Vote: Was NBA Commissioner Right To Attack a Radio Host?
What’s the toughest question a reporter can ask an interviewee?
As I’ve written before, the most infamous “unanswerable” reporter question is this: “When did you stop beating your wife?” The entire purpose of the question is to catch the interviewee off guard and elicit a dramatic sound bite.
Well, now I’ve seen it all. For the first time (at least the first time I’ve seen it), an interviewee turned the tables on a host by asking him when he stopped beating his wife.
The set up is rather straightforward: The interviewer is Jim Rome, a bombastic radio talk show host. The guest is David Stern, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The topic is whether or not the NBA perpetrated a massive fraud in its annual lottery, during which teams pick the best amateur players to join their franchises.
They spoke earlier this week. It’s a remarkable interview.
A grateful h/t to reader @KenDeBolt.
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I’ve listened to Rome on and off for years and while he often does bombastic stuff, he is also a great interviewer and serious when he talks to athletes and coaches.
I think David Stern came off looking extremely petty, arrogant and pouty. I can’t believe the commissioner of the NBA reacted that way to a legitimate question! It’s not like Rome pulled it out of left field – allegations of the NBA rigging the draft lottery have been around since the Knicks somehow magically got Patrick Ewing in 1985 with the #1 pick when the lottery first started.
Thanks for your comment.
Even though the blog’s readers are somewhat split on this question, that very split is evidence that Stern did the wrong thing. Why alienate even 40 percent of your audience unnecessarily? He could have kept 90-some percent of his audience by simply answering the question in a more straightforward manner. And nothing would have prevented him from still pushing back hard on the false assertion.
When Stern says that Rome has made a career out of cheap stunts, I knew exactly what he meant. The first time I ever heard of Jim Rome was when he taunted Jim Everett by calling him “Chris” and implying that the QB was too soft to play in the NFL. When Everett was on Rome’s TV show Rome called him “Chris” to his face which provoked Everett to lash out and trash the set.
Rome is brash and seeks to be memorable by being confrontational with guests even if he doesn’t fully believe the conspiracy theories he slings around, as he claims is the case here. But he is consistent in his approach to push the envelope in interviews and any guests should know what to expect from him.
Stern is a very smart and successful public figure with a legal background and an expansive vocabulary that I have heard him use like a cudgel to intimidate reporters and control interviews. He has a history with Rome and with this conspiracy theory and obviously came into the interview prepared to take the discussion this way, I believe, to make a point. It didn’t stop Rome from belaboring the issue, but it may prevent the next reporter from wading into these water casually in a snarky or flippant way.
Stern may have chosen to be a little petty with Rome, knowing that Rome would take a bunch of the heat, in an effort to not have the next 5 interviews be all about the lottery.