Covering sports? Make sure you cover your back


July 30, 1991|By JOHN EISENBERG

Vince Lombardi, I think, was the one who said "seize the day." No, wait a minute, that was "run to daylight." Sorry.

Yogi Berra said something very much like "seize the day," but a book of famous sports quotations reveals what Yogi really said was "sneezin' a lot today." Sorry.

I know someone important said "seize the day." Thomas Paine? Skakespeare? Joe Altobelli? It'll come to me in a minute.

I wouldn't normally bring it up, preferring the safe, monosyllabic harbor of box score analysis, but I happen to be in the process of seizing a day right now.

What that means, of course, is I am taking advantage of an opportunity. I am soon going to be a millionaire.

It all started when I learned the NFL has published a new, 10-page booklet for players telling them how to deal with reporters. There is also a video and an audio cassette.

I have not seen these items, but I have seen others of the same ilk. Reporters are portrayed as whiny-toned, nose-flowing ultra-geeks who stop shrieking only long enough to ask snide questions, such as, "You stink. Why?"

This isn't remotely accurate, of course. We don't wait to stop shrieking before we ask the snide questions.

Anyway, when I saw news of this new NFL booklet recently, the idea struck me: You could do that yourself, buddy. The opening is there. Turn the thing around. Do the '90s gig. Conceptualize. Network.


The result: Soon to be available, in a booklet and on cassette and video, "How to Deal with Athletes: A Guide to Interviewing Quarterbacks, Relief Pitchers and Other Goons."

This will not be available in stores, repeat, not available in stores. Credit cards accepted. I am already looking into real-estate prices in Tuscany.

I am confident these items will quickly become must-haves for any sportswriter, right up there with the other staples of the profession, a thesaurus with "super" in it and a pouch for blank taxi receipts.

The material is still at the publishers and producers, and I don't want to give away too much before it is released, but here are some of the topics:

* Translating the one-word grunted reply. (Or: The difference between "mmmf" and "oggg.")

* Surviving the "you know" onslaught.

* Understanding the "hidden agenda" of curse-laden diatribes. (Or: Which words are "colorful" and which really mean "get away from me, you little dirtball.")

* How to elicit lively answers. (Sample question to quarterback after 12-for-34-with-six-interceptions passing performance: "Are you color blind, or just incredibly bad?")

* The art of posing casually in the locker room when the entire team is hiding in the trainer's room and refusing to come out after a defeat.

* Spotting steroid rage. (Or: How to avoid getting your skull crushed merely by asking someone, "Is it still raining?")

* How to keep a straight face when a player (usually batting .208) says, "I don't read the paper."

Keeping your wits in the shocking event of being shown courtesy.

* Finding ways to get better quotes. (Such as: Interviewing pingpong players instead of football players.)

* Comprehending athletes who refer to themselves in the third person. ("Bobby Smith knows Bobby Smith can play ball. Bobby Smith just needs to go out and play ball like Bobby Smith knows Bobby Smith can play ball, and then Bobby Smith will be one happy Bobby Smith.")

And there is much, much more. The videotape is particularly comprehensive, even detailing the history of sports interviewing, beginning with rare footage from one of the first interviews, with Pheidippides, the Greek runner who died after delivering a battlefield message.

Reporter to Pheidippides: "Why'dya take so long?"

Pheidippides: (Silence.)

Pheidippides' coach to reporter: "Hey, does he look like he wants to talk?"

There is also film of this famous exchange from the '40s:

Reporter: "Was that a curveball or a fastball you done hit out, Joe?"

DiMaggio: "I'm not sure."

Also included is a three-step guide to consistently better penmanship and a special section for women sportswriters that includes a male-bonding glossary and addresses such topical issues as understanding that, after Lisa Olson, players are more terrified of you than a battery of IRS lawyers.

All this stuff is absolutely essential for any sportswriter intending to get around a locker room, and it's never been put together in such a colorful package. Plus, if you order now, you get a free, autographed poster of Jack Klugman.

I figure sports editors around the country will be buying these things by the dozen and handing them out to their staffs.

I figure I'm going to be a millionaire.

I have seized the day. (It wasn't Flaubert who said that, was it? Artie Donovan? Disco Danny Ford?)

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