Jeff Pearlman

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We, He and Super Bowl cliche nonsense

Tis the season of We, He and Super Bowl nonsense.

Let me explain.

As a journalist, I always loathed covering big events like the Super Bowl and World Series. My feelings come straight from the absolute nonsense of the lead-up, where journalists (like myself) ask lame, cliched questions in group settings, and athletes/coaches give even more lame, cliched answers.

What always got me the most was the utterly inane usage of the words “You” and “We.” Journalists are the ones using “You,” and for some reason we offer it as an umbrella for an entire team. A reporter asks, say, Eli Manning, “You’ve been preparing for this all week. Are you ready?” Here, “you” doesn’t mean Eli Manning—it means the Giants. All of the Giants. The 60-some players, the coaches, the front office. And, naturally, Eli will answer with his own “we” response. “Yes, Biff, we are ready. We’rew confident, we’re healthy, we’re here.”

But, if you think about it, the whole exchange is, at best, flawed and, at worst, nonsense. Although all the Giants wear blue-and-white uniforms and practice together and stand along a sideline come Sundays, they are not a “we.” Seriously, they’re not. Eli Manning surely speaks frequently with Victor Cruz and Ahmad Bradshaw and Chris Snee. But does he really know the team’s seventh defensive lineman? The backup cornerback? The rookie safety? Besides “Hi” and “Hey” in the hallways, they are—in most cases—perfect strangers; no different than the relationship I have with the dude who regularly sits near me here in Panera. “We” implies a cohesiveness. But how can one have cohesiveness with someone he speaks with six times a season?

And yet, we writers go along. We ask players to speak for the team, which is impossible. Literally, it is impossible. One player can’t say, “All we want to do is win,” because he doesn’t know that to be true—and it most certainly isn’t true. Why, a few days ago I interviewed a man who played on a team that won, then lost, in the NBA Finals. The first time, in victory, he was glued to the bench. The second time, in team failure, he played a lot. Asked which experience was more rewarding, he picked the second. Which, I believe, 95 percent of athletes would agree with. Yes, winning is sweet. But playing is sweeting.

So while Eli Manning may well say, “We just want to win,” it’s theoretically possible David Carr is thinking, “Yes, I want to win. But I’d love for Eli to sprain his ankle so I can be the hero.” It’s the nature of humanity—we don’t all share thoughts and beliefs. There’s no such thing as synchronized thinking. At least not that I know of.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

PS: I’m in Panera—the above photo is their sweets display. It’s always really good.

  • http://peterrichmond.com peter richmond

    I’ll bet you a Panera cheese danish that Eli knows the names of all seven dls.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life