Any mildly skeptical person who has watched television footage of miked-up coaches and players on the sidelines, or in the huddle, or in the locker room, has wondered at least occasionally whether those are snippets of genuine emotion and instruction, or scenes of characters playing a role for the cameras.
Well, in a kind-of captivating interview with ESPN 980 this week, John Thompson III gave his own answer: the latter. The Georgetown coach was asked about “Hard Knocks,” in light of the Cleveland Browns turning down an opportunity to be on the HBO program. He answered that question in a non-surprising manner.
But then Thompson went on to talk about pregame on-camera locker room speeches. And he essentially said they’re a sham.
“As a coach, I don’t want ‘Hard Knocks’ anywhere near me, whether I’ve got Johnny Manziel, Joe Namath, I don’t want that,” Thompson told 980’s “Inside the Locker Room” program. “Trust me, he’s got such personality and such hype coming in that I don’t think that organization needs it to sell tickets. That’s going to happen, with jerseys or anything else. Personally as a coach — and the world is changing — but I don’t want to be miked. I don’t want people in the locker room, I don’t want people in training camp, I don’t want people in meetings, because I want to be able — sometimes — to talk in those tongues I learned growing up that you can’t do when the cameras are there.
“Now, the world is changing,” Thompson continued. “I just rattled off I don’t want to do all that, but I had people come in our halftime room this year. I had people come in for a pregame speech. The world is changing, and as coaches you have to adapt. But you just asked me do I want that? Absolutely not. Absolutely not.”
And then he went on.
“I maybe shouldn’t say this, but I’m gonna say it,” Thompson said. “I’m miked for pre-game talk. So I tell the team, ‘Look fellas, the cameras are coming in.’ I said: ‘I’m gonna make up something to say, all right? We’re gonna sit here, let them stay with us for about five minutes, then we’re gonna kick ’em out, then we’re gonna have our real talk. Don’t start laughing.’
“So the people from Fox come in, and I’m going through my spiel. And we write a speech for this. I’m sitting there going through my spiel, and the team was just looking at me, snickering. At one point, I had to turn my back to the camera, because I was getting ready to break out laughing. …
“And that’s why I don’t want it,” Thompson said. “I’ll even break it down even further, even with letting people come into practice. I know I talk differently, I coach differently if I have a mic on. I know I talk differently, I coach differently if there are people sitting up in the stands in practice.
“And so it’s not like everything is always ‘Oh, there are these secret walls up around Georgetown.’ There is some of that, don’t get me wrong. But to create the best learning environment for our kids, I think sometimes we don’t need to be miked. we don’t need to be putting on a show 24-7, 365 for the audience. We need to be helping this group that’s in front of us grow up, get better, and become young men.”
That’s amazing. Now I want to see the fake speech.