LAS VEGAS — Earlier this week, a reporter at the Super Bowl asked San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy the following:
“There are pictures of you and Lee Harvey Oswald circling around the internet right now. People think you two look alike. Have you ever heard that before?”
Purdy looked confused. He shut his eyes when Oswald’s name was mentioned and then tried to stay as poised as he does when facing a pass rush. His expression conveyed the obvious: What the heck is this?
“I haven’t,” Purdy said. “That’s my first time hearing it.”
What do you think about it?
“Ah. Eh. Yeah. I don’t know.”
You might have seen this exchange. Video of it went sort of viral, and plenty of other outlets aggregated it because, well, who the hell knows.
Telling an NFL quarterback that “people” on “the internet” think he looks like a presidential assassin is a pretty surefire way to get “engagement.”
That appeared to be the entire goal for the reporter: Use Purdy as a pawn. Trick him into thinking he was getting a reasonable question. Then hit him with something out of left field that might lead to an uncomfortable exchange, all in the hope that you can reap some TikTok views from it. And if that’s the case, it worked. Congrats.
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There isn’t a lot of sympathy to be had for highly paid football players and coaches. And no one is suggesting that Super Bowl coverage shouldn’t be fun. Most of these guys enjoy talking about their interests, their personalities. They enjoy the jokes and the experience. Endless questions about run schemes are boring.
Super Bowl media day long ago descended into a cast of gimmicks, bits and comedians. One time a television reporter from Mexico wore a wedding dress and asked both Tom Brady and Eli Manning to marry her. And haven’t truly lived until you’ve seen Bill Belichick get asked a question by a puppet.
So hey, have fun.
It’s just football.
Yet at some point during this Super Bowl week, the tide seemed to turn from the above to just repeated attempts at scoring viral social media content with crazier and crazier and often more and more unfair questions. There is no sense to any of it.
The players and coaches have become circus animals to be poked and prodded, a chance at getting a reaction that will get traction. You could argue this is part of their job – promoting the Super Bowl – but they aren’t in on the joke as much as they are the joke.
Hey, someone somewhere thinks you look like a famous murderer. Thoughts?
In another presser, Kansas City coach Andy Reid was asked the following:
“What do you say about the conspiracies that have popped up concerning Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift, like some kind of Republican conspiracies that you guys made it to the Super Bowl to secretly help reelect President Biden?”
Reid looked understandably confused. Exactly how said conspiracy would even work was not addressed. You wouldn’t have blamed him if he pointed out he has Patrick Mahomes going for him and that might be why his team has reached four of the last five Super Bowls.
Yet an honest answer might come off the wrong way. So he deftly smiled. “Hmm,” he laughed. “That’s way out of my league.” He then shifted to saying how nice Taylor Swift was.
This was par for the course. Mahomes was asked about his father’s recent DWI arrest. Purdy was also told he looked like a female high school tennis star in Utah, who has gained an enormous following as a result. He did agree there was a resemblance. Why Purdy lookalikes are such a topic is anyone’s guess.
Kelce, of course, was hit with a parade of the Taylor Swift questions – which were mostly fair. He is dating one of the most famous women in the world and their relationship is front and center. Maybe no one is more easygoing, patient or smooth at brushing off awkward questions.
Yet there is something odd about a perfect stranger asking someone when they might pop the question. No one would dare ask that to his face in a one-on-one setting.
“Who’s getting a ring first, the Niners or Taylor?” Kelce was asked.
“I’m hoping I get this ring on Sunday, I know that,” he said.
This is 2024, where social media rules the world and the more outrageous the video, the better. Humiliating the players sometimes feels like the goal.
It’s certainly not going to change.
Yet one of the most uncomfortable, if not unfortunate, parts of the Super Bowl has gained momentum. The fact reporters are increasingly emboldened and rewarded for being rude and hurling unusual questions at trapped athletes who can only smile and take it, isn’t a great societal trend.
These guys are preparing for the biggest day of their career.
That shouldn’t open them up to a week of attempted humiliations.