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Rob Parker says he's sorry. Sorry for asking Lions coach Rod Marinelli if he wished his daughter had married a better defensive coordinator than Joe Barry, Marinelli's son-in-law and the Lions' defensive coordinator.
I’m sorry too. Sorry that my profession has gotten to the point that some of my colleagues feel the need to become the story rather than trying to shed light on a story.
Parker, who is a columnist for the Detroit News and a frequent contributor to ESPN, isn’t alone in this respect, but he is the epitome of the type of journalist who has risen to fame during ESPN’s scrollbar era. The proliferation of shows such as Around The Horn, Pardon The Interruption and other similarly themed shows have turned many print journalists into bombastic talking heads who have become more comfortable being instigators rather than thought provokers.
Instead of interviewing coaches, players and others around the league to explain to readers why the Lions are struggling, it has become more convenient to badger a head coach with one condescending question after another with the hope that one of his answers will be a juicy sound bite or a headline-grabbing quote. It’s the laziest form of journalism and one that is far too often becoming the norm amongst columnists auditioning for their own TV or radio show.
“It's almost a running joke,” writes Parker of his weekly questions calling for Barry to be fired. “A news conference isn't complete unless I ask it.”
The joke, however, only seems to be in Parker’s mind.
Parker wrote that he and Marinelli “have a different relationship.” That it’s “one built on mutual respect” because, as Parker puts it, “I respect what Marinelli is trying to accomplish as Lions coach, and he respects what I do as a sports columnist -- ask questions, tough ones, to get at the root of his team's woes.”
There is a fine line between asking tough questions and being a bully and far too often Parker has drifted towards the latter this season. His behavior during many Lions news conferences has been akin to a heckler repeating the same tired chant at a beleaguered coach rather than trying to get to, as he puts it, “the root of his team's woes.”
As a recognized columnist who insists he has a good relationship with Marinelli, Parker is able to do what many of his colleagues can’t. He can talk to Marinelli on the side after a press conference. He can engage him with questions away from the cameras and microphones. He can talk to him candidly over the phone. He can get him to open up about topics he may not be able to do so at a podium moments after a tough loss. Parker, however, has repeatedly chosen conflict and confrontation over tact and tenderness, electing to turn Marinelli’s press conferences into an extension of his talk show.
Parker apologized to Marinelli for his crass question through his column and on ESPN, making it seem as if he and Marinelli were on good terms after the incident. It would have been nice if Parker had apologized to Marinelli in person rather than shed the light on himself again and assume Marinelli’s refusal to blow up at him and give him the controversial quote he was looking for was in someway an acceptance of Parker’s behavior.
If he had, he would have discovered that Marinelli wasn’t fine with Parker’s question and didn’t accept his public apology. “I didn't read it. I was told a little bit about it," Marinelli said of Parker’s apology column. "I don't accept anything." His apology, like his line of questions was just another example of Parker taking the easy route, rather than the right route this season.