Ever wonder why good news doesn’t dominate headlines in this country? Why it doesn’t “sell” as well as the controversial or negative news?
Ever wonder why virtually every week we watch the implosion of prominent athletes and public figures, as they continue to make the same mistakes that ultimately damage their images and reputations long-term?
The answers and reasons are as varied as the athletes themselves, but the end result is the same. Public figures behaving badly sells. Some think it is cool to be the “bad boy,” but eventually it catches up with you. Dennis Rodman, Allen Iverson, Ron Artest, Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Leaf, Adam Pacman Jones, Jeremy Mayfield, etc., enjoyed for a moment having (or at least wanting to have) the “bad boy” label attached to their name. But eventually it catches up with you and it ends badly for everyone involved.
Here’s the deal. It's not cool anymore. It’s time to cut it out and get it right.
Look, I get it. We are all human. We all have made and will make the mistake of letting our emotions get the best of us at the wrong time. But for the high profile public figure (especially athletes), mistakes like this are all too often viewed by millions. And sponsors, media, children, fans, etc., are all part of that audience.
Is it fair? Life isn’t fair. But when you make more in one night than most people make in a year, you have to accept it comes with the territory.
Of course, it’s okay to show emotion. It's impossible not too. Alabama’s Mark Ingram’s 2009 Heisman Trophy acceptance speech was perfect. Michael Jordan’s tearful embrace of the NBA Finals trophy following his father’s death several years ago was real. However, it is important to learn how to channel and contain negative emotion, especially anger, when you are in front of the microphones.
There are ways to address and deal with hostile questions from the media and fans following a controversial situation that will help you. A vast majority of the work we do with our clients centers around guiding them through that process, especially when the environment is less than favorable. Rule # 1 – going off on reporters has NEVER worked for anyone who chose to go that route.
So here are just five of the many reasons why you cannot afford to let negative emotion get the best of you, especially when you are in front of the media.
Five Reasons Why You Can’t Afford to Let Negative Emotion Get the Best of You as a Pro Athlete
1. It will cost you.
Negative comments about the games officiating, other players, league’s front office, etc. will cost you financially. The fines levied against players, coaches, team officials, etc., may not be much for an NBA superstar like the Boston Celtics’ Kevin Garnett or Los Angeles Lakers’ coach Phil Jackson to come up with, but when the comments levied about the officiating become the news, it takes the focus off the team and the game or series at hand.
Blowing up in front of the media may result in a slap on the wrist or it may ultimately cost you your job and your reputation. Mark Cuban has been masterful in poking fun at himself for the fines he’s received for his comments about some of the officiating in the NBA. But that’s Mark Cuban, an exception to the rule. There are dozens of highlight reels on coaches and athletes blowing their stack during a presser and many of those individuals didn’t enjoy long and prosperous careers as a result of the bad or controversial behavior.
2. Social media is not a license to rant.
Just because you are active on Facebook, Twitter, Ustream, etc., does NOT give you a license to “go off” on your coaches, teammates, fans, media, etc. Social media has shifted the balance of power when it comes to reporting news and information you want media and fans to know, BUT it must still be managed and used effectively. Remember that point about costing you your job? Last season’s coach/fan Twitter dispute was the straw that broke the camels back in Kansas City for one former Chiefs running back named Larry Johnson.
3. Firing back at the media will result in one conclusion. #FAIL. You will NEVER win.
Why? Because media ALWAYS have the last word and control over how the story is ultimately positioned. You are living in a vacuum or a bubble (take your pick) if you think sounding off or getting your digs in over how you were treated by the media will end well for you. We know you are not always going to be depicted fairly, but understand the decision to take on the social and traditional media army where everyone has an opinion and a blog is a no-win situation.
Don’t believe me? Give Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds a call and see how their Hall of Fame careers are doing these days. Then again, about that living in a bubble thing…
4. Just like you, journalists have a job to do and one of their jobs is to report the story. Your job is to be part of the story, not BE the story because of your outburst.
No matter how angry, frustrated or downright p*’d off you are, stop and think before you speak and act. Ask yourself, is it worth it? Do you want to be remembered throughout your career for the locker room/post-game press conference blow up? Do you want to be fodder for comedians, sports pundits, fans, media, etc. for years to come (“Talking about PRACTICE“)? What do you want your legacy to be? Your post-career opportunities?
The highlight reels of athletes losing their cool in front of the media will always keep us entertained. The volcanic tempers of Chicago Cubs manager Lou Pinella and Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen are often offset by their wit, charm, humor and personalities. Their on and off the field rants for better or for worse come with the package.
But others aren’t as “fortunate” and do not (if they ever) have a positive relationship with the media. Take Ryan Leaf. Granted, his NFL career didn’t pan out, but his locker room explosions on reporters didn’t help his on the field implosions and his tarnished legacy is surely not something he wanted.
Former Vikings’ and Cardinals’ Coach Dennis Green enjoyed a great coaching career in Minnesota, but his legacy is forever marred by one of the all time classic coaching meltdowns following the Cardinals loss to the Chicago Bears a couple of years ago. Watch the clip, it never gets old!
And we can never forget Jim “Chris” Everett and the infamous Jim Rome incident early on in Rome’s broadcasting career! Point here is how many can name the teams Everett played for? I think it's safe to say more people will remember this incident. Is that what you want?
5. Don’t publicly blast your teammates, family, ownership or coaching staff. EVER.
NASCAR is one sport where the vast majority of the drivers tend to stay on message and say all the right things. Until something bad happens. There are bad things that happen in sports, yes, but in NASCAR, bad things can result in life-threatening situations and can be fatal.
Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson went at it a bit in front of the cameras following the Sprint Cup Race at Talledega this past weekend, following Johnson bumping Gordon’s car. Gordon was clearly aggravated at his teammate and he let it show in front of the cameras. Eventually (and very quickly I might add) they all got back on message and we’re back to “racing as usual” this week.
But, Jeremy Mayfield publicly excoriating his stepmother on camera after failing a drug test (or two) for meth, was, well, we all saw where that landed him…all together now…#EPIC FAIL!
Stay Tuned! Next Week: SOLUTIONS for how to deal with the media when negative emotions run high.