Last week, Jenny Vrentas from the MMQB wrote a lengthy piece about what’s next for Peyton Manning, from his dad’s perspective. Manning retired from the NFL two months ago and there’s been a number of interesting rumors banding about regarding his next venture.
Some say he’ll wind up on television, others say he wants to run a team. I don’t think anyone would argue that whatever he decides to do, he’ll enjoy a high level of success. In the article, Archie was asked these subjects and a host of others, but it was the subjects that he wasn’t asked about that I took most note of.
I don’t know Jenny Vrentas at all. I’ve read a lot of her columns and she seems to be a very capable writer, but how she could interview Archie Manning, and not ask him about the lawsuit with former athletic trainer from the University of Tennessee, Jamie Naughright, or the allegations against Peyton involving HGH related to his treatment at the Guyer Institute is irresponsible.
The relationship/friendship between reporters and athletes will always be, and should always be, called into question when that relationship gets in the way of news. Whether or not Archie answered her questions is not the point. She needs to ask them. This incident will be stapled to both Manning’s lapel forever, so it stands to reason that it will always be a worthwhile point to bring up. Vrentas didn’t need to be contentious in any way. She easily could’ve asked the question while protecting the valuable relationship that the MMQB has with the Mannings.
When I ran WEEI, I found myself in a number of these kinds of situations given the relationship, and yes, I’d say friendship, that I built with members of the teams that I worked with. I’m talking about ownership, front office staff, and in some cases, players and coaches. I never wanted my staff to be put in a situation where they’d be accused of skirting the issue to curry favor with the person they were interviewing, so I always made sure that the team/coach/player, whoever it was, knew what was coming. I did this for two reasons. One, it was critically important for our guys to maintain credibility and ask what the public wanted, and expected them, to ask, and second, because I didn’t want the person in question to think they were being blindsided.
Would it have really been a hardship for Jenny Vrentas, or Peter King, for that matter, to say to Archie, hey Archie, we’re going to ask you about X,Y and Z. How you choose to answer is up to you, but these are questions that certainly have a bearing on the story and I want you to know that they’re coming.
Are these situations uncomfortable? They certainly can be, but taking that extra step to ensure that the reporter does his or her job to the best of their ability is paramount to the overall success of the story. After all, it’s all about clicks and downloads anyway right? How many more people would’ve been interested in reading the Manning story if they knew there’d be questions about these alleged indiscretions.
Before John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino took over the Red Sox, John Harrington was the man in charge. He was shrewd, but quiet. You hardly ever saw him in print or on TV. He never was interviewed on the radio. Some of you will recall an incident involving former Red Sox OF Will Cordero. He was charged, and pled guilty to spousal abuse in 1997. If that incident happened today, it could’ve created the same kind of drama that encapsulated the sports world when we all saw the infamous Ray Rice video. I had worked hard over the years to develop a strong working relationship with Harrington and the morning after I read about this story, I called him up and said John, this is the time to talk. I made it clear to him that we would provide him the forum to discuss this issue openly and honestly and that I wouldn’t edit anything he said for time constraints. He granted us an hour, and Glenn Ordway did a phenomenal one on one interview with him.
He answered every question, held nothing back, and frankly came out of it looking exceptional in my opinion. Of course what goes around comes around, and 20 years later, John Henry charges into the studios of sports radio 98.5 to defend his honor and his team’s epic collapse, giving the station the ultimate recognition instead of dealing with his buddy, the $15 million per year rights-holder.
Don’t worry John. I’m not bitter. Sorry, I digress.
It’s as simple as this. Interviews, for the most part, are boring. Whether you see them on TV, listen on the radio, or read them in the newspaper or online. With the growth and power of social media, no one wants to say the wrong thing or something that is perceived by others to be wrong. In order to make the interviews compelling the hard questions need to be asked. And more often than not, they aren’t.