Suzy Kolber is getting flak for reading a letter to Mark Ingram Jr. from his incarcerated father during ESPN's live broadcast of the NFL draft. Critics have said the "ambush" interview was emotionally manipulative and unfairly put Ingram Jr. in a difficult situation during what should have been one of the greatest moments of his life.
Leading the chorus is Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman. He wrote on his blog:
It's emotional manipulation. You don't spring this sort of letter upon a 21-year-old kid on national TV. It might make for great viewing, but it's dishonest, dishonorable and wrong. This is the life he's been handed—a father behind bars; trying to overcome that and somehow get past it.
Pearlman, and others who condemned the interview, are right. Their target isn't. It's not Kolber's fault for reading the email, it's Mark Ingram Sr.'s fault for sending it in the first place.
If you want to talk of emotional manipulation how about a jailed father choosing to deliver a congratulatory message to his son through a television reporter instead of finding another outlet? Ingram Sr. apparently has access to email. He couldn't have sent it directly to his son or to somebody else that could have shown him the note immediately after he was drafted?
Kolber did what anybody on television would have done: She found the best story and reported on it. It was both manipulative and manufactured, but so what? Isn't the entire NFL draft? Why else do you invite potential draftees to the green room than to capture their emotions in front on live TV cameras? Blaine Gabbert isn't there for the photo op with the commissioner or because the league wants to give him and his family a weekend in New York, he's there to provide ESPN and NFL Network with something to put on screen during what's basically a glorified conference call.
If you want to think the interview was offensive, fine. I didn't like it much myself. Just don't kill the messenger.
- Suzy Kolber