I watch a lot of sports. If you are reading this article, chances are you do too.
If you have watched just about any sporting event over the last 30 years, be it on NBC, CBS, ESPN or the Golf Channel, you have seen him. He has covered Super Bowls and World Series, NBA Finals and NCAA Final Fours, The Masters and the Olympics.
Jim Gray has been a fixture in the American sporting scene for years. He seems to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time and is not afraid to ask the difficult questions.
Gray conducted a famous interview with Pete Rose after Rose was named to Baseball's All Century team. In the interview, he bombarded Rose with questions about allegations of baseball gambling to which Rose would eventually confess (having already signed a document in which he accepted his ban from baseball). It was a hard-hitting interview, to be sure, but it never went over the line.
He was on hand when the Pacers and the Pistons came to blows with each other, and with some Pistons fans, in the Palace of Auburn Hills near Detroit, MI in 2004.
He was the man who interviewed Mike Tyson when Tyson famously stated that he wanted to "eat (Lennox Lewis's) children."
He interviewed LeBron James after James made his "decision" to join the Miami Heat.
Lately, however, Gray has seemed to be less about the story and more part of the story.
In the run-up to the Ryder Cup last August, during the PGA Championship, Gray got into a heated argument with then-captain Corey Pavin. Gray reported that Pavin had told Tiger Woods that if he, Woods, did not qualify for the team automatically, he would be a captain's pick. Pavin denied saying that.
Gray called Pavin a liar and told Pavin he was "going down," while poking a finger in Pavin's chest. I can only imagine what Gray meant by that. To my knowledge, nothing has come of it.
Now, Gray has been relieved of his duties during the broadcast of this week's Northern Trust Open after he tried to ask Dustin Johnson questions during his round.
Anyone who has ever watched golf knows that players do not sign autographs or conduct interviews during play, so why Gray would believe he could do so is a mystery.
The incident arose from a two-stroke penalty Johnson incurred when he failed to arrive on time for his tee-time (as an aside, Johnson is starting to show a knack for breaking some of the simplest rules of golf. Remember the bunker incident at the PGA last year?).
Gray and Johnson's caddy, Bobby Brown, got into an exchange after the round when Brown sought Gray to discuss the on-course incident.
Is this a sign of the times? In a society where people are famous simply for being famous, and you can reach a certain amount of celebrity for being on unscripted television shows (so-called "reality" television) or for making sex tapes, it seems more and more often that he people we rely on to deliver the news are becoming subjects of stories.
Not to pine for the "good old days," mostly because I'm not that old, but when I watch an interview, I'm trying to get the point of view of the interviewee, not the interviewer. I really don't care about Gray's opinion on things. I would like to formulate my own.
People like Gray can assist me by conducting the interview at a time and place that puts the interviewee at ease. This makes them more likely to share their thoughts. I thought that's what his job was.
Having been in the business as long as he has, it is nearly impossible that Gray was unaware that a PGA Tour player will not conduct an on-course interview during a competitive round. If he was aware of that, then he did what he did was simply for the notoriety he would receive for doing it.
And he was, rightly, punished for it.
There was nothing that Johnson was going to say that couldn't have waited until the end of his round. Those of us who play golf (and yes, I have played competitive golf) know that the game requires a different mind set than other sports. You have to be able to put bad shots or bad circumstances out of your head so you can concentrate on the shot you are about to make..
Because you have so much time to think between shots, it can be hard to get the last one out of your head.
Suppose you played in a regular foursome on Saturdays, and one day you made a bad shot on the first hole. Would you want one of your group asking you about it twelve holes later? I wouldn't.
Gray made a mistake and was punished for it. I don't believe he needs to be pilloried or thrown in prison.
But he, and others like him, who feel that the press pass is a free pass to do or say whatever they might want without fear of reprisal, needs to be told that the game is not about them.
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