The Most Awkward Interview Moments in Sports

Jessica Marie@ItsMsJisnerCorrespondent IIJanuary 9, 2013

The Most Awkward Interview Moments in Sports

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    Awkward moments in sports are a thing of beauty.

    You could spend hours combing through the YouTube archive to find the most gloriously uncomfortable moments in sports. Whether they happen in postgame press conferences, in one-on-one interviews or in behind-the-scenes locker-room moments that no one was supposed to see, they all are cringe-worthy yet awesome in their hilarity.

    As long as you’re not the reporter who had to bear the brunt of the awkwardness, that is.

    Here are some of the most awkward interview moments in sports.

20. Andrew Bynum Will Answer His Own Questions

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    Things were rough for the Los Angeles Lakers last year before the playoffs even began. It became readily apparent that this team was going nowhere without Kobe Bryant, and it probably wasn't going anywhere with him, either.

    Everyone knew it—including, apparently, Andrew Bynum, whom Lindsay Rhodes made the mistake of interviewing after a loss to the Spurs.

    Bynum spent the entirety of the unbearable 60-second interview shifting from foot to foot, refusing to look at Rhodes or the camera and refusing to even wait until she had asked her questions before offering up whatever irrelevant answer he felt like giving. And if you could stave off motion sickness and make it through the entirety of the interview, you would see Bynum just walk away before it was supposed to be over.

    To Rhodes’ credit, she handled it well and tried her best to minimize the awkwardness.

19. Ndamukong Suh vs. Mike Valenti and Terry Foster

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    The blame should go both ways on this one. It was clear that Ndamukong Suh didn’t want to answer a question—to the point that it was uncomfortable—and the journalists kept hounding him anyway. Thus, unsurprisingly, something unpleasant happened.

    For a long time, Suh’s reputation has been in need of some serious rehabilitation, and he didn’t get any on his weekly radio appearance on 97.1 The Ticket with Mike Valenti and Terry Foster in the aftermath of his suspension for his infamous stomp during the Lions’ Thanksgiving game in 2011.

    But then again, it’s the reporter’s job to ask the hard questions, isn’t it?

    In any case, Suh wasn’t interested in talking about the play—or discussing whether he felt embarrassed/guilty/wrong about it—and when Valenti and Foster refused to divert to another line of questioning, he promptly cut the interview short.

    The road to the end of the interview, though, is pretty unbearable.

    Interview audio here, c/o Deadspin.

18. Andy Roddick Will Discuss Retirement When He’s Ready

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    Andy Roddick has never been shy, especially when he’s on a podium. He is also a player who was known for being notoriously cranky in the wake of defeat.

    That’s why one reporter should have known better than to ask him about his rumored retirement plans in the immediate aftermath of a first-round loss in the China Open.

    The reporter probably meant well—and to his credit, he wasn’t too far off, seeing as Roddick hung up his hat after the U.S. Open in 2012. But still, Roddick didn’t take well to the speculation. Before the reporter had even finished posing his (incredibly long-winded) question, Roddick had done his fair share of eye-rolling and heavy sighing.

    When the reporter finally stopped talking, Roddick simply said, "I think you should retire," then walked out.

    Well, then.

17. Nicole Richie on Kobe Bryant

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    Here, we have a moment that was so unbearably awkward that the reporter who was hit with the moment in question behaved as though he’d been struck by an 18-wheeler and couldn’t even bring himself to respond.

    That’s what you get for interviewing Nicole Richie circa 2007 at a Lakers game.

    This reporter looked like he hated himself from the second he began interviewing Richie, so his reaction wasn’t all that unexpected. Nevertheless, when he asked the Simple Life star if she had a favorite NBA player, he certainly didn’t expect to receive the response he got.

    This moment was made all the more awkward by the reporter’s utter inability to maintain any sense of composure in its aftermath. Or maybe he deserved it for asking someone sitting courtside at a basketball game if he or she is a basketball fan.

16. Kellen Winslow Is a Soldier

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    How long do you think Kellen Winslow spent planning this tirade before he issued it?

    It’s hard to figure out exactly what his point was in this postgame monologue from his college days in 2003. Well, actually, he clearly wanted to state that he is a soldier, even though he is, in fact, not a soldier; he is a football player.

    The whole demeanor of this interview is uncomfortable—partly because there doesn’t really seem to be anything obvious that set him off, and partly because there seems to be something disingenuous or stilted about the whole thing. It was like he wanted to prove how intense he could be.

    Or as intense as you could possibly seem while saying the opponent “doesn’t give a freaking…you-know-what about you.”

    Those are some fighting words. How reporters kept a straight face while watching this go down live is beyond me.

15. Do Not Ask Bill Belichick a Dumb Question

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    Bill Belichick is probably one of the least desirable interview subjects on any reporter’s list because you never know what is going to set him off.

    But, when you do know what kinds of things set him off, it’s best to stay away from those topics of discussion.

    One unfortunate Boston-area reporter learned that the hard way last season, when—during a postgame news conference—she made the mistake of asking the New England Patriots head coach whether he can gauge his players’ effectiveness by watching them play against other elite players.

    Cue the disaster.

    Maybe she took too long to ask the question, or maybe Belichick just wasn’t in the mood to listen, but he was not happy with this particular reporter’s “soliloquy” and embarked upon a soliloquy of his own to make her feel dumb for asking.

    Audio here, courtesy of WEEI.

14. Kurt Busch Hates Dumb Questions, Too

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    Kurt Busch has had plenty of bad moments over the last year or so, and when reporters ask him about it, have no fear: He will have more bad moments.

    Such was the case this summer, when Busch—upon being asked whether he raced any differently on probation than he did pre-probation—exploded on Sporting News reporter Bob Pockrass.

    In response to the reporter’s question, Busch said, “It refrains me from beating the s*** out of you right now because you ask me stupid questions. But since I’m on probation, I suppose that that’s improper to say as well.”

    All grammatical red flags aside, Busch had a point. He didn’t want to talk about things unrelated to racing, but then again, he seems to have a clear inability to behave like a civil human being.

    Note to Busch: Threatening innocents in the presence of television cameras never goes well.

13. Kevin Garnett Employs the Worst Metaphor Ever

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    We’ll give Kevin Garnett a pass on this one. This was when he was still with the Timberwolves, and he was still a little bit younger, and he just couldn’t restrain the unbridled passion he felt as his team prepared to embark on a critical Game 7 matchup.

    We all know that KG loves to go overboard, especially during interviews. The art of keeping some things to himself is utterly foreign.

    That is how, in an effort to describe his pre-Game 7 feelings, he ended up rattling off the name of virtually every weapon known to man as if he was about to enter guerrilla warfare rather than a basketball game. You keep thinking he’s going to stop—and so do the reporters, judging by their nervous, uncomfortable laughter—but he just keeps on going and going.

12. Novak Djokovic Gets Ferociously Booed at US Open

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    Novak Djokovic gets booed a lot, and he seems to be remarkably OK with it. He seems like a laid-back dude who understands that not everyone is going to love you, especially when you destroy a crowd's hero on his home soil.

    That’s how Djokovic ended up getting booed live by thousands of people in the midst of a post-match interview.

    Djokovic definitely provoked this one, probably on purpose. But that didn’t make it any less uncomfortable to watch. After beating Andy Roddick in the U.S. Open quarterfinals in 2008, Djokovic took a jab at Roddick, who had previously ragged on him in a news conference for constantly complaining about injuries.

    Obviously, the pro-Roddick crowd wasn’t going to take well to Djokovic rubbing salt in the wound of their guy. And even though Djokovic seemed to be fine with it, the excessive booing—and the extensive time for which it lasted—was still pretty sad.

11. Heather Cox vs. Nick Saban

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    Inherently, this didn’t have to be awkward; inherently, it shouldn’t have been awkward. But Alabama head coach Nick Saban apparently decided he was going to make ESPN’s Heather Cox feel extremely uncomfortable for asking a perfectly reasonable question, and that was that.

    At halftime of Alabama’s eventual season-opening 41-14 win over Michigan, Cox—that’s right, she’s making two appearances on this list—asked Saban a question about his running backs-by-committee approach, and Saban, for reasons unknown, became incredibly defensive about his players’ abilities.

    We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he heard the question wrong, but the commentators certainly didn’t make things any less awkward by guffawing in the aftermath of the strange interview.

10. Ryan Leaf’s Locker Room Meltdown

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    In the days long before Philip Rivers ruled all things football in San Diego (ha!), Ryan Leaf ruled the roost for a very short time—and you know, sometimes, guys got on his nerves.

    Take the above, for example. In the aftermath of a game in September 1998, a reporter made the mistake of either looking at, speaking to or perhaps brushing his arm against the angry quarterback. Leaf leaped off the bench and began berating the reporter with chants of, “Don’t touch me, alright? Knock it off!” before teammates came to the shell-shocked reporter’s aid.

    Sadly, things for Leaf haven’t been much better since that outburst. This summer, the former No. 2 overall draft pick was sentenced to five years behind bars on felony drug and burglary charges.

9. Holly Rowe vs. Sad Other Reporter

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    Holly Rowe one-upped her ESPN colleague Heather Cox (still to come—have no fear!). Not only would she get her interview with her winning head coach Brady Hoke after the Sugar Bowl by any means necessary, but she would even take out a fellow reporter to get the job done.

    So that’s what she did.

    As Hoke addressed a scrum of reporters on the field after the game and then began to make his getaway, another handheld recorder-toting reporter stopped him and posed a question. Rowe, however, needed her interview, so she boxed out the woman with far too much illegal contact and completely took over while the first reporter sadly looked on helplessly.

    You gotta do what you gotta do when it comes to getting that interview for the Worldwide Leader.

8. David Stern vs. Jim Rome

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    Noted: Never ask David Stern if the NBA draft lottery is fixed—at least, if you want to avoid a vicious personal attack.

    When the New Orleans Hornets won the 2012 draft lottery, it begged the question of whether something sketchy was going on behind the scenes. Anthony Davis was, after all, the top player available—by a long shot—and the Hornets are owned by the NBA.

    Jim Rome made the mistake of asking the commissioner whether the lottery was fixed. Maybe not the best move in retrospect, but Stern didn’t give him a free pass for the bad question, firing back with, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”

    … ‘Kay.

    Non-sequitur slash inappropriate question of the year goes to Stern. Not that everybody listening wasn’t sitting on the edge of his or her seat.

    And this is probably the only time in my life I’ll ever say this, but Rome handled the horrifically awkward inquiry as well as possible.

    Also: Doesn’t Stern’s incredible defensiveness just lend more credence to the idea that the lottery really is fixed?

    Audio here, courtesy of Deadspin.

7. “That’s a Clown Question, Bro”

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    Seriously—why would you ever ask this question? Why? It gives me secondhand embarrassment just to hear it.

    But it did give us, “That’s a clown question, bro,” so perhaps it was worthwhile after all.

    This summer, eventual Rookie of the Year Bryce Harper had a huge game and was stupidly asked by a reporter which Canadian beer he’d prefer for a celebratory beverage. Even after being informed by a media relations representative that Harper, at 19, was not able to drink legally in the United States, this reporter was going anywhere without getting his question answered.

    Or not.

    Wisely, instead of choosing a beer, Harper smirked and told the reporter, “That’s a clown question, bro.”

    Yes. Yes, it is.

6. Kobe Bryant Can’t Guard

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    Last year's postseason was tough for the Los Angeles Lakers. They were in the midst of an identity crisis: They were no longer the top dogs in the Western Conference, and there was a newer, younger model in town.

    You can imagine, therefore, Kobe Bryant’s frustration upon coming to this realization.

    After losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder 119-90 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals, Bryant was counting down the moments until his press conference ended when one renegade reporter posed one last question.

    “Can you guard?” he asked. Kobe had the sense to be offended, but that didn’t stop the reporter from posing his sarcastic question once again. And Kobe proceeded to make everyone else in the room uncomfortable with his equally sarcastic yet totally warranted response.

    Well done, Kobe.

5. Heather Cox vs. the Rose Bowl

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    Last week was a good one for Stanford, particularly head coach David Shaw.

    For ESPN sideline reporter Heather Cox? Not so much.

    The personality attempted to corral the winning head coach in the aftermath of Stanford’s 20-14 win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, and it was a battle from the beginning. Officials were attempting to pull Shaw elsewhere, and it was clear he didn’t want to be rude, but it was also clear that he had no idea what he was supposed to do.

    After answering one of Cox’s questions, Shaw made a getaway, sending Cox into a tailspin. When it became clear there was no way it was humanly possible for her to physically drag Shaw back to her interview, she allowed the anchors to toss away from her—but not before she could be heard crowing, “Are you kidding?” while her mic was still on.

    And at that point, the anchors not only had to awkwardly find a way to justify the lack of contractually guaranteed interview, they had to pretend they didn’t hear Cox’s post-interview mutterings.

4. Chad Johnson, Post-Concussion

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    Note to NFL team personnel: Do not let your players be interviewed postgame after they have clearly sustained concussions.

    Unfortunately, someone on the Bengals’ staff didn’t get that memo back in 2006, when Chad Johnson was permitted to face the media scrum after taking a vicious hit in a game against the Browns. From the first question on, it was readily apparent that Johnson was not in a state to be answering anything, so how he ended up in front of reporters is beyond me.

    The team was able to cut the interview short, fortunately—but not before Johnson was able to find his friend Hugh.

3. Peyton Manning and the Idiot Kicker

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    Here, we have one of the best, most legendary parables in sports history.

    For a moment, let’s harken back to the days when Peyton Manning was just a few years into his professional football career. He was still making a name for himself, and he was doing it fast—as he’d remind you, during this infamous interview.

    He may have been young, but he already had a handful of Pro Bowl appearances under his belt, and during a televised interview at one of those Pro Bowls, Lynn Swann gloriously asked him about kicker Mike Vanderjagt’s claims that he didn’t play with enough passion.

    And Peyton Manning unleashed like he never had before and never would again.

    Not only did Manning refer to Vanderjagt as the “idiot kicker” several times, he also rambled on about how Vanderjagt had gotten “liquored up” and “ran his mouth off.”

    This was great, but this is probably one Manning would like to have back.

2. Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy Shootaround Press Conference

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    What do you get when a coach tells the media his star player wants him fired, and then said star player comes up behind him, acts like they’re best friends and basically tells everyone to get back to work?

    One of the greatest displays of awkwardness ever.

    The tension between ex-Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard was extensive and well-documented, but never was it on display better than it was on one serendipitous day last April.

    Van Gundy was in the midst of a shootaround press conference when a reporter asked him to confirm reports that Howard asked front office management for his head on a platter. Van Gundy nonchalantly confirmed and elaborated a bit before Howard, all smiles, appeared, slung an arm around his coach’s shoulder and denied, denied, denied.

    Just take a look at Van Gundy’s face for the truth.

1. “That’s Fine.” —Derek Anderson

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    Back when people still cared about Derek Anderson, he probably wished people didn’t care about him—especially on that day his team was getting its butt kicked on Monday Night Football and the cameras picked up footage of him and a lineman laughing and having a grand old time.

    Props to the reporter for refusing to let Anderson get off easy on this one. He asked Anderson what he was laughing about, and Anderson just refused to give in. At first, he attempted to claim he wasn’t laughing at all. When the reporter pointed out that television cameras had, in fact, broadcasted footage of him conclusively laughing, Anderson had no choice but to say, “That’s fine,” upwards of five times.

    After a tirade about how “he takes this s*** seriously” and nothing is ever funny to him, ever—like, ever—Anderson had no choice but to walk out on the news conference while an entire room full of reporters watched with glee.

    Nothing is funny. Ever. That’s fine.