Last night, after a resounding 27-6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson went off on Arizona Republic sports writer Kent Somers, who asked him what he and teammate Deuce Lutui were laughing about on the sidelines near the end of the game. The tirade is likely to join those of Jim Mora, ex-Cards coach Dennis Green and Ryan Leaf in the pantheon of NFL infamy. You can see it here.
Going through the comments for this video, I noticed two primary responses:
1) Derek Anderson is an untalented D-bag of a quarterback and a petulant child to boot.
2) Who cares what he was laughing about? Can’t a guy have a break? The media is just out to provoke.
Both are right and both are wrong.
Stripped of any context, the question comes off as a bit vapid and unnecessarily provocative. After all, it’s ultimately immaterial what two football players are laughing/smiling about between themselves on the sidelines. It might make decent material for the next “NFL’s Funniest Players” compilation, but that’s about it. It has little to do with the thrashing the Cardinals got.
Oh, but it might. Because they were losing badly at that late point in the game. Maybe they should take a cue from more successful teams who keep their faces in the game.
But fair enough. Like anyone else having a bad day at work, a moment of levity couldn’t possibly hurt, right? It’s not like you have to be a stone-cold stoic to get things done. On that point, I agree. Two players sharing a light moment in the face of a rout isn’t that big a deal. It might be frustrating to see if you’re a fan of that team, but these guys aren’t robots.
And, yes, the media as a whole asks tons of utterly ridiculous questions that never have anything to do with anything. It seems to be getting worse as the paparazzi grows in popularity and investigative reporting falls out of favor.
On the other hand, if the joking around is a constant, lingering issue that seems to be related to Arizona’s woes, then maybe reporters SHOULD ask about it. In fact, maybe that’s the most appropriate issue to address. If Cardinals fans and the football community in general think Anderson’s too quick to laugh off his team’s struggles on a weekly basis, then he deserves to be taken to task for it.
On Derek’s end, he missed an opportunity to own the moment and perhaps define his career in a positive sense. If he felt, like many did, that the question was inappropriate or irrelevant, he could have deflected it. He could have been a good PR machine with an answer like this:
“Well, that’s between us, but sometimes when you’re on the sidelines and things get bad, you have to take a moment to realize it’s just a game. Don’t get me wrong; when we’re on the field, we’re all business. If you see me laughing at the line when we’re that far behind, you know, grill me all you want. But it isn’t one moment like that on the bench that’s going to ruin our team’s chances — it’s the way we’ve been playing all season. And we just gotta focus on that more than anything.”
Or he could have done a mea culpa:
“Yeah, I see how that comes off in light of the way we played. That’s my fault. I’ll work on it.”
Or, if he thought the question was stupid, he could have at least tried to be clever with it:
“What were we laughing about? My endorsement potential after this game.”
Something like that. After all, a self-deprecating laugh isn’t so bad after the game.
As it stands, Anderson has some major damage control to deal with this week. He took a situation (player vs. media) in which most football fans favor the player, and handled it in all of the wrongest ways (denial, anger, defensiveness, tirade, persecution complex, storming off). It’s a textbook lesson for public figures in how not to deal with the press.
Ryan Leaf should worry, because Derek Anderson’s a few interceptions away from taking away Leaf’s one claim to NFL infamy. Memo to Derek: don’t read your apology from a piece of paper and then toss it in your locker. Your mistakes aren’t the only ones from which you can learn.