Monday, May 07, 2007

Larry Merchant Is Awesome -or- Sports Are Awesome

There's a character on Homestarrunner.com, one of my favorite types of characters, as it happens - the kind you never really see or hear from, but only know of as a name or creator of something you are watching or hearing - by the name of Leomard Sportsinterviews. Obviously, this is a hilarious name, for any number of reasons. First, there's the simple absurdity of the names Leomard and Sportsinterviews. Added to this is the fact that the contexts in which his name appears never have the slightest bit to do with Sportsinterviews, and you have a pretty funny situation.

Watching the Mayweather - De La Hoya fight on Saturday, I was reminded of the third reason that Leomard Sportsinterviews is so funny: because sports interviews are possibly the most ridiculous and amazing interviews imaginable. Even as one of the many forms that human discussion can take, they're right up there.

Admittedly, it's only recently I've even become vaguely conscious of the world of sports interviews, because, generally, the very idea behind the sports interview is transparency. Questions and answers should be so simple and self explanatory, predictability being the pinnacle of sports interview excellency as far as journalism and facticity are concerned, that the historical event of the interview becomes totally irrelevant.

"How did you feel about getting benched in the second quarter?"

"Well, I didn't exactly feel like it was fair, but coach has a game plan, and we're just trying to go out there and be competitive and put the best team out there we can."

The AP eats it up and shits it out and cliches are born and calcified in abundance. While the thoughtless spouting of tired and meaningless phrases and stock answers in itself becomes extremely entertaining as the pointlessness of the entire enterprise and the unimaginativeness of those involved become all the more clear, it also sets the stage for those few personalities who can come along and turn the whole enterprise on its ear. Yogi Berra, for one. He was boss. More recently, of course, you have Gilbert Arenas, Rasheed Wallace and Clinton Portis just to name a few.

On a side note, Randy Moss, Chad Johnson, Terrell Owens, Ron Artest any of your supposed "bad boys" (not to be confused with the "Bad Boys") don't figure in this discussion at all. These are personalities as actual people, not media savvy public personas. They cause trouble, ruffle feathers, cause they're kind of crazy or whatever, not cause they know how to use the media. The sports interview works differently for them.

But anyway, I think it's pretty clear that the greatest sports interview of the post-Ali era - I make a motion here for this be established as an actual term in regards to sports interview history: was anyone better? - is the Jim Gray-Mike Tyson interview you can see below. Watch it now if you're unfamiliar. Everything about this is amazing. Jim Gray is so clueless and frightened. His questions are so hackneyed and trite and sports journalisty that it ought to make one sick. Tyson is a braindead genius for showing Gray where he goes wrong. The fact that one of the only things he says in the entire interview that could pass as an answer is, "I dunno man," speaks to the dynamics here. This is his stage. Jim Gray is a maggot.

Ok, now watch the post fight interview from Saturday's De La Hoya - Mayweather fight. Go ahead. How awesome is Larry Merchant?

Mayweather is no Ali, he's no Tyson. As an orator, he's not even David Wells. But this is still one of the most entertaining sports interviews you could ever hope to see, largely because of Larry Merchant. The difference in styles is all you need to know about the difference between boxers and boxing fans. Merchant is old, slow, but not scared like that fucking quivering goat, Jim Gray. He asks questions deliberately and expects an answer rather than a reaction. He knows this is too much to hope for, but still genuinely tries to get some actual information out of Mayweather. The result is a sort of dehumidifier-humidifier cataclysm and it's amazing to watch.

The De La Hoya interview? That guy must be the fucking Tiger Woods of boxing or something I dunno.




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