Remember that wonderful 1988 sports movie Bull Durham? There’s a hilarious scene where veteran minor league catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) is instructing the hot young up-and-comer Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) in how to deal with the press. The dialogue goes like this:
Crash Davis: It’s time to work on your interviews.
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: My interviews? What do I gotta do?
Crash Davis: You’re gonna have to learn your clichés. You’re gonna have to study them, you’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends. Write this down: “We gotta play it one day at a time.”
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Got to play… it’s pretty boring.
Crash Davis: ‘Course it’s boring, that’s the point. Write it down.
I thought of that memorable scene while reading this New York Times article on the struggles of the New York Giants in their first preseason contest against the Carolina Panthers. The defense, minus All-Pro defensive end Michael Strahan (who is contemplating retirement), had a weak game against the run, giving up 154 yards to the Panthers’ rushers.
In their postgame comments, the Giants players and coaches demonstrate that they’ve studied the Crash Davis playbook pretty thoroughly, even if their own playbook remains a bit hazy. Their comments are almost a satire on what athletes should say when they’re afraid to say anything at all.
Linebacker Antonio Pierce: “We had a lot of things we did well, a lot of things we didn’t do well….I’m not going to judge our whole preseason and camp on 13 plays. If we had gone out and dominated, we’d be talking about how great the defense looked. It was going to go one way or the other. It just happened to go the wrong way for us.”
Coach Tom Coughlin, asked if the Giants had set a deadline for playing the season without Strahan: “Those discussions are obviously forthcoming. I’m not saying there is one, and I’m not saying when there is one. But certainly the topic is going to come up.”
Mathias Kiwanuka, a gifted defensive lineman who this season has been moved to linebacker: “I’m not discouraged at all. I feel very positive. . . . I’ve made a lot of great strides. I went into this game knowing there were going to be some ups and downs.” And then there is this: “Asked if Strahan’s presence would have made a difference, Kiwanuka said, ‘I can’t say, because he wasn’t out there.’” That reaches a level of almost existential absurdity.
The Giants may be in preseason form on the playing field, but they’re in postseason-shape when it comes to media blather. Imagine being the poor guy who has to take down these nuggets of wisdom! Maybe, contrary to my earlier claims, I don’t want to be a sportswriter after all.