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Giovanni Bernard didn’t deserve to be harassed by the media after the Pirates’ loss

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At the risk of sounding like an old lady, here’s the thing: Journalists aren’t supposed to turn to the story.

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But journalists covering on Monday Tampa Bay Buccaneers They found themselves as one of the Stories of the Day on NFL Twitter (along with Gobsmacking Lack of situational awareness From New England Patriots‘Crime) after posting a video of their post-game interaction with Backup Young Bernards.

For a recap: The Pirates were leading 17-3 at halftime Sunday against Cincinnati and got the ball to start the second half. Bernard fumbled a fake punt on fourth and one With the ball in Buc’s half, f Bengals It was acquired at the Tampa Bay 16-yard line. Despite Cincinnati’s favorable field position, the Bengals defense held it to only a field goal. It was an unfortunate mistake, and The Bengals went on to win the game 34-23anyway Tom BradyThe four turnovers that followed—on consecutive possessions—arguably played a much larger role in the loss.

In the locker room after the game. the journalists said Bernard initially refused to comment on the play, then acquiesced after being outraged.

To be clear, it’s not the interaction with Bernard that’s the problem. Any reporter who has been on the job for any reasonable length of time will have confrontational or embarrassing interactions, especially when the team has just lost a game or the topic is bad play by a player or a bad call by a coach. While there is a 10-minute “cool-off” period before coaches get to the stage or locker rooms open, the truth is for some athletes and in some situations, that period isn’t nearly enough.

And it’s not about Bernard’s unwillingness to speak either. By many accounts, the veteran is one of the best players the media will encounter in the NFL locker room, but he’s neither the first nor the last player who wasn’t interested in talking to reporters after a loss or big miss.

It’s a fact that we’ve ever seen the interaction.

Posting this video reeks of an attempt to publicly and needlessly shame Bernard, and there are uncomfortable moments. There was a meme that circulated online years ago, of an empty white laundry basket and the words, “Your dirty laundry belongs here. Not on Facebook.” In the same way, not every interaction between reporters and athletes needs to become social media fodder.

Bernard initially told reporters he wouldn’t speak on Sunday because they didn’t want to talk to him any other time in the season. He missed nine weeks due to an ankle injury he suffered in Week 2, and the Bucs, like most teams, don’t make players available to the media when they’re on injured reserve. Sunday was his third comeback of the game, and his circumstances played a part in the loss.

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 27: Giovanni Bernard #25 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is seen after a preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Tampa Bay boss running back Giovanni Bernard, pictured here in August after a preseason game against Indianapolis, had an awkward interaction with the media after Sunday’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

But as we can see in the video, as he was walking into the locker room, a reporter told Bernard, “You’ve been injured all year” as an excuse for not getting any media attention before then. Another person says, “What have you done for us to talk to you all year?”

Yikes.

Yes, players are technically required to make themselves available to the media once during the week and after the match. But any analysis of Sunday’s match can be done without Bernard’s involvement, and telling the crowd he won’t comment after the match could lead to some fans judging him negatively for not holding himself accountable for his mistake. The result is that Bernard deals with reporters, not reporters.

In Bernard’s favour, he is finally forced. He said it was a misunderstanding, it was all on him and “I got it wrong”. After the third time he gave this response, it was obvious he wasn’t going to give more, but he still had four more questions. Four other variations followed on the same answer.

If there was an intent to make Bernard look bad with how things turned out, for many it had the opposite effect: members of the media are the ones who look bad, not to mention unprofessional.

Asking him what he did to reward the media people talking to him is ugly. Bernard is a 31-year-old running back who plays on a one-year contract for the minimum a player with his experience can earn. He didn’t want to suffer an injury that kept him out for half the season. He’s probably well aware that this may be his last season as a professional athlete and he may be embarrassed that the guy who once had three straight seasons with over 1,000 yards from scrimmage is now relegated to special teams play only.

Beyond that, he’s human. This fact seems to be completely missing in the interaction. It becomes clear that the reporters wanted something from Bernard, and are cursed if they don’t get it.

Journalism requires first and foremost a great curiosity, but almost as important, the ability to nurture and maintain relationships. Insulting a guy in a low moment because you’re demanding that he explain his mistake seems to be completely antithetical to building good relationships. Maybe for some reporters, only beginners or superstars deserve a good treatment, and that’s wrong. You never know when your backup will be a star, and by focusing only on bold names, an amazing story can be missed in a different corner of the room.

And if you really want to know how to make a hot dog sometimes, a good reporter knows that disgruntled players can be the best sources, especially on struggling teams. But this is only after the relationship has been established, usually through the investment of time. If something happens that the team doesn’t want the public to know about, then maybe you Get a text on a snowy morning And break a big story.

Of course fans want to know how the winning play came together or what went wrong with the fake gambling attempt, but Bernard didn’t want to give his details on Sunday. It might have happened on Monday if it had been treated differently.

What sets the Beat Reporter apart is reach. What was done with that access is important.

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