Sometime in the last couple weeks, I was standing in line to pick up a slice of cheese pizza, when I noticed that ESPN was on the TV above the counter, showing a Houston Astros’ press conference. There was obviously something funny about the whole presentation, but the sound was muted so I was having trouble figuring out what exactly was going on. (This brings up an entirely different issue – what is the deal with sports bars and fast food joints playing daytime sports talk segments with no sound? I’m stuck watching an ugly guy talk, making vague conclusions on what his opinion is based on his facial expressions and the reactions of his colleagues.) Getting back to the press conference, it had a Saturday Night Live feel to it. All of the reporters raise their hands to speak, but then all sit back down immediately while one of them poses a question.
A couple days later, I was at home when ESPN ran a similar segment, this time a Los Angeles Dodgers’ press conference, and I had the phenomenon explained to me. What Sportscenter is doing is a mock press conference, in which one employee will pretend to be the GM of a team, and then their reporters ask questions to which the mock-GM responds to the best of his knowledge. They are fully honest that these presentations are a farce, as long as you have the volume on to hear it. And it’s actually a pretty good format for getting information to the viewers. You can get the scoop on various free agents and trade speculations, without dealing with the typical give them something but not everything approach of a normal press conference.
Which reminds me, I think what’s truly funny about this broadcast approach is that it is a clever inversion to what the White House has been known to do. Last year, Bush’s boys got busted for planting a fake reporter in press conferences to lob slow-pitch questions for the representative to hit out of the park. (More embarrassment for the White House ensued when it turned out this fake reporter was also a male prostitute, but I won’t go there.) So whereas the White House plants reporters in their fake press hearings, ESPN keeps all the reporters real, but replaces the authority behind the podium with their own.
Maybe someone else could go on to make a clever contrast between sports and politics; I just think the whole thing is kind of funny.