ESPN – ESPN The Magazine
Proving, once again that journalists and television and ratings and the blogosphere make for an unholy alliance, I present the interview with Jenn in ESPN magazine. As a reminder to myself and the rest of us watching live events on television, that the truth is always more interesting that the story we think we saw…
The original tale, blogged by yours truly, was the following
After Stuczynski missed her final attempt at 4.90 meters, the camera followed her to Suhr’s spot in the stands. NBC captured the following remarks from a surly sounding Suhr, who was talking to her while text-messaging:
"(It’s) the same old same old. You’re losing take-off at the big heights. What are you gonna do. You gotta learn to keep take-off. You got9you got caught at that meat grinder. I did not—and I told 10 people—I did not want to be caught in a meat grinder between 65 and 80. You had to, though.You weren’t on, you know, your warm-up didn’t go well, you were 55, you got caught up in that meat grinder. What are you gonna do. What are you gonna do. You didn’t have the legs. Her legs are fresh. Hey, it’s a silver medal.
Not bad for someone who’s been pole vaulting for four years."
As Stuczynski turned around, she had a hollow, downcast look, as if she’d been upbraided.
So folks like myself were stunned. He had just ripped her to shreds…
But there is, as always, more to the story:
What they didn’t see, she said, was what prompted Suhr’s monologue. "I went over and I asked, What did I do wrong?" Stuczynski said. "And he said what he said, and it’s the truth. And I didn’t have a mike, and they didn’t hear it and they didn’t play it."
Moreover, she says, Suhr was texting his 13-year-old son in the States to inform him of the silver medal.
So what about the cold "meat-grinder" remarks? "When I started the meet, I was off, so I had to come in earlier, so I could get in a rhythm," she says.
Those early jumps came in a part of the meet where the most competitors are jumping from 4.70 to 4.85. "It’s the part of the meet that takes the longest, and we call it the meat grinder because it wears you out because you have to jump so many times. Because I was off, I had to jump those heights to ensure a silver medal."
But what about her reaction? Stuczynski explained that she’d had problems on takeoff at her previous meet in London. She suspected she’d repeated the same mistakes, and when Suhr confirmed it, she says, "I was discouraged with myself. It bothered me that I didn’t jump to my potential. It wasn’t anything he said. But people took that, and all of a sudden he’s a bad coach, and I need to find another coach."
And the downcast glare? "There were all these things on the ground that I didn’t want to trip over," she says, including the railway for NBC’s moving trackside camera.
Finally Jenn, defends her coach:
Stuczynski says Suhr did only what she expects him to do. "What he said to me is nothing that made me sad," she says. "I’m a 26-year-old professional athlete. I ask him to be fair coach. I don’t ask him to be a cheerleader. I want you to tell me when I jump good, and I want you to tell me when I jump bad` I think a lot of people don’t understand that this is my job. This is what I do for a living, and I have to be good at it, and I have to get better at it. And we celebrated it. But at that moment, I wanted to know why I didn’t make that bar."
When the Internet storm erupted, Stuczynski felt powerless, and a little hopeless. She says Suhr has received countless angry emails from people who think they’re protecting her. Meanwhile, her family and her coach’s family have heard comments about whether the coach went too far, and wondering why Stuczynski is putting up with a guy who couldn’t even say congratulations.
But she, her coach and her parents went out to dinner after the competition and celebrated. "And people don’t hear the things he says leading up to the meet, or the texts he sent me all week saying, We can do this, you know? That’s what’s so frustrating."
The quote, out of context, is still one of the funniest things I have ever seen, but in context is just a private conversation between two people.
The moral of the story, don’t let a camera catch you while you are having a private conversation.