When you say nothing at all

Sprinter Usain Bolt takes a question from Ourmaninstockholm about Manchester United in good humour, Oslo, June 2011

I had one of those interviews last week.

It was the kind where, despite speaking to someone for a painful five minutes, they don’t actually say anything that could possibly be construed as interesting.

When it was done and filed, the editor on the desk called me up and said “the quotes are very mundane- can you try to inject a little personality?”

My response was that I couldn’t put in something that the interviewee either didn’t have or didn’t want to share with me – or you.

The vast majority of athletes are now given some sort of media training, either by their clubs, federation or managers, where they are taught to reveal as little as possible.

They trade in blandness, sticking out only when a sponsor or meet arranger demands it. And sometimes, not even then.

Of course, it’s not entirely their fault. Some of my colleagues in the press room – team-mates, if you will – are only too ready to deliberately misinterpret what they say.

They will create “rifts” and “shocks” and “betrayals” out of the most innocent comments.

There are exceptions of course. Free from injury, Usain Bolt was a pleasure last week in Oslo and even if she doesn’t seem to like the questions I ask, Carolina Kluft is always talkative, friendly and accommodating.

Of all the footballers I’ve run into recently, Almeria’s Henok Goitom is a breath of fresh air.

Though I haven’t interviewed him yet, he is an intelligent young man, well able to defend his opinions and principles in a way others could learn from.

Moreso, he will have a career long after the curtain comes down on his playing days, because people will remember what he stood for. The same cannot be said for many of his contemporaries.

Because for the most part, athletes are now one half of the ultimate journalistic chicken-and-egg situation; they hide, afraid to be misconstrued, whilst the hacks without principles peck away at their words like blind hens, hoping to miraculously strike it lucky in a farmyard of banality.

Who started it is a moot point – the fact is that it’s now the way of the world in the press conference and the mixed zone.

Strangely, neither seem to be embarrassed by the whole situation, but I still find it very irritating because it’s a sign of a lack of respect on all sides- from the athlete, the journalist and the reader.

But if they don’t think it’s worth saying, then I don’t think it’s worth writing about.

And if you’ve any sense, you won’t find it interesting to read about either.