It is strange how quickly new trends become traditions. Every afternoon at 5pm, when most people used to begin their commute home, we now settle down on the sofa in this strange Coronavirus world to watch a live press conference from the Prime Minister, before he was struck down with it himself.
27.1 million of us tuned into his first television address on Monday, making it the most watched television event in recent times, smashing the 24.5m that watched the London Olympics’ closing ceremony in 2012. By comparison, according to the BBC’s audience research, Winston Churchill addressed just 23.4 million people on the day he became Prime Minister in 1940, although that was 51 per cent of the British population at the time and that number steadily grew as his speeches became ever more rousing.
Press conferences in a political sense are often more informative or frustrating than thrilling, but that so often isn’t the case in the wacky world of sport. Having tested positive for the virus, we are unsure as to whether Boris Johnson will grace our screens once more tonight, but let’s look back at some of those hilarious sporting press conferences. Strap yourself in, this one could get bumpy.
Prince Steals The Super Bowl
With its billionaire owners, 26 cheerleading teams and two of the highest paid athletes in the world on the books, American football can be a little over the top at the best of times and perhaps nothing defines that more than the pre-Super Bowl press conference. This involves either party being completely out of their depth. Either awkward sports reporters fire questions at musicians who are often not qualified or knowledgable to answer succinctly, or they attempt to ask about music like a drunken uncle at a wedding. Just last year, Maroon 5’s press conference was cancelled so the band didn’t have to face serious sporting questions about Colin Kaepernick’s political protest.
However, back in 2007, Prince changed this press conference, as only he could. The entertainer walked onto the stage, guitar in hand, accompanied by a full band and backing dancers and simply said, "Thank you for your kind words. We hope we don't wreck your ears too much. Contrary to rumour we'd like to take a few questions right now."
The instant a straight-talking sports journalist attempted to ask him a non-descript question he burst into the riff of Johnny B.Goode by Chuck Berry. It was simply iconic. Twelve minutes of rock and roll followed, leaving the reporters stunned at what they had just witnessed. A private show from one of the greatest musicians of all-time. Now THAT is what you call a press conference.
Tiger Woods Confesses
Seeing a top athlete completely humbled is rare. Seeing the best in the world have their personal life aired in the open is unheard of. Seeing them confess in front of the world is almost completely unique. Just 40 people, including his supportive mother, were present in that small clubhouse back on 19 February 2010, but his apology would travel around the world as Woods came clean.
At that time Tiger Woods had 14 major trophies to his name, his career earnings topped a billion dollars and he was the highest paid athlete in the world, but all of that faded into insignificance as he had to face his misdemeanors. He had reached his lowest point. He had nowhere to go. After months of media scrutiny, negative press and personal harassment he had to speak the truth. This press conference was a live unravelling of one of the greatest golfers of all-time and at the time it truly seemed like his career was over.
“I want to say to each of you, simply, and directly, I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behaviour I engaged in… I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated." A 13-minute press conference made us see Woods, despite the money, fame and golfing genius, was completely human.
Jose Mourinho Demands Respect
Yes. Yes. Yes. This was prickly Jose Mourinho at his best. It was August 2018, early days in the season for a manager meltdown, but his Manchester United side had just been beaten 3-0 at home by Tottenham and the pressure was turned up once more on the Portuguese manager. This was the start of a new season and he was already under the cosh, having responded to five minutes of digging questions before snapping.
His three fingers were thrust into the air. “Do you know what this is? 3-0,” he said defiantly. “But it also means three Premierships and I won more Premierships alone than the other 19 managers together. Three for me and two for them. So respect man, respect, respect, respect.”
A truly iconic Premier League press conference from the man who provides more touchline drama than anyone else in the game and had clearly been doing some maths at home.
Tyson Fury is Batman
You could fill a book the size of the bible with Tyson Fury’s famous quotes in press conferences, from serenading Wladimir Klitschko with Bette Midler’s ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ to claiming the heavyweight champion was a “big stiff idiot” we have seen everything in the Gypsy King’s career.
The 6ft 9in lineal champion may have won the WBC belt with potentially the finest performance of his career against Deontay Wilder, but once again it was his singing that stole the show in the ring. ‘American Pie’ was the soundtrack to that success but Fury has proved in the past he is an entertainer, with or without a mic in hand.
Back in 2015, ahead of the biggest fight of his career against Kiltschko, Fury was on top form. He turned up to the press conference in a Lamborghini Aventador S, (prices start from £271k if you have a bit of spare change) and climbed out dressed as Batman before bursting into the press conference to applause.
The storyline got better as Fury then defeated the Joker in a tussle in front of Klitschko, who looked somewhat bemused by the whole thing. Now that is what you call entertainment.
Steve Smith’s Crocodile Tears
This shouldn’t be a guilty pleasure of ours but it absolutely is. Steve Smith has 73 caps to his name, has won the Compton-Miller medal in the last two Ashes series, and established himself as one of the finest batsmen in the world. But to Brits, he is nothing more than a cheat. At Sydney Airport, the former Australia captain of 34 occasions got his comeuppance for ‘Sandpaper Gate’ and was forced to apologise in front of the entire sporting world in March 2018.
In fairness, opener Cameron Bancroft, the one caught manipulating the ball, and vice-captain David Warner both also apologised in press conferences, but there was something about Smith’s that made for gripping television. Maybe it was the tears, perhaps it was the fall from grace, but this was Australian cricket’s darkest day. Smith was banned from all forms of cricket for 12 months, resigned as the captain of his country and his reputation was in tatters.
Steph Curry upstaged by his young daughter
The old saying goes ‘never work with kids or animals’ but what happens when you child steals the limelight at a press conference? Golden State Warriors’ MVP Steph Curry is used to being the star of the show on the court, but he was outshone by his three-year-old daughter Riley back in 2015.
As dad tried to answer the questions put to him, Riley chatted away, laughed, and explored. Then she waved. And kept waving. Whether it was at the assembled media or at live pictures of herself she saw in camera lenses, who knows, and frankly who cares? She turned a run of the mill presser into a charming few minutes watching a young kid in her element.
Don’t worry Riley, we’ve all been as bored as you were in some press conferences...
Bonus content: Nigel Pearson’s Ostrich
There isn’t much to be said about this one except perhaps this is a lesson for all budding young journalists. Nigel Pearson can deliver a brutal dressing down. You have been warned...