Bowled over with stupid football questions

January 29, 2007|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun columnist

If you like hearing football players answer dumb questions, this is a great week to be alive.

I say this because even as the Indy Colts get ready to play the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI in Miami, the media are getting ready to hit the players with the usual dopey questions heard every year at the big game.

(By the way, can we stop with the Roman numerals for the Super Bowl now? It was pretentious enough when they started doing that back in the sixties. Now it's just plain annoying.

(Besides, once you get past, say, XXV or so, most Americans are lost when it comes to Roman numerals. C'mon, have you seen the educational system in this country? We have high school seniors counting on their fingers and toes! So the last thing we need is to throw Roman numerals at the general population.)

But getting back to our topic, you may wonder: Why do the media ask so many dumb questions during Super Bowl week?

To answer that, let me set the scene in Miami for you.

Yes, I can do that even though I'm 1,100 miles away in freezing Baltimore, garden spot of the East Coast.

I can do it because, in a former life, I was a sports columnist who covered seven Super Bowls.

And believe me, once you've covered one Super Bowl, you've covered 'em all.

OK, so here's the scene in Miami this week:

You've got thousands of media people showing up to cover the big game and all the hoopla leading up to it.

You've got TV people. You've got radio people. You've got newspaper and magazine people. You've got people working for all those annoying Web sites.

At night, all these media jackals will be going out for stone crabs and getting drunk in South Beach and putting the whole thing on the company credit card.

But during the daytime, these media people actually have to work. They have to justify their presence in sunny Gomorrah-by-the-Sea, so they can keep those company credit cards.

So they seek out players to interview. And they hope the players say something interesting.

But here's the problem: The players hardly ever say anything interesting.

Look, these are football players, OK?

Most of them don't have deep thoughts about the video games they play, never mind about the Super Bowl or anything else.

The other thing is, the players have already spent a week talking about the big game to their local media.

So by the time they get to Miami, they're sort of sick of the subject.

So now the media hordes feel pressure to come up with questions the players haven't heard before, just to keep the players engaged.

And that's when you get the dumb questions.

In fact, that's when you get material for the Dumb Questions Hall of Fame.

That's when you get gems like the one asked of St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk a few years ago: "Is Ram a noun or a verb?"

Or the one ESPN.com reported was asked of Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Joe Salave'a: "What's your relationship with the football?"

"I'd say it's strictly platonic," Salave'a replied.

Things get so wacky at the Super Bowl that sometimes players think they hear dumb questions when they really don't.

The classic example occurred in the late '80s when Doug Williams of the Washington Redskins was about to become the first African-American quarterback to play in the big game.

All week long, he was asked about the significance of the event. Finally, at yet another noisy, crowded interview session, a reporter asked: "Doug, obviously you've been a black quarterback all your life. When did race begin to matter to people?"

But Williams apparently only heard part of the question, or misunderstood it altogether. So he repeated what he thought he'd heard: "How long have I been a black quarterback?"

And since much of the assembled media heard only Williams' reply, "How long have you been a black quarterback?" entered Super Bowl lore as the dumbest question of all time.

Part of the problem is that in addition to serious journalists, the Super Bowl attracts, ahem, "reporters" from MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, etc., who aren't exactly asking the players about zone coverages and pass routes.

According to ESPN.com, Titans defensive lineman Jevon Kearse, who wore a religious symbol hanging from his neck, was once asked by a Comedy Central reporter: "What's the significance of the cross?"

OK, that was supposed to be an ironic, funny dumb question.

But too often, the dumb questions are just, well, dumb.

One of the most famous dumb Super Bowl questions - well, maybe it was more tactless than dumb - was put years ago to Jim Plunkett, the Oakland Raiders quarterback, who'd experienced a number of family hardships.

"Jim, help me out here," a reporter barked during a mass interview. "Is it your mother who's blind and your father who's dead, or the other way around?"

To his credit, Plunkett didn't flip out on the poor guy.

Still, that one deserved its own wing in the Dumb Questions Hall of Fame.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

To hear podcasts featuring Kevin Cowherd, go to baltimoresun. com/cowherd.

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