If you haven't seen the exchange between tennis star Kim Clijsters and Todd Woodbridge below, it's certainly worth a viewing. Just click play, your boss isn't around. It's Friday and he/she has checked out.
For some reason, I kind of find it refreshing. It's funny, unexpected, and playful. Clijsters does a great job segueing into it casually and Woodbridge should be commended for not freezing with the publish ambush. It's obvious that they're friendly and that both parties can take a joke even if it's very public and embarrassing. I think the real attraction to this story, though, is just how out of place the exchange is in today's sports media world.
Clijsters is from Belgium and Woodbridge, a former tennis player, is an Aussie. The network that carried this interview is also Australian. The way it unfolded gave you a reassurance that there was "no harm no foul," but it's hard to see the same casual public chuckle about this if it involved Americans, in the US, and on an American channel. It just wouldn't fly.
A reporter texting a player to comment on a player's attitude and bigger boobs would likely be seen as inappropriate conduct by his employer. I'd also like to think that female sensitivity, especially in regards to careers, is for better or worse a much more hot button issue domestically and I'm not sure you'd find a top female athlete as comical if ever confronted in similar fashion.
Also, would an ESPN personality be able to laugh this off instead of clamming up and making the situation even more awkward, fretting that his employment or standing with the company was on borrowed time?
I just can't see ESPN or NBC or whoever really just rolling with this. It would be on sports talk radio, PTI, Around the Horn, this website, and all over the blogosphere and surely you'd have a good chunk of people screaming murder because this is America and we invent problems and causes because generally speaking life ain't too shabby (sorry, I just saw the new Louis CK comedy special and this point was entrenched in my head).
The Australian television network in question hasn't even broken a sweat. They've posted the videos online and are generally having a nice laugh about the incident and are not making any apologies or statements about the the interview.
All in all, this was funny, because it was two people poking fun at each other and not really giving a thought to their image and the public's reaction.
Is that so terrible? Wanting athletes and reporters to be candid and not injecting marketing, promotion, and politically correct commentary and vanilla reporting into every morsel of mainstream sports media?
Looking back at some of the legends of sports broadcasting, you have to wonder if they could really thrive in today's media world where it seems the norm is to walk on egg shells and throw the athletic talent and coaches softball questions. On the flip side athletes are more media trained than ever. Sure, Twitter has eliminated some of those barriers, but managers, agents, teams, and colleges have done a great job watering down real emotion and candid answers.
Woodbridge probably shouldn't have let his theory be known outside of his inner circle. Hard to say how grumpy Clijsters was but looking at the exhibit A of increased bust size, I could see how he ventured his guess.