Wednesday, December 01, 2010

You Just Lost, So There Will Be Positively No Laughing

By now, you've probably seen the above video--maybe a couple of times. It depicts Derek Anderson, Arizona Cardinals quarterback, losing it while a reporter questions why he was laughing on the sidelines during a loss. Incredulous (and rightly so) at this idiotic line of questioning, Anderson tries to stand up for himself, then eventually storms off in a fit of frustration.

Anderson's meltdown has brought out the mockingbirds, perhaps none better than NBA superstar and comedy legend Dwight Howard's excellent parody. It's funny, because Howard is a funny guy. But he of all people should recognize the genuine issue behind Anderson's tirade: people are trying to hold an athlete accountable for his mood after the game, which is sheer stupidity. Most of the time, Howard has a downright sunny personality, even when the chips are down--it's only a matter of time before his natural mood and gift for levity creep into a post-loss scrum, and people start questioning his commitment to winning when he isn't even committed to his post-loss frown.

In the world of sports, laughing is no laughing matter, at least when it comes after a loss. It's kind of stupid.

Hockey had a similar controversy last week, when Alexander Ovechkin drew criticism for laughing and fraternizing with Ilya Kovalchuk following a loss. Now, it was pretty self-centered and inconsiderate for Ovechkin and Kovalchuk to have a loud conversation so near to coach Bruce Boudreau's media scrum, but for most people, that wasn't the issue. The real issue was that Ovechkin seemed in good spirits despite the fact his team had just taken a pounding. Kovalchuk's lowly Devils had just shut out Ovechkin's high-scoring Capitals while scoring five goals of their own, and people accused the Capitals' winger of not taking the loss seriously enough. That near to the recorders, he should have been weeping, you see. Weeping shows remorse--remorse for losing.

I can't believe it's come to this. Get over yourselves, people, it's sports. Granted, some people take it very seriously, but those people are the problem, not the athletes who don't. Are we actually trying to enforce a code of dourness? Do we honestly think we have any right to question how a player feels? Derek Anderson doesn't think so. Neither do I.

I remember once hearing a story about Peyton Manning on the radio. Word was someone had seen him out to dinner with his wife, and he was barely able to speak to her because of his deep depression following a Colts' playoff loss a month earlier. People praised his commitment to winning. I just found it ludicrous. Get over it, guy, the world has larger issues.

Derek Anderson is getting mocked for his meltdown, but his frustration is totally understandable. I can certainly guarantee you he wasn't laughing maniacally because his plan to make the team lose had come to fruition. It was likely unrelated to football, as most things in life are. Outside of that short instance, he was probably genuinely upset about the loss, and here he was forced to defend that fact while being questioned for his effort level and implicitly blamed because the camera caught him being not sad for a split-second? It's absurdity.

Justin Bourne put this issue into perspective in a Puck Daddy article discussing the pet peeves of NHL coaches. One of them is laughter--in any context--after a loss:

In 90 percent of the cases, utter silence is expected.

[...] Coaches try to enforce a serious environment as much as humanly possible.

I always felt like hockey wasn't my life, it was just a part of it.

Because being that serious that often about a game? Now that's laughable.

It is laughable, and I genuinely feel for Derek Anderson. I'm sure, like most athletes, he hates to lose, but also possesses the very admirable ability to put things in perspective. Even after a very disappointing loss, he is capable of laughing. That's not bad.

In his same situation, confronted by a reporter who felt I needed to be taken to task for merely possessing a sense of humour, I might have done worse. I might have briefly left it behind and hit him in the mouth.

And then laughed about it.


  1. I totally agree. It's their sixth loss in a row. If that were me, at that point I could go one of two ways: fly into a rage and start grabbing things and throwing them as hard as I can (to the ground) OR laugh. I'm sure his coaches and teammates prefer the latter. Sadly, fans probably prefer the former.

    Most of the guys on the Team 1040 yesterday were saying that his "Cardinal sin" (and I don't think the pun was intended) was how he handled himself in the interview. Apparently he should have not still been upset about the loss minutes after the game.

  2. I find it so strange the way we judge players based on their emotions. When Markus Naslund went on the microphone following a shutout loss that had cost him the Art Ross and the Canucks the Northwest division title, he told everyone, "We choked." He was ripped for that. He was genuinely upset and he spoke from that place. Apparently, that was bad.

    On the flipside, perspective and levity are also bad. So what the crap is good?

  3. I still don't understand why Naslund was ripped for saying "we choked." I thought that was a moment of profound honesty that showed how much Naslund cared about the Canucks, cared about winning, and cared about performing well for the team and the fans.

    I welcome that honesty. Too often we get canned answers and safe statements from players who are afraid to be real because it might make them look bad and, unfortunately, they're often right. Too many times when a player steps outside of the safe zone of "We gave 110% but it is what it is," he gets ripped, mocked, or scorned.

  4. Which is why they stay in the safe zone.

    I thought that was one of Naslund's best moments as a captain, but it was too often used to show his failure as a captain. I think there's definitely an article in there. Stay away from it. I'm writing it.

  5. Good is when an athlete feels the exact way I want him/her to at that exact moment. Duh.

    p.s. What kind of blog is this?! My verification word was just "hooter"!

  6. I can explain. You see, we've assigned weird, sexist words to verify comments from our female hockey fans because, obviously, we're weird and sexist.

  7. *Skeeter shakes Harrison's hand in a moment of seriousness*

    Harrison, I think we need to write that article...together.

    *music swells while a plethora of rainbows burst from their hands, dolphins do front-flips over their heads, and song-birds flutter in holding a banner over their heads reading "Friends Forever"*


  8. I KNEW IT!

    p.s. So what the heck is a "plutbaro"? ;)

  9. It's a sex position. When in doubt, it's a sex position.

  10. I said you don't want to know. I stand by that.

  11. Gonna disagree with you on this one. If I saw the Sedins on the bench having a good laugh in a blow-out loss I'd be pretty pissed off too. Moreso if I could afford season tickets, in which case I'd have an actual vested interest in the team. If the Canucks were getting their asses kicked I'd be completely in favour of Botchford asking them what the hell was so funny. Wouldn't you?

  12. Scott, I heard that same argument on the Team 1040 yesterday and I didn't buy it. These guys all hate to lose. Just because they're laughing in one moment doesn't mean they aren't upset about the loss or their poor play in the overall. If anything, that laughter is probably just a brief recess from their actual emotions at the time: frustration and humiliation. And even if they're not completely unhappy, as far as being appropriately sullen goes, I don't buy it. Even in a loss, it's a hockey game, not a funeral.

    Plus, as a season-ticket holder, you're paying to watch games: not to control the player's reactions to them.

    I'd be annoyed if the Sedins were pulling off full-scale hijinx, say, and they missed their shift 'cause they were dicking around. But a laugh every now and then? Come on.

    I hate this silly notion that losing means you forfeit your laughing privileges.

  13. "I thought that was one of Naslund's best moments as a captain, but it was too often used to show his failure as a captain. I think there's definitely an article in there. Stay away from it. I'm writing it."

    You have no idea how much I'm looking forward to this.

    But to be on topic, I agree to a certain extent, but there is a losing in the playoffs.

  14. Paying money to go watch a game live does not entitle you to anything more than that - watching a game live. It really bothers me that people use ticket prices as a reason why teams or players should perform the way they want them to.

  15. I'd respect players a lot more if they could be honest about things like this. I'd like to see, after a loss, a player coming out and saying, "You know what? We're going to lose games this season. In fact, we're probably going to have some losing streaks. This team's a playoff team, and I expect that we're going to be near the top of the conference by the end of the season, but that doesn't mean there won't be bad nights. Am I supposed to get all weepy about it? We lost. It sucks. We can do better. Meantime, I'm going to go home and have a sandwich."

    I've coached nerdy things like Mock Trial and a debate team, and one of the most important things I've dealt with is loss management. Yeah, you want the team to take things seriously, but I have never seen a person perform better in any environment when they're all weepy and serious.

    If I saw one of the Canucks laughing after a bad loss, I'd say, good, there's a professional hockey player with a healthy perspective. More, if I saw one that was moping, I'd be worried.

    If you see a Canuck moping after a loss, ask him why the kangaroo went to the psychiatrist. Know why? Cause he was feeling a little jumpy.

    Ask him why the chicken crossed the playground. (He did it to get to the other slide.)

    I want players to take the game seriously. I want them to learn from their mistakes and to try to prevent them in the future. I don't hope that Luongo cries himself to sleep when he allows 8 goals. That's just the way it goes sometimes.

  16. I'm looking forward to more, kangaroos, rainbows and sandwiches does it get any better than this? is this a comment record for pitb?

  17. Qris, that's a long comment. It's basically a blog post. Stop giving it away for free. Freer than blogging!

  18. @Anonymous No, this isn't a comment record. The post on Atlanta Thrashers and black players has around 90 comments, but 1940s Disney cartoons, they're chock-full of racism. Don't go there.

  19. Great writeup. I've never understood why we work so hard to imbue children with certain values of sportsmanship and camaraderie that we completely throw out the window when they turn competitive. I understand the stakes are different, but is it really better for anyone to have a bunch of roid-raging immature athletes as the darlings of the community? I'll take level-headedness any day of the week.

    On the same topic, I don't get the expectations of these fans who are mad that a player isn't tormented over a loss, who tend to be the same ones that fly into a rage about *any* loss, find them unacceptable, don't understand why fans still show up, etc. (and then if they don't, call for the team to be moved). Losses are structural -- they *have* to happen! Sports are zero-sum. At every moment, exactly half of the team sports world *has* to be losing! We want everyone to get perpetually [urined] off over an inevitability?


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