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Here’s What Everyone Forgets In The Rush To Criticize A Sideline Reporter
NBC and reporter Cristian Cooper are getting put through the wringer for how they handled their interview with Bode Miller, moments after he took home a bronze medal in the Alpine Skiing Men’s Super-G. Miller’s younger brother, snowboarder Chelone Miller, died unexpectedly last year, and it’s clear from the start of the interview that Miller is going to be emotional.
Cooper: Bode, such an extraordinary accomplishment, at your age, after a turbulent year, coming back from knee surgery, to get this medal today. Put it in perspective. How much does this mean to you?
Miller: I mean, it’s incredible. I always feel like I’m capable of winning medals, but as we’ve seen this Olympics, it’s not that easy. To be on the podium, this was a really big day for me. Emotionally, I had a lot riding on it. Even though I really didn’t ski my best, I’m just super, super happy.
Cooper: For a guy who says that medals don’t really matter, that they aren’t the thing, you’ve amassed quite a collection. What does this one mean to you in terms of all the others.
Miller: This was a little different. You know with my brother passing away, I really wanted to come back here and race the way he sensed it. This one is different.
Cooper: Bode, you’re showing so much emotion down here, what’s going through your mind?
Miller: Um, I mean, a lot. Obviously just a long struggle coming in here. It’s just a tough year.
Cooper: I know you wanted to be here with Chelly, really experiencing these Games. How much does this mean to you to come up with this great performance for him? And was it for him?
Miller: I don’t know if it’s really for him but I wanted to come here and, I dunno, make myself proud, but … (trails off)
Cooper: When you’re looking up in the sky at the start, we see you there and it looks like you’re talking to somebody. What’s going on there?
[At that point, Miller breaks down into tears.]
On the surface, it’s hard to understand what Cooper was thinking. We get it — he’s sad. Leave him alone already. But Miller came to Cooper’s defense on Twitter and on the Today Show, where he said this:
“Yeah, I’ve known Christin for a long time and she is a sweetheart of a person. I know she didn’t mean to push. I don’t think she really anticipated what my reaction was going to be. And I think by the time she sort of realized it, I think it was too late. I don’t blame her at all. I feel terrible that she is taking the heat for that. Because it was really just a heat of the moment kind of circumstance. I don’t think there was any harm intended. It’s just been a lot of emotion for me. It’s been a lot over the last year and you sometimes don’t realize how much of that you can contain that stuff until the dam breaks and then it is just a real outpouring.”
Miller brings up a good point, and it’s something that likely played into the nature of Erin Andrews’ interview with Richard Sherman in January: These athletes and reporters know each other.
It’d be one thing for me, or Craig Sager, or another random person to walk up to Miller after a huge Olympic victory and start peppering him with personal questions. But Miller felt comfortable talking to Cooper about this, as evidenced by his bringing up his brother first. That’s by design. You want reporters to know and have a relationship — to a certain extent, of course — with the people they cover. That’s how you get them to open up and give you the moments you look for when covering the Olympics.
Richard Sherman knew Erin Andrews (and in fact swept her up in a hug before going off on Michael Crabtree to her). Rather than blaming Andrews for “ruining” that interview (as Kevin Harlan thought), we should probably applaud her. Other people might not have gotten the same reaction — though we also have to give Troy Santiago props for getting an equally explosive response from him.
Additionally, a reporter is not an island. The decision to interview somebody, what to ask him, how long to stick with an interview and when to cut away is mostly up to the production team, not the reporters themselves. NBC’s decision to stay with Miller for what felt like a painfully long time — and, conversely, why FOX decided to cut away from Sherman — was a network decision. And sometimes, these guys get caught up in the emotion of a moment as well.
So let’s stop giving sideline reporters shit for doing their job the best way they knew how. Most likely, they know what they’re doing, and the athletes understand and appreciate that. If Miller’s not upset, we shouldn’t be either. The end.
(The jury’s still out on what Heather Cox was up to.)
Photo via Getty
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