Are we making the victims between the press and athletes?
We have all heard of press conferences, it’s part of society. We assume they are a function of great ability and privilege. That something important will be said by the person who is holding the press conference. This is probably not true, especially for athletes.
Athletes spend most of their time training, at least six hours of intense physical activity a day, many times more. They do not do this in front of a crowd, like a musician, politician, public speaker, performer, or well-known personality.
The assumption that there is no pressure on the athlete at a press conference when a concerted effort is being made to trip up, sensationalize, or marginalize the athlete, is foolish. A room full of people, who do not wish you well, focused on you, is not something the vast majority of the world can handle. Why would a person who sees very few people, 6 days a week, be able to handle this with smooth aplomb? Why are we requiring that function of our cherished athletes?
Add to that pressure the fact that the entire world is waiting for a particular answer, to a particular question, that is going to be, unanswerable because real life just has nothing to do with a press release. Then you get extreme stress.
The press conference itself is the abuser, not the people. The room is static electricity with power all pointed at the athlete. A regular person who spends very little time wondering about how well she will do against people she has never met never will meet again, and never really wanted to be involved with. But to do her job, she must sit and be subject to a barrage of unanswerable questions.
It’s not the Pandemic, it’s not a lack of strength in the athlete, in fact knowing when to shut down an activity, because it is toxic and harmful, is the very definition of strength. It is the baited questions the reporters are required to ask.
There shouldn’t be questions, at all. But there are, and doing something about how those questions are phrased and asked, in terms of the reality of the athlete would strengthen the press conference, satisfy fans, a cause far less stress on the athlete, the sport, and the team. It won’t satisfy those who stand to gain monetarily – the company – the sporting association – the network and outlets that send the reporters.
But it can save athletes.