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Thumbs Down On Being Mic'd Up

The sentiment behind the idea of giving the media and therefore fans greater access to NBA coaches and players during games is in some regards an admirable one.  The practice of it, however, is downright foolish.

The first installment of the NBA's new rules requiring selected coaches and players to wear microphones and do interviews during nationally televised games came last night, with George Karl and Avery Johnson miked on the sidelines and Jerry Stackhouse and Eduardo Najera miked on the court during the Nuggets-Mavericks contest in Dallas.  With the day of reckoning regarding these mikes now upon us, it seems only so timely to take a few minutes to address the particular issue at hand.

Said issue would be that which involves interrupting employees during their worktimes and wholly infringes on the privacy so valued by these employees.  Undoubtedly, as a fan of the game, it would be -- for lack of a better word -- cool to be able to have access to coaches in the huddle, players on the floor and teams in the locker room.  But as often as the fans end up being the wronged party in professional sports, and as much of an advocate for any fan-benefitting policies as I tend to be, there has to be a limit.

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Simply put, the idea of mandating mikes and cameras in the locker room and huddle is unacceptable.  Those are the two places as well as perhaps the court that have long been intended to be the sanctuaries for the players and coaches.  These are the places where teams can remain impervious to all outside forces, where players and coaches can commiserate with each other without being right under the watchful eye of the press and of the opponent.  What they say does not have to be censored, and it does not have to be guarded.  For folks who are subjected to the press on a virtually round-the-clock basis, these are their only times alone.  They are left alone largely so as to enable them to get in the right mindset to do their jobs as effectively as possible and put out as good a product as they can. 

They are left alone also to preserve the sanctity of the team, to prevent the intrusion of outsiders and opponents.  Having access to the huddle and locker room almost completely removes this.  It puts coaches and players on guard and restricts the level of information that can be imparted from coach to player and from teammate to teammate.  Just two months ago, what is currently the country's most dominant professional sports team was penalized for illicitly using cameras to monitor the sidelines of opponents.  Now, basketball is going to legalize media companies doing the same thing simply to give the fans a few extra seconds of access and possibly make an extra few bucks off of telecasts?  Give me a break. 

The press already has access to the players, access that translates to the fans.  The press can talk to the players and coaches before and after the game and sometimes at halftime as well.  The fans can watch or listen to these interviews.  In this day and age, the press often goes way beyond the boundaries of the arena and the media room in order to cover its subjects.  Media members record and write up these experiences for all sorts of traditional media as well as often posting them online within minutes in this 21st century we live in.  As such, the fans have access to the players as well.  For all the talk that goes on about how the players make exorbitant amounts of money to play a game and as a result shouldn't be complaining about their working conditions, these guys do have a job to do, and they deserve the opportunity to do it well and without added hindrances.

The press, particularly the sports media, has reached a point where it knows no limits in covering its subjects.  For two and a half to three hours of each game day, the media needs to learn to live without extra access.  Coaches giving interviews between quarters?  So much for these individuals being paid to impart teaching and advice to, you know, their players.  Players being forced to wear mikes on the floor?  As if these folks don't have enough to focus on without worrying about saying something that is accepted in the fraternity of players but will be overblown by the media, or, perhaps worse yet, unwittingly providing too much information about the inner workings of his own team.

The NBA wants to make the game more appealing to fans, but apparently no one told the Association that one of the general public's biggest concerns about the league is the quality of the product.  That product would be related to the actual playing of the game first and foremost.  While one can't say with certainty that there will be all that much detriment caused by this new policy, one thing is for sure: It certainly won't help.

There is no shortage of talk about how professional athletes in this country need to stop some of their more foolish conduct antics and focus on doing their jobs.  Effective last night in Dallas, the fact of the matter is that the National Basketball Association has unnecessarily made this task that much more difficult for its employees.

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