Thornton’s comments kick up a storm
By Eric Wilkins, Sports Editor
After the 4-1 thrashing of the Vancouver Canucks by the San Jose Sharks last week, reporters were up to their usual routine: cramming into the locker room and grabbing quotes. As was to be expected, wunderkind Tomas Hertl of the Sharks was a prime topic of conversation, having just come off a four-goal effort against the Rangers. When Patrick Marleau was being questioned about whether Hertl was showboating or not, Sharks captain Joe Thornton jumped in with a, “Shut up. Have you ever played the game?” The star centre then added that if he were to score four goals he’d have a certain male appendage in hand in celebration.
In the aftermath of Thornton’s words, the Province’s whitetowel.ca blog published the quote. It took off from there. Every sports reporting outlet had a story on it and the Twitter universe exploded with analysts and male teens alike gleefully reposting the world’s latest public mention of Mr. Johnson.
As the dust began to settle, some groups began to bring up the age-old debate of what’s on the record and what’s off the record. Thornton wasn’t the one being interviewed. He wasn’t even the subject of the interview. Should he have been published? Absolutely.
This is the 21st century: the age of social media; the age of instant reporting; the age when privacy seems to be at an all-time low and people make every effort to further that low. With this in mind, why should the result come as any surprise at all when a multi-million-dollar athlete screams a crass bit to a crowd already armed with recorders running? A reporter’s job is to get the scoop and tell the story. Juicy lines like Thornton’s don’t come along every day and they definitely beat the usual tired clichés.
For the record, it’s most people’s understanding (at least from the reporting side of the microphone) that if you’re talking, it’s on the record. Unless there’s an agreement beforehand, expect to see whatever scandalous and incriminating remarks you made in print.
Scott Emmert, the Sharks’ director of media relations, said in a prepared statement, “I don’t think it would be a surprise to anyone in the industry that ‘locker room talk’ exists. Professional reporters understand that concept and respect it. This is a pathetic attempt to generate some page hits and controversy by reporting an off-the-cuff and off-the-record comment made by someone who wasn’t even being interviewed at the time.”
Emmert’s comments should come as no surprise to anyone. While he’s essentially spouting nonsense, it is the duty of a professional organization to present itself as such. The Sharks can’t stand behind anything that makes them appear less respectable. Emmert and the rest of the organization likely know just as well as everyone else that “off-the-record” is generally nothing more than a term of fantasy.
Of course, Thornton’s words ring fairly hollow; the man scored all of seven goals last year.