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Vol. 46, No. 2 • February 2009 • .pdf version
Cure for the common quote? Leave the podium for politicians
By DANA O'NEIL / espn.com
I'd like to offer this column as a eulogy, a less than fond farewell to the podium and its first cousin, the table. The lectern has had its day in sports – it was there in front of John Calipari when John Chaney stormed in, threatening to kill the UMass coach – but it needs to be retired.
It's meant for presidents and congressmen, college professors and bank CEOs. You know the type, people who want to talk at us, not to us, people over the age of 35. In other words, coaches, not athletes (special dispensation to the over-35 rule for Brad Stevens at Butler and Tommy Dempsey at Rider).
If there's a bigger killjoy to a great quote than a podium and a microphone, I 'd like to see it. I covered Villanova for seven years, and I swear the microphone and table hypnotized the Wildcats into explaining good wins by saying, "We just played Villanova basketball." Which isn't to be confused with UConn basketball, Saint Joseph's basketball or Our Lady of Sorrows basketball. (Is that what the Cats played when they lost?)
There is a reason why most college students don't enjoy class presentations and oral reports. It forces them to stand up in a semi-formal setting and speak to people. It's awkward and stilted, bound to induce a cataclysmic rise in the use of the word, "Um." And that would be in front of a small classroom of students with whom they're fairly familiar. Imagine, then, how a student might feel in front of a bunch of strangers, writing down every word he says or, worse, recording every word while a camera is pointed directly at him?
Bull Durham educating Nuke LaLoosh comes to mind.
The podium/table certainly has been eased out of the spotlight, and I'm grateful for that.
But it has not yet been fully eradicated. I want last rites and a burial.
I get that sports-information directors are in a quandary. Television cameras prefer folks at the podium. Cleaner shot. But I beseech you – no, I flat-out beg you – that if you absolutely must put your otherwise affable and quotable player in a setting better suited for news conferences about invading Iraq, then please also allow him to stick around and chat with us less informally afterward.
Chances are, he won't say anything you wish he hadn't. Chances are, in fact, he'll say something kind of interesting and personable that will make our stories more interesting, your team more interesting and your fans more interested in your team.
It's a win-win-win.
So please, raise a glass with me to the piece of furniture that has gotten in the way of too many good stories.
RIP, podium. I won't miss you.
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