On Friday night, Virginia guards Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy suffered what was almost certainly the most devastating loss of their basketball careers, as the Cavaliers became the first No. 1 seed to ever fall to a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Then, minutes after the final whistle, they had to sit at a press conference and answer questions about what went wrong. Under even the best of circumstances, that wasn’t going to be easy.
But Jerome and Guy’s press conference became all the more difficult when a reporter asked one of the most ham-handed questions you’ll ever hear after a tough loss: “Were you aware that a 16 had never won before, and did you just kind of dismiss that ahead of time?”
Jerome responded about how you would expect: “I think everyone’s aware of that. Thanks for bringing that up again.”
"Were you aware that a 16 had never won before?"
"I think everyone's aware of that. Thanks for bringing that up again" pic.twitter.com/jSCSOJL7oP
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) March 17, 2018
It’s not hard to see where the reporter was going with the question. He wanted Jerome to comment on the historic nature of Virginia’s loss to UMBC and maybe say the Cavaliers had taken their opponent lightly. But dude, think through the wording of your question ahead of time. How about, “Did the fact a 16 had never won a game in the Tournament affect your preparation for this game?” Or even, “Does it hurt more knowing you were on the wrong side of history?” Basically anything that didn’t sound like you were taunting the poor kids.
Look, reporters are not obligated to make people feel good. At times, they have to ask tough questions in service of the story at hand. But with Jerome and Guy on the verge of tears in the immediate aftermath of a brutal loss, it was clearly not the time for pointed inquiry. And besides, the reporter’s question wasn’t particularly sharp or necessary. It demanded exactly the (wholly unproductive) answer it received.
We don’t know who the reporter was who asked this question, and it’s not terribly important we find out. Everyone has bad days, and no one needs to be crucified for a mistake. But as far as press-conference questions go, this one was the equivalent of losing to a No. 16 seed.