“They don’t like us.”

I  got a kick out of Kevin Durant’s latest soundbite:

“Man, the [media and experts are] always trying to nitpick us,” Kevin Durant told ESPN.com. “I mean, they don’t like us. They don’t like how Russell [Westbrook] talks to the media, they don’t like how I talk to the media. So obviously, yeah, they’re not going to give us the benefit of the doubt.”

I’ve been a sports reporter for 18 years, and I have to say there’s only one person I covered whom I genuinely disliked. Whose name probably wouldn’t register for anybody except a diehard fan of a particular sport at a particular level in a particular part of the country. He basically told me I was stupid, that I didn’t give his sport enough credit, that I would be better off covering girls volleyball or figure skating or fishing, and that I was wrong when I didn’t pick his star player to be our publication’s player of the year.

And each time I listened to him rant, I’d think, “I know I’m not stupid. I’ve covered girls volleyball, figure skating, fishing, lacrosse, hockey, football … and trust me, that kid deserved to be player of the year, much more than yours did.”

Only once did I lash out at him, because I had to stand my ground against his abuse. And after a few days, I apologized to him.

And while I was never for certain if his rants were just a product of misogyny, or of him genuinely disliking me, the fact that he gave me no respect – and respect should be inherent at any level, in any dealing, in any profession – made me dislike him.

But that’s enough wasting time and energy on such a small person. Again, I can’t really think of anybody I’ve covered where I’ve gone into an interview and thought, “Ugh, I can’t stand this person.” There have been athletes and coaches with abrasive personalities, but one of the things I’ve learned in being a journalist – and an observer, to a certain extent – is that you sort of manipulate your approach to work with someone else. You find common ground with them. Or you phrase questions a certain way. Or you even say, “well, I have to ask this, and I apologize if it’s a bit uncomfortable” (but only in specific instances).

There was a hockey player I never covered, but whose career I followed, and one thing I’d been told by several people was how bad it was to deal with this guy, because he didn’t like talking to the media. Later on, after he retired, I read about him and realized that this guy played through so much pain (multiple concussions, groin tear, broken wrist, ripped up knee, chronic back problems), as well as the perception that he was a bust after being a first-round draft pick who never lived up to his potential, and was probably miserable through most of his career. And maybe he felt as if he was only scrutinized. And I get how that would make someone unhappy. And here’s another truth: it’s hard for people who are constantly scrutinized to be honest. Because then, they are perceived as vulnerable.

But for the most part, I’ve found a lot of personalities in sports to be, well, entertaining. It’s unique to see what makes people tick, or how they respond to situations, or if they have a catchphrase they use – or even how often they use what their coaches tell them (Michigan football, under Brady Hoke: “Fundamentals and technique”; Michigan football, under Jim Harbaugh: “Enthusiasm unknown to mankind”).

So, no, it’s not that we don’t like you, Kevin Durant. We don’t even know you. But that’s another post for another day.

 

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