Here is a link to my Sunday column. The full text runs below:
OK, class, fold your paper in half and number from one to 10. Here is the setup for today’s pop quiz, which involves two players you know — one is currently in the news.
One player is the point guard for a well-known East Bay basketball team. The other player is the quarterback for a well-known South Bay football team. In each of the following 10 examples you must identify each player. I will call them Player A and Player B.
Player A is his league’s MVP. Player B has never been an All-Star.
Player A is beloved by fans because he is real and polite and mature and charming. You might even say darling. Player B is merely tolerated by fans because he is impolite and bad-tempered and touchy and impatient and defensive and grumpy and condescending and immature.
Player A is impervious to what opposing players say about him. He never lets opponents’ words affect his play. Player B routinely allows opponents to get under his skin, and then his play suffers.
Player A is clutch. Player B is choke.
Player A is the face of his franchise. Player B isn’t.
Player A has improved every season. Player B has not.
Player A dresses like an adult. Player B dresses like a teen.
Player A is the best at his position in his league. Player B is in the bottom half at his position in his league.
Player A is a champion. Player B flopped when he played in his league’s championship game on the national stage.
Player A makes eye contact when reporters ask him questions. He thinks about questions before he answers. He gives long, thoughtful, original answers because he wants fans to understand what he does and he wants fans to like him and he wants to represent himself as an intelligent adult. He welcomes the responsibility of representing his team.
Player B can’t look reporters in the eye. He puts no thought into his answers which are devoid of substance. He inserts none of himself into his answers. He doesn’t seem to care how fans perceive him or how he represents his team. He speaks in vague generalities. He blurts out answers in the fewest words possible. Sometimes, his answers are 10 words or fewer. Haikus can be longer than his answers.
Here are some examples:
When recently asked how things are going with his team, Player B put an entire room to sleep by saying, “We’re just working. Trying to get ready, trying to move in the right direction this year.”
Or he sedated a group of grownups with this profound thought: “We’re here to work. We’re here to try to win.”
Questions for Player B: Who isn’t here to work? Who isn’t here to win? Can you spruce up your material? Can you at least think?
Here is a bonus question for extra credit — in case you had trouble identifying Player A and Player B in the previous 10 tough examples. One team recently held a media day — writers interviewing players. It is the one day players try hard to get along with the media. They do it for the good of the team. And to show they are nice people. And because they aren’t yet under pressure from the season.
One reporter asked Player A or Player B — I’m not saying which — how his team is trying to improve. It was a standard question, one a player should welcome — that’s if the player has given a minute of thought to the matter or cares how the public views him. The player said, “We put a lot of particular emphasis on a lot of things.”
Whatever that meant.
Then the player said the team is trying to get better “all around.” Which, if you think about it, was no answer at all. Every team is trying to get better “all around.”
This you should know. The reporter who asked the question was Matt Maiocco of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. He used to work for The Press Democrat. He is no fly-by-night reporter. He is legit. Highly respected by readers and athletes. A champ. Maiocco, of course, followed up his initial question, something a serious reporter should do after an insufficient answer.
“But can you address that specifically?” Maiocco asked, trying to give meat to the answer, trying to give the player a second chance to be professional. Forget professional. To be a human being.
“That was the question, that’s the answer you’re going to get,” the player announced as he dismissively walked out of the room.
So, I ask you: Was the rude, dismissive, unhelpful person Player A or Player B? You make the call.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn.pressdemocrat.com.