It’s Not About Winning The Press ConferencePosted by nvr1983 on December 11th, 2011
Immediately after yesterday’s horrendous brawl during the Crosstown Shootout, there were calls from throughout the college basketball world for significant suspensions to be handed out to players from Cincinnati and Xavier. The two players who received the most criticism were Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj for their vicious attack on Xavier’s Kenny Frease. Gates was caught on camera punching Frease in the face and Mbodj was seen stomping on Frease while he lay defenseless on the floor. To be fair, Xavier is not without blame as they appeared to be the team that escalated the incident from a verbal one into a physical one and it was Musketeer All-American guard Tu Holloway who gave us a memorable “body bag” comment after the brawl.
However, once the press conference started (first tweeted by our own Fake Gimel), a large portion of the public and media were appeased by the thoughtful (or well-rehearsed) comments of Mick Cronin and Chris Mack. Throwing in phrases like “no excuses,” “grow up,” “full responsibility,” “zero excuse,” and “represent an institution of higher learning,” Cronin won praise from many media members including CBS’s Gary Parrish — trust us, there were more, but we aren’t digging through Twitter to find those responses — for the way he handled the press conference (full video here). Perhaps it was a sincere belief that Cronin would in fact do “the right thing,” which many believed was at least to hand out a pair of 10-game suspensions and potential dismissal from the team for Gates and Mbodj. It turns out that the punishments fall well short of that, as those two players and Octavius Ellis were each suspended for six games and Ge’Lawn Guyn was suspended for one game. All four players will also have to serve some form of community service.
After Xavier announces its suspensions, which will probably be less severe than the ones that Cincinnati handed out, most of the media’s attention will shift towards criticism of the coaches, schools, and conferences for not handing out more severe penalties and worrying more about making the NCAA Tournament than the reputations of their schools. All of that is fair and valid criticism, but this incident should also reinforce the idea that we — both as media and fans — should not buy into what people say at press conferences so much. This issue came up last week as part of the Bernie Fine scandal when the media applauded Jim Boeheim for apologizing for his insensitive comments to the potential victims of sexual abuse when he said that they were essentially chasing after money. At the time of Boeheim’s apology, we were incredulous at the strong positive response given the fact that it came two weeks after his statement criticizing the alleged victims and it was a prepared statement that came five days after Fine had been fired by Syracuse. Not surprisingly, we were met with some resistance by media members who were quick to praise Boeheim’s response and defend him against further criticism.
All of this raises the question as to why we as a society place so much emphasis on the press conference, or how someone speaks. This isn’t just sports-specific as it happens with entertainment figures and (even worse) political figures where we get seduced by what people say and tend to overlook what they do even if only temporarily. The basis for this involves a lot of psychology that we would rather not get into here, but suffice it to say, we have all experienced this either in a personal or professional relationship even if it is in a spoken communication rather than a press conference that we weigh more heavily than someone’s actions, only to get burned by our mistaken trust in someone.
We don’t expect this event much less this column will prevent people from succumbing to the appeal of someone saying “the right thing.” but we suspect as time goes on more and more people will gradually learn that these press conferences mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. They are great for getting quotes or one-liners out there and sometimes even getting honest basketball analysis from a coach, but one thing they shouldn’t be used for is to shape public opinion.