Yesterday, the Dallas Mavericks eliminated the Los Angeles Lakers from the NBA playoffs. Lakers' coach Phil Jackson, who has coached eleven NBA championship teams over the course of his twenty-year career, held a press conference to discuss the game, and to say goodbye to the press. For ten minutes, sportswriters asked questions, and Jackson answered them in the thoughtful, slightly hippie-ish manner in which he had held press conferences for the past two decades. Then, this happened:
In case you didn't understand the question - and most people didn't - it was "Champ! Champ! Being a Hall of Famer like the legendary Barney "Mighty Mite" Sedran, and having more rings than Douglas Fairbanks even has Oscars, you have to ultimately take a lot of pride in knowing that you in your cager career were nothing but the bee's knees."
I didn't know how it looks when you know what's coming, but, watching it live, the 1920's newsreel announcer voice coming from off-camera to the profound confusion of everybody else in the room just killed me. Apparently the voice belongs to "Scoops Callahan," a fictional 1920's reporter played by Dallas-area sports radio personality Tom Gribble, and he has been at it for years:
Some coaches, like Bill Belichek, are regular Mrs. Grundys, responding to Callahan's questions like they've been given a wooden nickel. Others, like Tom Brady and Sidney Crosby, are really on the trolley; they pick up on the joke and play along as if they think Callahan is the cat's meow. Others, like Eli Manning, did not seem to understand that a joke was being played whatsoever.
Obviously, its a schtick. But its a funny schtick, isn't it? And everybody got the reference. Within minutes of Jackson's press conference - a conference at which Gribble did not introduce himself or his character - Twitter and Facebook had filled up with people asking about the identity of the imitation 1920's newsman who asked the question at Jackson's press conference. The questions he asks are basically good, sportswritery questions, even if you have to sort of translate them into contemporary English in order to answer them. And he's funny - asking Tom Brady to comment on a touchdown pass that he threw to a receiver so wide open that he looked like Brady and the receiver were doing the jitterbug while the Dallas secondary was doing the Charleston is going to make me laugh every time. What do you think - is Scoops Callahan a character whose presence you welcome, or a practical joke that has, or will soon, outlive its capacity to you laugh?