Join me in chewing over this comment by sportswriter Rick Morrissey in Tuesday’s Sun-Times:
“Clichés are the bane of sportswriters and a safe place for athletes. . . . You can see the inherent conflict between the media’s search for something entertaining or enlightening and athletes’ search for blissful sameness.”
I accept that cliches are the bane of a talented writer like Morrissey. But I’m not so sure that he accurately represents the rank and file of his trade. We’ve all heard enough questions posed to the heroes of the big games we just watched on TV to have an idea of what constitutes a probe for enlightenment.
How does it feel to win the big game in front of all those loyal hometown fans?
What about a little reverse spin?
How does it feel to be asked how it feels to win the big game in front of those loyal hometown fans?
Not likely. Most often, an interrogator attempting a deep dive makes sure the star of the big game is asked nothing he needs to actually think about.
Now that you’ve won the big game, doesn’t it warm your heart to think about all those loyal hometown children with incurable diseases who are going to go to bed tonight with a big smile on their tiny faces?
Here’s what prompted Morrissey to share his views on cliches. Patrick Kane had been asked Sunday to explain the Blackhawks’ current winning streak, and Kane replied, “I think the reason we’ve been winning games is we’ve been taking it one at a time, not looking too far ahead.”
Morrissey didn’t think this was particularly edifying or original. The best thing about Kane’s reply, in Morrissey’s opinion, was what Kane didn’t say. “To my knowledge, no Hawks player has said God wants them to win,” Morrissey wrote. “But it’s early yet.”
I don’t understand his concern. The next time an athlete says to him, “We’re winning because God’s on our side,” he could follow up by asking, “Why? Why do you suppose God is never on the side of your opponents?” An interesting discussion might ensue. And when Kane said the Hawks were winning because they take games one at a time, did his interrogator then ask if losing teams take games two at a time, or three at a time or four?
My theory about cliches is that writers and sportscasters expect them from athletes, athletes expect them from writers and sportscasters, and rarely is anyone interested in an actual conversation. Here’s where I’m uncertain, as it’s been a long time since I last visited a locker room. But my guess is that athletes are no different from anyone else in that, in response to someone who seems genuinely interested in what they think, they think.