Doris Burke Rumors
Yeah, I remember being very happily surprised that you admitted vulnerability after that. You’re like Hillary Clinton in that people expect you to prove toughness in a way that men don’t need to. Doris Burke: Yes, yes, displaying a level of strength and a lack of vulnerability, because that’s what a prerequisite of the job is, when, in actuality, all of the things that make us human will help us do that job better. I’ve been expressing my vulnerability because it’s the truth. I was literally on the verge of tears. And my take on that Popovich situation has changed. We all used to give him a pass because he would say to us privately, ‘Well, I just can’t help myself. I’m in the game, and this is my job.’ But I don’t give him a pass anymore. It now frustrates me to the point where I want to say, ‘I’m not giving you a pass because I’ve seen you when Jeff Van Gundy walks over there, and the interaction is totally different.’
There are moments in which being a woman or a minority in a world dominated by white men, you have to actually say something because you’re not always treated the same. Doris Burke: Correct. I remember sitting at the University of North Carolina in a press room with my producer, who happened to be a black man, and I am bemoaning my fate, saying, ‘I should be an analyst on higher level games, and I don’t know why I’m not.’ And he said to me, ‘Do you want a real answer or do you want a bullshit answer?’ I said, ‘I want a real answer.’ Your Hillary analogy is making me laugh—because I would only wear suits, and generally speaking, pantsuits, because the man next to me was in suits and I wanted to project an aura of ‘I know what I’m talking about.’ And my hair was in a ponytail and it was pulled back tight. He said, ‘Let your hair down. Soften your look. I know it goes against every fiber in your being to be evaluated for anything other than what you are saying as an analyst. But this is a visual medium.” And whether it was a coincidence or not, once I had done that, the level of games I was being assigned changed.
Last January, after an Oklahoma City Thunder game, you asked Kevin Durant about his big night, and he said it was all because of God. And you kind of smiled and said ‘Didn’t you have something to do with it, too?’ That response elicited a pretty strong reaction from people who felt you were dismissing Durant a bit. What feedback did you receive? Doris Burke: That game I covered for Heather Cox, who has two young kids and had something that night and basically asked if I could replace her. It was a hectic day. To preface it, the year before in the NBA finals, I’d interviewed Danny Green after his big game, and he kept thanking God and then would answer the question. And that summer I got 10 photocopies from an anonymous man with anti-God, anti-religion sentiment. It was kind of a weird thing, but whatever.
Burke: Durant’s sort of caught me off guard, because usually when someone acknowledges God they then move on to the question I asked. Looking back, I regret being sort of caught off-guard, because I didn’t mean to in any way belittle his beliefs as a Christian. But I was unaware of the furor until the next day when I got off a plane in Louisville and there were messages from my bosses and ESPN PR saying we may need to think about addressing this. Was it addressed? Burke: There was an Oklahoma City columnist who basically ripped me pretty good. I basically said, ‘Listen, I’m a Christian. I’m in no way, shape or form trying to belittle Kevin Durant’s beliefs. He surprised me a little bit with his humility, frankly, and for not taking any credit for his play.’
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is notorious for giving short, terse in-game interviews that border between funny and rude. How do you approach these interviews? Burke: I am absolutely scared to death every single time. You laugh, but I’m serious. [ESPN announcer] Mike Breen has asked me if he could say on air how much Pop actually likes me and respects me. I said he can do what he would like, but it doesn’t make those interviews easier. I don’t want to be made a fool of on TV. That’s an awful experience. And I’m not joking; I’m absolutely terrified. My heart is pounding and I’m trying to make it look like I’m not sweating. The key with Gregg is he does not want to be led in any way. So I offer no opinion. I ask the most open-ended question so Pop can give me his explanation.
There was one time where he answered both of your questions by just saying ‘turnovers,’ right? Burke: Yes. We tape those during the breaks so the coaches can get back to their huddles as quickly as possible. So I asked him what I believed were two very good questions and he says ‘Turnovers. Turnovers.’ So I’m walking back to my seat and blinking back tears and my producer is in my ear, ‘You’ve got to tell me when he’s that funny.’ But I didn’t think it was funny. To the rest of America it’s entertaining and must-watch TV, but not to the person going through it. And I’m not the only one who’s scared.