Earlier this week Derek Anderson ripped into a reporter for questioning why he was "laughing" on the sidelines, as the reporter put it, while Arizona was down by 18 points to the San Francisco 49ers in a Monday Night Football game. Not surprisingly, everyone who follows sports has a strong opinion about what transpired, including Magic Johnson. It seemed like only Dwight Howard was able to find some humor in the situation.
Following along with the latest sports media "controversy" is like eating at McDonald's or watching "The Kardashians". You know it's wrong, you know it's bad for you, but sometimes you just can't help it. I'm going to take the bait this time around because I don't think anybody has expressed what is really wrong about the "controversy." Let's first address what happened.
The video clip in question shows Anderson smiling in response to something his teammate, Deuce Lutui, said to him on the sideline. Smiling is not laughing. If smiling were laughing then Dane Cook would be a funny as Louis C.K.
We later learned that Lutui said something to cheer up Anderson, who was in the midst of an embarrassing performance in front of a national audience. I watched some of the game and it is safe to say that Derek Anderson will not be in Hawaii in January. He was inaccurate, made poor reads, just didn't seem capable of running the offense of a winning football team. One need look no further than the drop off in Larry Fitzgerald's stats this year to discern that Anderson is a mediocre quarterback.
Lutui was acting like a good teammate should, bolstering Anderson's spirits when he was probably just about ready to hang up his helmet for the night. Anderson smiled back. What should he have done, told Lutui to piss off?
Apparently, a lot of people started tweeting and commenting about how awful it was that Anderson was laughing while the Cardinals were losing. Again, he was Dane Cookin' it, not laughing. But the "public outcry" was enough pretense for the reporter to question Anderson about the exchange. In interviews since the incident, the reporter has said he never intended to upset Anderson. But the reporter referred to SmileGate as "a big problem with this team." It was an inflammatory take on the situation where he could have just as easily asked "Hey Derek, the cameras caught you laughing, I mean smiling on the sidelines, what was it you were laughing about, I mean smiling about?"
So yeah, Anderson should have just answered the question, shouldn't have lost his temper. However, the reporter should have asked his question in a more professional way. He made Anderson look even worse than he already had looked on the field, and that's saying something. If I were Anderson I would have walked out too. The fact that media jackals like Colin Cowherd have come to the reporter's defense only emboldens my take on the CONTROVERSY, I mean "controversy."
And now we come to the issue that I think has been overlooked. Let's say Derek Anderson was laughing, and let's say Deuce Lutui had just told him the one about the priest, the rabbi and Michael Jackson in the airplane, or even said "man, we SUCK. I mean the Niners are killing us, and THEY suck! Who at ESPN decided it would be a good idea to show two 4-7 teams on national television? Kurt Warner isn't playing anymore! Neither is Joe Montana! The NFC West has become the Screech of football divisions. What did they expect? We S-T-I-N-K, am I right Derek my man?" At which point Derek started guffawing and slapping his leg like he was Arsenio Hall.
Let's just say that's what had happened.
All that would tell me is that Derek Anderson and Deuce Lutui have that certain something, that special one in a million quality that is all too uncommon in our modern age, what's it called again? Oh yes:
I remember when I was a kid back in the 70's, my Scholastic Books order always included book titles like "The Wild and Wacky Side of Football," "Crazy Bastards from the NBA," or "Funny Sports Quotes from Old White Men Who Were Probably Half in the Bag at the Time." The precise titles escape me. But I used to love those books, and this was back when the only sports information you received about teams and athletes outside of your metropolitan area was in Sports Illustrated, so these books were priceless tales about the world of professional sports and all the funny, zany and memorable things that transpire when a bunch of grown men band together and spend inordinate amounts of time with each other working toward a common goal.
It brought sports to life for me. Crazy nuts like Kenny Stabler, Ted Hendricks (really the entire 1970's Oakland Raiders team); Rollie Fingers and Dan Quisenberry in baseball, e.g.; Daryl Dawkins, World B. Free and Charles Barkley in basketball; They had personality, humor, individuality, emotions. Fine by me, as long as they played their asses off when it mattered.
I want the athletes who play for my favorite teams to play their hearts out. I want them to care if they win or lose. I don't need them to be stone-faced robots, or even worse, phonies. Life is funny sometimes. Humor helps in good times and bad. A mildly humorous exchange is not the Cardinals' "big problem." Their big problem is a lack of talent. The fact that Ken Whisenhunt, the Cardinals coach and most definitely an old-school guy, found nothing wrong with the Anderson-Lutui exchange ought to tell people all they need to know.
The people who have been calling for the Cardinals to waive Derek Anderson because he smiled on the sidelines during a loss are the ones who need to rethink their mental game, or lack thereof.