We all have that T.V. show that we watch and fall in love with, and probably don’t have a real good reason to watch or fall for. I got taken by a show that crawled to 2.5 seasons between 2009 and 2010 called Lie to Me. It was a show in the vein of The Mentalist where the main character could read people and facial expressions in a way that he immediately identified when a person was lying. The idea is based in reality, though not as powerful a tool as it is in the show. Wouldn’t this ability, in any capacity, be a GREAT tool for front offices to use in their interviews with potential draft picks?
First, a quick breakdown of the lie detection system pioneered by Dr. Paul Ekman. He spent a huge portion of his career diagramming every facial movement that the facial muscles can produce and he used that to create the Facial Action Coding System or FACS. Dr. Ekman then associated the majority of these facial movements with one of several basic emotions, like sadness, happiness, contempt, etc. You can then read the persons expressions and see what emotion they are truly feeling. You may be asking, can’t a person just hide their facial expressions then? No, not when they are actually micro-expressions. These are a type of expression that only a tiny percentage of people can actively hide. They are only present on your face for 1/25 to 1/15 of a second. These micro-expressions can betray what you are saying because they show your true emotion about the topic you’re being asked about. When you put these cues into context of the conversation, along with body language and pointed questioning, you can determine whether the interviewee is telling the truth with fairly staggering accuracy. Any person can be trained to see these micro-expressions and with video can be studied after the interview to help determine how truthful that person was being.
Wouldn’t that be a huge advantage in pre-draft and free agency interviews for front offices? I strongly believe yes. Every year we hear about the athletes that have IT, the drive to work hard day in and day out, the drive to be the first guy in and the last guy out, and to lead by example. A shining example of a player with IT is Derrick Rose, who may have the highest work ethic and drive for excellence of any player in the NBA. On the opposite side of the spectrum are players with great physical tools, but use canned answers in interviews that don’t have the same drive. One of the most famous is possibly the biggest bust in NFL history, JaMarcus Russell.
If I was Al Davis or the Raider’s front office when doing pre-draft interviews with JaMarcus Russell, it would have been a huge advantage to see how Russell really felt about the questions you are asking him. If you ask Russell if he thinks he has a lot to improve upon when he enters the NFL and you can see a micro-expression of contempt, either on video or in the interview itself, that may mean that Russell doesn’t believe in his canned answer of how he is going to do everything he can to get better at the next level.
This is only a base idea of how to use this interview strategy to build a better picture of potential draft picks and free agent signings. The skill that is involved with this type of “lie detection” is much more extensive and there are many great books about it. However, a bigger and better picture of the true character of the man you’re about to give millions to is NEVER a bad thing. Add the use of the FACS to scouting and the actions of the draft pick or free agent can protect a front office from drafting the next great first round bust. That can save the jobs of everyone in a front office because we all know that drafting a player that high often ties the GM or head coach to that player, for better or worse.
Knowledge is power in every situation and knowing the true character of the player a front office is entrusting the future of their franchise to is extremely important. The hole that a famous bust can put a franchise in is enormous and must be guarded against at all costs. Let the player’s true emotions betray them and catch them in a lie to save your franchise. Dare them to lie to you.