Admittedly, compared to many of my peers and counterparts, I haven't been doing this media thing all that long. Six years is all. It's longer than a mere few months, but it's far from a lifetime. Also, I've covered teams day to day in just one city, Houston. I haven't really bounced around. (Not yet, at least.)
So my sense of what "normal" is from a media relations and a player interaction standpoint is based solely on Houston's local teams with virtually no basis for comparison. (For what it's worth, I find all of our teams to be very professional and easy to conduct business with, since I know a few of you wonder about these things.)
So with that said, to my knowledge, I've never known the Texans to feel the need to hand their players a laminated card with a cheat sheet of transitional phrases to help facilitate conversations with the media.
But then again, maybe if I had covered the New York Jets at some point, that would seem normal, because that's exactly what the Jets do.
Last week, New York Daily News Jets beat writer Manish Mehta (reportedly provided to him by colleague Seth Walder who got it from Joe McKnight) tweeted out a couple pictures of exactly that -- a card to help grown men who play football facilitate football-related conversations with other grown men.
Here they are:
Jets have given players "Media Bridges" card: List of phrases to use with reporters. Here's front: pic.twitter.com/T73EGZ9aDe
— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) August 21, 2013
Here's the back of "Media Bridge" card given to all Jets players: pic.twitter.com/ljdBJZm51h
— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) August 21, 2013
For the record, my three favorite "bridges" on the card are:
1. "You will each receive a copy of these as you leave today:" I'm not sure when a Jets player would be handing out copies of anything to the media, but I'll assume that maybe that one was on there for Tim Tebow for when he handed out leaflets with Bible verses on them, and they just forgot to delete it when he was cut from the team.
2. "That's not my area of expertise, but I think your audience would be interested to knowing that" Aside from being the one phrase on here that's grammatically incorrect (interested to knowing?), it's also the one whose context makes the least amount of sense. When would a player ever use this phrase? When they need to begin waxing poetic on their own areas of expertise just in case they're asked about something outside their skill set? There are interesting players in the league, to be sure, however I'm just fearful this transition is a bit of a loaded gun. Of course, if it leads to this exchange, then I'm all for it:
MEDIA: "Antonio Cromartie, what are your thoughts on proper birth control?"
CROMARTIE: "Well, that's not my area of expertise, but I think your audience would be interested to knowing that the child support laws in the states of Florida and New Jersey are not nearly as draconian as people think!"
3. "I wouldn't even try to take on the job of coaching, what I can tell you is" Nothing like having a pre-emptive media bridge for players that's grounded in the assumption that they are going to get peppered with decisions about questionable coaching decisions. Which brings us to...
Rex Ryan! Saturday night in a preseason game against the New York Giants (a 24-21 Jets win, which was an important result to nobody, except apparently Rex Ryan), quarterback Mark Sanchez was inserted in the fourth quarter to play behind the second team offensive line. Not surprisingly, Sanchez took a few big hits, the final one resulting in an injury to Sanchez's throwing shoulder, a bad enough injury to require an MRI and inflict some reportedly serious pain.
Sanchez's entry into the game, which seemed to surprise even Sanchez, came on the same night that rookie Geno Smith was allowed a chance to seize control of the starting position and proceeded to stink up the joint, with three interceptions and a safety where he empty-headedly ran out of the back of the end zone.
Naturally, the race to be the opening week starter at quarterback, a story that already had numerous layers, became even more complicated when Ryan tried to explain his decision to the media:
Ok, he didn't explain anything.
Now clearly, Rex Ryan didn't review his "Media Bridges" card before entering this press conference. He used exactly none of the requisite transitional phrases! Nowhere on that card does it tell Rex to answer the questions "standing backwards" or by espousing the virtues of free speech.
Yet that's what he went with!
If I were Rex, I'd have at least tried to show the Jets media relations staff that I was trying to play by the rules. Something like this:
Let me answer you by saying that...yeah, I put Mark in the game, because we were trying to win the damn game. What that means is...we were trying to score more points than the Giants. That's an important point because...the fact of the matter is we may not win a game in the regular season all year, so I have to hook up some Jets bettors on the moneyline at some point, right?
Another thing to remember is...that Mark Sanchez is a plague on the quarterback position. So what if I threw him out there to get his ass kicked behind a Swiss cheese offensive line?! Let me just add that...that's the beauty of this country! That reminds me...you idiots do remember that Sanchez is the guy who ran up the back of his guard and buttfumbled last season, right?
What I can say is this...Mark Sanchez blows. Geno Smith blows, too, but what's most important is that if you look at it closely, you'll find that Geno blows significantly less than Mark Sanchez...even after three interceptions and a boneheaded run out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
The real issue here is that I was a lot more likable when I was a great, big, fat person! So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go drown my sorrows in a 44 ounce milkshake and a meatball sub....
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Now, you will each receive a copy of THESE as you leave today!....
(Rex points at his nuts with one hand and flips the media his middle finger with his other hand)
Edgy? Yes. But at least he would have been using his "Media Bridges" card.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.