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Smile, and the world loses its mind

Posted by Charles P. Pierce  December 1, 2010 03:53 PM

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In 1985, in the first game of the NBA playoffs, the Celtics beat the Lakers, who would eventually win the championship, by 148-114 in a game that was not as close as the score might indicate. This Blog vividly remembers Magic Johnson, coming out of the shower, wearing only a towel and a 200-megawatt grin. How, he was asked, can you be so happy after that kind of tail-whuppin'?

"What else can you do on a night like this except laugh? I mean, did you see what happened out there?" he answered, and went chuckling off.

This Blog learned a great lesson that day. The play-them-one-at-a-time philosophy might sound like a cliche, and it certainly is employed as one by players and coaches, but it is also a vitally important part of handling the various parts of the life of a professional athlete that might otherwise be totally insane.

So here we have Derek Anderson of the Arizona Cardinals, getting caught smiling on the sidelines as his team gets drilled by San Francisco. John Gruden runs his mouth about it on ESPN's telecast. A reporter named Kent Somers presses Anderson on the episode until the quarterback explodes and guarantees himself a YouTube half-life of about half-a-century. The incident, and its aftermath, got chewed over all day Tuesday, especially on the WWL's shouty-face programs, wherein a curious nation is supposed to care what Skip Bayless thinks about anything. Here it is Wednesday, and we're still talking about it. The media business has lost what's left of its mind.

This Blog blames neither principal, although Anderson should have known what happens to athletes who blow their stacks publicly here in 2010. And, to quote the great Toby Ziegler, This Blog will bet all of the money in its pockets against all of the money in your pockets, that Somers was pestered by upper echelons to probe away at Anderson's subversive grinning because said echelons "knew" that the episode would be "what people are going to be talking about this week on talk radio" and that the moment would pile up many hits on the newspaper's website.  And, thus, out of sheer terror that the world is changing all around them, do newspapers abandon common sense and news judgment in favor of following dumbly whatever the mouthbreathers behind the microphones can use to gin up the mouthbreathers in the audience. The business is corrupted by this sort of thing, perhaps irretrievably -- corruption by unmoored opinion, corruption by "buzz." It's an exercise in unseemly desperation.

In the cool shade of reason, does anybody really care that Derek Anderson smiled briefly on the bench? Is he required constantly to provide thousands of people who are frustrated in their own miserable jobs the proper dumbshow to prove that he's miserable in his? Are allegedly elite professional communicators really so utterly stuck on themselves that, based on a two-minute clip from the sidelines in a meaningless game, they can assess a person's full character well enough to throw their opinions out there to millions of people? (And, yes, This Blog's talking to you, too, Magic. It knows you used to know better.) And so utterly full of themselves that they think they should still be talking about it two days later? Sometimes what this business is becoming can be quite sickening.

 

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