New York Rangers coach John Tortorella is well-known for his terse and impatient press conferences after games, in which he generally makes journalists look like fools. This was one of the items he discussed Monday with Bob Costas on Costas Tonight, and it’s totally fine — as Tortorella points out, players and coaches have a lot going through their minds after games, and it’s not terribly surprising that they might not be all that into being interrogated at that moment.
What’s less excusable is the conversation they have regarding social media, which goes likes this:
JT: I also have a tough time in answering questions that really they have the answers to. It’s to fill their blogs, to fill their Tweeters or whatever you call that stuff, the Twitter accounts and all that. I’m not too interested in the social media, I’m more wrapped up with the hockey club at that time and that’s my total focus.
BC: I’m going to grant you this; in fact, I’m in complete agreement with part of it, and it’s probably only gotten worse with some aspects of social media.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME. Costas goes on to clarify his position somewhat, acknowledging that problems with uninformed journalists and questioners also extend to newspapermen and the “traditional media.” You can see the interview below; Tortorella eventually concedes that he needs to get better at answering questions and dealing with the media, because it’s a part of his job description. And it is.
This idea that Tortorella and Costas are promoting, though — the idea that somehow, the people who use their “Tweeters” are not, in fact, real journalists; that they’re separate from the newspaper writers and other members of the media — is insane. Costas is well-known as a reactionary, often using his perch at NBC to launch into lectures about the lost integrity of football or his favorite subject, golf, on Sundays in the fall. There is a Twitter account registered under @BobCostasNBC, but it isn’t verified and has only tweeted 16 times, so there’s no telling whether it’s authentic. There’s a good chance the account is an incredibly bad fake, but I also think there’s a good chance it’s real because of how short-lived and confused and, at times, earnest it seems to be. If it is it’s remarkably inane and far more emblematic of the accounts that he and Tortorella seem to be chiding than those of most legitimate media members. For example:
Not really a surprise that this guy doesn’t understand Twitter, or “social media,” which doesn’t even exist in the way the pair seem to be talking about it.
At this point, for a coach like Tortorella not to understand Twitter is a significant, cultural blindspot, considering that a huge number of the players he coaches — and will coach in the future — have become Twitter natives. Twitter changes the nature of an athlete being a public figure, because all of a sudden, fans have a barely controlled channel into that player’s humanity, an element of athletes that most teams and leagues go to all lengths to either control or obscure. Whether Tortorella cares about social media or not, his players sure as hell do.
Meanwhile, Costas reveals himself as a cloistered TV urchin, completely unattached to the reality of what a grunt in the media rank and file does to advance the story. At least Tortorella comes to recognize his own need to improve and mature as a sports figure. And I guess there’s always the hope that Costas will come around. But I’m not counting on it.