were Pop's bewilderment with Aldridge's usage of the word "happy" in his question to him. Of course, this interview probably ultimately begat the interview below between Pop and Aldridge:
One question! Even better, Pop is begging for a second one, like Rocky Balboa taunting Clubber Lang in Rocky III. Only two possible explanations for Aldridge cutting the interview short:
1. Pop's first answer was 27 words, and Aldridge realized that a second question could only drag down what, to that point, was a record WA/QA of 27.00.
2. Aldridge was scared shitless of Pop.
Probably the second one. Now, if Pop can just scare all of the sideline reporters into asking exactly zero questions, he'll have single-handedly eradicated one of the few useless inventions of 21st-century sports watching.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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