Some people (like Joni Mitchell or the Counting Crows) say that “you don’t know what you got ’till it’s gone,” but sometimes you don’t know what you got until it shows up unexpectedly. For instance, I had know idea that I would stumble upon comedic brilliance while looking for usable pictures of Bill Romanowski and Mike Ditka. It’s a mundane activity that I do a couple times a day and rarely give much though to. But I juxtaposition struck gold when I found a picture of one of the toughest guys in NFL history tossing a Pikachu (Ray-J, Method Man, a doll of a girl holding a basketball and a poster of what appears to be an ’80s or ’90s teen comedy that I just can’t spot also make appearances). Three minutes later, it happened again when a simple search for Mike Ditka revealed this link on the Top 10 Football Mustaches (I think I agree on Jake Plummer at #1, but Montana’s is pretty awesome too and he missed Nick Lowery and Conrad Dobler).
There are cases of this in all walks of life (typically far more profound than my example). We’ve all heard this happen in the radio world. Someone unrelated to the story is asked what is essentially a throw-away question that the host feels needs to be asked to stay current with the big stories. And the response he gets becomes a story in itself, dominating conversation during the rest of the show and making national waves of its own. Talking to opinionated, yet trusted, people who are not afraid to speak their minds helps. So does asking the “right questions.” But some of the best moments arise when a take takes on a life of its own, when the most fascinating viewpoint comes from the furthest distance and when no one knows what they have until it just shows up.
One recent, specific example of this comes from Bill Romanowski. Asked to come on to share his general viewpoints on the game and given an opportunity to hock his nutritional supplements, a pretty standard (for Romo at least) interview was expected. But while producers efforted the call, hosts LaVar Arrington and Chad Dukes on 106.7 the Fan in Washington D.C. took a call from a caller in Pittsburgh who was furious about the Ben Roethlisberger “situation.”The hosts transitioned from caller to Romanowski with an unprepared question about Big Ben. This is what they got:
On if he would want Ben Roethlisberger on his team:
“Yes. Darn right I do because he’s going to help me win football games at the end of the day. Let’s look at some of the things that have happened in the last ten years. Ray Lewis was involved in a double-murder. He got cleared of that, but he was there. We all know that. I will never condone what Ben did with the young lady or young ladies – cause there is more than one – but I was not there. I know that back in my pre-marital days, different situations that I have been in with women that, in the heat of the moment, there’s probably some women that would say that the didn’t want to have it, but sure enough they did.
This is a really touchy subject. I feel very strongly. I have never posed my will on a female in a way that hopefully was less than classy. There could be no doubt that she was there wanting to be with him. At the end of the day, professional athletes – the Ben Roethlisbergers of the world, and I never had the so-called fame that he had – being an NFL quarterback, that gets magnified. In my day as my career took off, I got married so I was out of that game for 90% of my career. So yes, I would want him on my team. I believe in second chances. (Host: What about third, fourth and fifth?) I believe in those too.”
On a similar situation with John Taylor:
“He got suspended for four games. Bill Walsh addressed the subject and he said this, ‘When a member of the family has a tough situation, do you kick them out of the family?’ To me the answer is no you don’t kick them out of the family.”
On the NFL’s ability to suspend players:
“I don’t understand how the NFL can impose what they decided to come down on with him with no conviction. That to me, is beyond illegal. I believe in the judicial system that is in place. Why? Because it is the only system and it is the best we have. Now the NFL is going to jump in and say that, ‘We have our own judicial system.’ He was cleared of a crime. I think that is wrong.” Another example comes from Mike Ditka and Dan LeBatard on 790 the Ticket in Miami. A bizarre story broke earlier in the day in which it is revealed that, at the NFL Scouting Combine, Miami Dolphins’ GM Jeff Ireland asked standout wide receiver Dez Bryant if his mother is a prostitute. It’s a story that is obviously closely tied to Miami, but Ditka was on to talk about Ricky Williams and the new ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Run Ricky Run. As happens in many interviews, as the segment neared its end, LeBatard entered the “let’s throw some off-the-wall topics out there to see what will stick” phase and posed the scenario to Ditka – who is completely removed from the situation, but spent almost 40 years in the NFL. This is what he got:
On Jeff Ireland asking Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute:
“I think the individual who asked that question, somebody ought to whack him in the head. You don’t ask that question. If you think you know it, you know. What are you going to confront a young man with that situation for? He probably loves his mother no matter what she is or who she is. Why would somebody do that? I don’t understand things like that. Maybe I’m naive or I’m old. I don’t understand that. Why? What do you get from asking that question? What’s it all about? Every bit of information has to be spread out on the table now? Is that it? Everybody’s dirty linen has to be out? I disagree with that. I’m sorry.”
On if he wants to know everything about his players and their pasts:
“I want to know what kind of character that individual has. That’s what I want to know. I want to know if he is a stand up guy. Will he get in the foxhole with me and stay in that foxhole until the battle’s over. That’s what I want to know. Is he going to give me everything he has. That’s all I care about. If he has other social problems, I can’t really worry about that. But if he’s a good teammate, he’s a good team player, he’s a guy who is going to give me everything he’s got, that’s all I want to know.”