This was a topic du-jour in sports a month ago when Naomi Osaka skipped a press event, got fined for it, and then released a statement about her struggles with mental health and pulled out of the French Open. I wanted to make a comic about it when it happened but the timing was off and well, now here we are. I don’t think I really have an answer to the question, but I think it’s one worth discussing. Are press conferences actually as necessary as they seem to be?

Seems to me like their importance has essentially been born from the absurd 24-hour coverage cycle and not an actual need. So many reporters need to grab a quote so they can fill their small recap articles in the next day’s blurb. It would be absurd to have each of them talk to the athlete/coach/person in question individually, so you hold a quick press event where everyone can ask a question and steal the answers from other questions for their own report. It efficiently solves a problem that the news cycle essentially created. But it generates its own consequences. Press conferences are boring wastes of time 99% of the time, and the 1% is when something goes hilariously wrong thanks to high emotion or you get one of the few players who actually enjoy it and make it into a thing, like TO or Clinton Portis.

So you have the individuals giving the same tired answers to the same tired questions. The reporters need something to boost their own profile to make them look good to the boss, so they press harder trying to break the individual into slipping. The individual, in turn, adopts a turtle shell in defense and either gives the most boring cliche answers humanly possible to avoid any sort of drama, or just responds with outright disdain and contempt. Since the reporters are fucking desperate for anything different, the contempt often becomes a story itself. Marshawn just didn’t want to answer dumb questions and that backfired on him by turning his disdain for stupid questions into the biggest news story of the super bowl. Belichick has earned a reputation of disdain as well, and only after years and years of the same disdain have people stopped writing about it. So the entire thing is a feedback loop as we crave more content.

To bring it back to Osaka, she revealed she’s struggling with her mental state, which brought a slew of support, as well as criticism. I think both sides are fair. The bottom line of any job is that there are parts to it that just aren’t fun but have to be done. Osaka gets paid more money than I’ll ever see to smack a green ball back and forth, talking to reporters about how she just wants to hit the ball as best she can doesn’t seem like that big a drawback. On the other hand, she’s young and facing the kind of attention normal folks like you or me don’t have to face, day in and day out. It’s tough. Same for anyone like her.

This is why I don’t think we should actually eliminate press conferences and media meetings, but I do think we should reduce the amount that is mandatory and for who, because most of the time it just isn’t important. I think coaches should have to talk to the press more than the players. Coaches and executives are better representatives and can speak to larger aspects of the game and give the reporters their quick deadline bylines. But maybe we don’t need players to sit there after a regular-season loss and face the same stupid questions every time unless the player wants to say something. It’s in a player’s best interest to keep their mouth shut at a press conference. You get better results when you approach them in their own element and form an actual working relationship with a player like reporters are sort of supposed to do. A sporting match of any sort normally has enough worth talking about within it without the need for Tom Brady to say “We went out there and it was tough but this is a good bunch o’ guys and they stuck with it and made it happen”. We don’t need the player quote unless they want to give it most of the time.

But I’ll never fully endorse eliminating the press meeting afterward because the rare post-game meltdown freakout is worth it every time. I do fully endorse banning reporters from getting sanctimonious about the importance of press events because they just aren’t that necessary and if you were a good reporter you’d have inside sources and built up relationships you could turn to any time you really need them. That’s why I’ll also always endorse people like Marshawn Lynch showing contempt for the bullshit.

I guess this is technically my first Tennis comic, huh.