Big Ten Wonk
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Jane Austen, press conferences, and college basketball
#6 in a series of last-day posts

One of the nice things about having these here newfangled internets and eleventy-gillion channels on your HD is the ability this explosion of offerings has afforded to eavesdrop on previously restricted events. Take press conferences....

The last one I listened to start-to-finish was the one following the Xavier-Ohio State game in the second round, by any measure a wildly thrilling game. Here's the thing, though:

The press conference was stupefyingly dull....

Q. What were you thinking when you hit the three to force overtime?

On the three, I was just trying to get an open look. I told Mike before we left the huddle and he found me and I got the open look.

(Very long pause.)

Q. What were you thinking when Oden fouled out?

We lose a big inside presence when he goes out. We've played seven games without him this season, and he has been in foul trouble before, so we've learned to play without him. Our team did a good job of adjusting their roles when he fouled out.

(Very long pause.)

Q. What were you thinking when....

Mannered, deferential, and courteous to a fault, the talk at any college basketball press conference where Bob Knight is not in attendance is perhaps the last remaining venue in 2007 where Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet could blend in seamlessly with the conversation.

Don't blame the questioners. Press conferences are structurally doomed: when was the last time you saw candor and spontaneity coming from a dais in front of an assembled group of reporters?

So when, despite all odds, a spark of the unscripted does indeed occur, that is itself news. It's why men and women who must, as part of their employment, go to a lot of these are so improbably and indeed needlessly fascinated with Joakim Noah. He actually says things. Bully for Noah but that doesn't mean his psyche's a compelling object of study worthy of a modern-day Camus.

Nevertheless, here's a salute to the men and women forced to attend these buzzkills. I now realize as I never did before that any insights and scoops are achieved in spite of press conferences and not because of them.

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