Okay, right off the hop I’ll concede that I asked some dumb questions during my 30 years as a jock-sniffer.
I suppose it goes with the territory. You’re fighting deadline and you’re anxious to join the boys and girls on the beat for some brown pops once everyone’s copy has been filed. Maybe you have a plane to catch. So you need a quickie sound bite, no matter how hackneyed it might be. You spit out the first question that comes to mind and, well, next thing you know there’s a coach or player with hot, burning coals for eyeballs and he’s looking at you as if he just discovered that you’re his wife’s lesbian lover.
What can I tell you? Dumb happens.
There are, however, different degrees of dumb. I mean, just plain dumb is a post-game query like: “Guess you’re not too happy with that 50-point loss, eh coach?” (Well, duh. What was your first clue, Sherlock?) Dumber is: “If you were a rodent, coach, what kind of rodent would you be?” (Couldn’t be a rat because all the rats are in journalism digging up dirt and asking dumb questions.) Dumbest is: “Your team just got taken to the woodshed, coach, but you’re only two points out of the playoffs and you have six games left, so are you going to give up?” (Pardon me?)
And so it was Sunday afternoon, scant seconds after the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were given yet another wedgie, their eighth this Canadian Football League crusade against four victories. Dumb and Dumber didn’t show up to the apres-match interrogation of Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea, but Dumbest sure did and his name is Gary Lawless, lead sports columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press.
Oh, yes, there he was, asking O’Shea if he and his players, fresh off a 35-14 beatdown by the Montreal Alouettes, were going to wave the white flag. Surrender. Cash in their chips. Write off the season.
Lawless: “Mike, I know the answer, but I have to ask this…you haven’t given up on this season?”
O’Shea (gobsmacked): “Pardon me?”
Lawless: “You haven’t given up on this season…you’re not out of the playoffs…”
O’Shea (still gobsmacked): “No. This is where you have to beep this answer out.”
Lawless: “We have to ask this question.”
O’Shea (still gobsmacked with gusts up to pissed right off): “Come on. We’ve got seven games…”
Lawless: “You’re 4-and-8.”
O’Shea: “Six…we’ve got six games left…”
Lawless: “It’s not an unfair question. It’s not an unfair question.”
O’Shea (ready to eat live rodents and wondering what sort of bizarro world he has fallen into): “No, we’re not giving up. We’ve got too many good players that aren’t gonna give up. We’ve got coaches (not gonna give up), we have fans not giving up. There’s no way we’re giving up. We’re still in a position where we can win a bunch of games and get in the playoffs. Is it one game tougher? Absolutely, it’s one game tougher. All right? And we’ve got some tough opponents coming up. Oh, well. We understand where we’re at and we’ve gotta overcome that.”
Full marks to O’Shea for not flat out losing it.
Seriously. Yes, the man’s team is in full wobble at 4-8, but it remains a mere two points removed from a playoff position and there are another half dozen matches to be played. And just so we’re clear on this, it is not uncommon for sub-.500 outfits to qualify for the Grey Cup tournament. It’s happened seven times in the past eight seasons. So, yes, the question was grossly unfair. It was also inflammatory, nakedly stupid, not rooted in the reality of precedence, and it never should have been asked.
It’s astonishing that O’Shea didn’t go all Bobby Knight.
(Footnote: In his initial piece on the Bombers-Alouettes skirmish, Lawless reported the final score as 38-15. That, of course, was a blunder. Eventually, an editor who initially missed the gaffe caught the gaffe and covered Lawless’s sizeable butt. I don’t suppose he’ll give up writing football, though.)
Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.