I have a dream. I have a dream to someday open up my email program and see an ASP press release that excites me. Something like "Kai Otton Disgusted with Judges" or "Occy Throws Sausage Roll at Bugs" Of course, that’ll never happen—the email that is.
The ASP press agents have been coddling pro surfers like greedy overprotective parents. It’s as if they subcontracted their PR out to the Disney Channel. It’s all smiles and Mickey Mouse. It’s Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. It’s Hanna Montana. And that, my fellow fan, is boring. And quite frankly it’s bad for the sport.
What’s missing from our dose of ASP PR are the losers and the drama that accompanies them.
In all other professional sports the loser is held accountable for his competitive failings. The athlete or the coach or the general manager is required to stand in front of the media and answer questions: “Dude, what happened?” We know the ASP wants to facilitate and nurture our interest in professional surfing, therefore they must excavate some drama for us. Give us some stories. Interview the losers.
We rarely hear from the losers. Case in point: The Boost Mobile Pro at Lowers presented by Hurley. Upstart wildcards Jordy Smith and Dane Reynolds took down four of the big five: Andy, Joel, Taj, and Mick—those guys got waxed by rookies! Did we hear from any of the losers? No. Irons, a known hot-head, would’ve stirred the pot. Even if he said nothing, Irons would have been fabulous muttering "no comment." Did we hear from Mick Fanning, you know, the number one surfer in the world? Nope. God forbid a sober Eugene somehow emerged and set foot in the pressroom. And how come we didn’t hear from Slater when he lost to Michel Bourez last week in France? I’d like to hear Slater "let go" a little in the pressroom.
Note to ASP: A loser is more interesting than a winner. The best insights, sound bites, and water-cooler fodder comes from the mouths of losers. Please, give us the losers. A loser is either pissed, introspective, defensive, or a combination of the aforementioned. That’s a winning combination for journalists, sports fans, and the ASP.
A winner on the other hand spews forth Mickey Mouse drool like “I'm just stoked, that's about all I can say." This, by the way, was a direct quote from the ASP press release by Mick Fanning after winning the Quiksilver Pro in France last weekend. Guess what, we want to hear from the losers. We want to know how pissed off these guys are. If they lose make them face the music. Storming off the beach without comment is no fair.
Of course mandating that losers—all losers—face the media is good for the ASP. (Although they are apparently too shortsighted to see this.) Press conferences with the losing athletes create stories for the surf media. Here’s an imaginary example headline for ya: “CJ Hobgood Calls Brother Damien a Kook.” Instead we get: “Damien Hobgood Pleased to Move Onto Round 4.”
Boring. Why? Because CJ never made it to the press tent for an interview. He lost and heaven forbid the ASP would interview a loser. Why interview Charlie Manson when you’ve got Ryan Seacrest?
I’ve been preaching about rivalries for years. They are crucial for continued fan interest, especially in a sport that needs ancillary involvement to pass the often-times slow-moving nature of man-on-man competition.
To not get a comment from Andy Irons after losing to wildcard Jordy Smith at the Lowers event is criminal. Imagine if Irons would have been interviewed and said the following:
“Yeah, whatever. Those guys are supposed to be the shit…whatever. I mean they’re good surfers and all…We’ll see next year at Teahupoo." (Disclaimer: Irons did not say this)
A simple comment like that would’ve set the stage for all sorts of story lines leading into next year. Conflict is good. The best thing about NASCAR (besides the crashes) is the red-neck fights the drivers get into after the checkered flag. They lead off SportsCenter every time, as do sound bites from losers. Interviewing losers develops rivalries, spikes fans interest, and fuels the competitive machine.
Let’s review: Hearing a winner tell us that he is "stoked": bad. Hearing an Australian pro surfer tell us that Americans are all wankers: good. Clich ridden Mary-Kate and Ashley ASP press releases: bad. Mick Campbell and Andy Irons throwing blows around the shower…good.
Hey, I’m allowed to dream.