Last September Montreal’s The Gazette daily newspaper introduced a new member of its group of reporters on the Montreal Canadiens beat. Rookie sports reporter Christopher Curtis would join several other veteran journalists covering the fabled hockey franchise in a city where the game is often likened to a religion. This was a welcomed decision; an added new perspective on things is always a good idea.
Over the holidays Curtis wrote, and the paper published, a piece on his altercation with Canadiens Head Coach Michel Therrien. Curtis did what reporters do at news conferences, he asked a question. Therrien opted to ignore the question, so Curtis, being a journalist, asked it again. I imagine the room must have been immediately engulfed in thunder and lightening, with dervishes whirling madly about, lights flickering and other indicators of impending catastrophe. What part of my ignoring you did you not understand? seems to have been Therrien’s attitude as he and Curtis locked eyes in a staring match.
Let me say that I have never met Christopher Curtis, and my time spent with Michel Therrien amounts to one encounter with me lying on my back giving blood while the coach made the rounds of the donors at the team’s annual blood drive. He signed one of the pack of selfies he had and plunked it on my stomach. He looked as though he really didn’t want to be there, not surprisingly as I’m sure he had many things on his agenda even if it was an off-day. But being head coach of the Montreal Canadiens means doing more than just coaching, so there he was.
Too often modern-day professional sports coaches, and some at the college level as well, consider dealing with the media as an added chore. It’s time to make it abundantly clear to many of them that responding to reporters questions in a civilized manner is part of your job – regardless of whether you like the question or not.
We no longer live in a world where fedora-wearing reporters, pencils and pads in hand, try to get a few words out of a coach in his office after a game. Teams have elaborate media rooms set up with lights, cameras and branding and advertising galore. This age of instant information just makes stubborn or ranting coaches look silly.
I’m not saying a new reporter, like many other jobs, doesn’t have a few ropes to learn, and some dues to pay. But it seems to me it’s up to Curtis’ seasoned colleagues to point this out, not the coach.