There was a tense moment in the media room Monday night following the Buffalo Bills’ 14-10 loss to the New England Patriots. Bills safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde got upset at a local Buffalo TV reporter for asking a question they felt was disrespectful.
The situation requires a little context. It was windy and snowy at Highmark Field, which led the Patriots to abandon the passing game (quarterback Mac Jones threw just three passes all night) and focus entirely on the run game. The Bills defense had a tough time containing the Pats, even though it was clear early on that the Pats did not want to put the ball in the air at all.
It was not a good night for the Bills defense, something Poyer and Hyde were aware of as they answered questions after the game. Things turned ugly when local TV reporter Jerry Sullivan asked Poyer and Hyde if they were “embarrassed” to have lost to a team that only attempted three passing plays.
That question did not go over well. Poyer and Hyde were immediately offended by a question that seemed to be designed to get them to say something unflattering about their teammates and coaches.
“What are we doing bro?” Hyde asked.
“I mean, what kind of question is that?” Poyer said.
Sullivan defended his question by saying “the nation will be criticizing” them for how they played, and then Poyer and Hyde attempted to give an answer.
“We made stops when we had to. They had one big run. I mean, they’ve got good backs,” Poyer said. “They kept coming back to a couple runs. I mean, I don’t know how you want us to answer that question.”
“That’s funny,” Hyde said about Sullivan’s question. “We’ll remember that. I’ll remember that.”
Then they both got up and left. On the way out, Hyde said, “It’s respect. It’s all about respect. I come here every week and answer your questions truthfully, honestly. I appreciate you guys. Don’t do that. Don’t do that.”
Did Hyde and Poyer have a point?
On the surface, it looks like Hyde and Poyer were scolding a reporter for doing his job, but there are more layers to this.
At the center of this tiff is the relationship between players and the media, which is similar to the relationship between coworkers at most jobs. You’re not required to be friends with your coworkers, but respect and civility go a long way toward making things work. When there’s respect between a player and a member of the media, questions are asked to get real answers and not just a big response, and answers are given to explain instead of obfuscate or evade.
It’s part of a player’s job to speak to the media after games, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It gets even harder after a game like Monday’s, because the losing team is expected to talk about their failures as individuals and as a group — failures that were already broadcast to an enormous TV audience. It’s not the media’s job to make that easier, but they aren’t required to make it harder, either. Tough questions can be asked, but they don’t have to be antagonistic. Reporters can be critical without being cruel.
In the same vein, Poyer and Hyde are required to answer media questions, but they choose how to respond. Questions asked with respect will usually get respectful, descriptive answers. They didn’t feel Sullivan asking them a “gotcha” question to see if they’d badmouth their teammates was respectful, so they gave him the kind of answer they felt he deserved.
It was a bad loss for the Bills on Monday night, and obviously no one was happy with how things went on the field. They’ll get another shot against the Pats in Week 16, and maybe then there won’t be a reason for anyone to ask if they’re embarrassed.