Life As We Know It: March 18, 2013
You have to love the quotes attributed to athletes and coaches whose abilities off the field of play haven’t caught up with their physical talents.
I’m not talking about Yogi-Berra-isms, those wonderful lines that were part of his legend. Allegedly asked by his wife where he wanted to be buried, Yogi is said to have replied, “Surprise me.” I think old Yogi knew exactly what he was doing with his twisted half witticisms.
I’d rather talk about quotes like these:
The late Coach Jim Valvano, so the story goes, once asked one of his North Carolina State basketball players why he seemed to nervous and preoccupied at practice.
“Coach,” he confided, “my sister is about to have a baby and I don’t know if I’m going to be an uncle or an aunt.”
Or how about this one, attributed to a former Utah Jazz basketball player: “I can go to my left or my right. I’m amphibious.”
At the opposite extreme was Walter Palmer, a former Ivy Leaguer, who was asked for his reaction after fans held up a sign at an NBA game that said “Put Walter In.” He appreciated the support, he said, “but I can’t believe they ended a sentence with a preposition.”
Exasperated coaches have always been good sources of colorful quotes. Basketball coach Charlie Just once told the media that he only planned to dress seven players for that night’s game. “We’re pretty confident the other five can dress themselves.”
Consider the wry advice of former Texas A&M basketball coach Shelby Metcalf, after one of his players got four F’s and one D: “Son, it looks like you’ve been spending too much time on one subject.”
How about the brutal honesty of Clark Griffith, the long-ago owner of the old and hapless Washington Senators?
“The fans like to see home runs,” Mr. Griffith said, “so we have assembled a pitching staff for their enjoyment.”
Baseball player Tito Fuentes, who now does radio play-by-play in Spanish for the San Francisco Giants, was upset once that a pitcher threw at him. “They shouldn’t throw at me,” he explained. “I’m the father of five or six kids.”
And you have to love baseball slugger Pedro Guerrero’s frustration with sports writers: “Sometimes they write what I say and not what I mean.” Amen, Pedro.
Former Houston Oilers football coach Bum Phillips was asked once why he always took his wife along on the team’s road trips. “Because she’s too ugly to kiss good-by,” he responded. No word on whether they’re still married.
But the best at giving the news media great quotes? It has to be former Southern Cal and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach John McKay. After another loss by a really bad Buccaneers team, he was asked his opinion of the team’s execution: “I’m all in favor of it,” he said.
It gets better. At another post-game press conference, he scolded the press, saying “You guys don’t know the difference between a football and a bunch of bananas. A few days later a reporter had a box of bananas delivered to Coach McKay’s office.
At his press conference the following week, he told the assembled scribes: “You guys don’t know the difference between a football and a Mercedes-Benz.”