Being a professional athlete is supposed to be all about tuning out the outside noise. Media talking heads and over-eager fans are always uniformed, their incorrect hot takes simply fuel as you endeavour to prove them wrong.
At least that’s the story we’re told, but it turns out the reality is much more complicated.
Joining host Reid Wilkins on 630 CHED’s Inside Sports, Edmonton Elks starting centre David Beard admitted that he keeps active tabs on what the media has to say about his team. While the opinions shared aren’t always correct in every detail, he harbours no resentment for those saying them.
“The thing that really peaks my interest is — having the insight of being in the locker room, being on the field, knowing what is actually going on — not that it’s wrong, but it is truly an outsider’s view,” Beard explained. “It’s a public perspective and that is sometimes just as important. I’ve come to appreciate it truthfully.”
That wasn’t always the case. Like many young athletes, Beard was initially angered by outsiders weighing in on team dynamics and struggles. Entering his seventh CFL campaign, his point of view has changed.
“Early on, I was like: ‘What are you guys talking about? They don’t know what they’re talking about, they’re missing all the details to change the spin,'” Beard recalled. “But I’ve actually come to appreciate it a lot more. I would say it’s actually pretty sweet.”
Fellow University of Alberta alumnus and new Elks teammate Mark Korte echoed that sentiment, noting that change in opinion on the media often occurs as athletes mature.
“Dave hit it on the head. I think every player goes through a similar journey coming in when you hear people talking about the team,” Korte said. “They want to think that, no, it’s not like that and they have a different perspective. Then you grow to appreciate it over time.”
That doesn’t mean that the media narrative around your team is always pleasant, as Beard and Korte know all too well from being key parts on the basement-dwelling Elks and Redblacks last season. However, those in the locker room can be too close to an issue and aren’t unbiased either, so being able to hear an outside viewpoint has value.
“Sometimes that feedback can be difficult to hear, especially when things don’t go well, but you do come to appreciate it and you come to see the other side sometimes,” Korte added. “It’s always interesting to hear that outside perspective and pair that up with what you’re seeing on a day-to-day basis.”
The admission by the two linemen shouldn’t be taken as carte blanche to share your most inflammatory opinions on every team and player, but it does provide insight into a rarely spoken of reality.
While players may dismiss media and fan opinions, that doesn’t mean they aren’t listening.