Rounding out the roster on the "all-interview" team
Last week, in the hoo-rah over the naming of Buzz Williams as Marquette's new coach, something happened that just about knocked me over.
I was listening to Steve "The Homer" True on the radio and he was interviewing a couple of players about the new coach.
Dominic James was on with Homer and I nearly drove off the road listening to his interview.
It was like listening to Barack Obama or Pat Buchanon talk. He was smart and articulate. He obviously listened to the question and then formulated his answer. He was thoughtful. He had a quick and jolly sense of humor. He was very honest. He knew what he wanted to say, and he said it.
And not once did he say, "you know."
Over three decades of covering athletes, I've never really been interested in those who are considered a "good interview." That phrase means various things to various people, but it borders on accolades for the glib.
I don't like glib. I like athletes who think, who have depth, who know how to express themselves, who know how to listen carefully. Those athletes are very rare.
James was such a surprise, especially in comparison to Tyler Hansbrough, the all-everything from North Carolina. I've seen him on television the last couple of weeks, and he sounds like village idiot with a jump shot. He is programmed and can't correctly pronounce all the words he's programmed to say. He just about puts you to sleep.
Hansbrough may well be the player of the year, but his life would be a lot better if he was as articulate as James.
The players I've known over the years fall into three categories: those I really liked to talk to; those who were to be avoided at all costs; and the majority of players who were somewhere in the middle.
Here are some of the good and the bad.
Bob Lanier may be the best ever. He was honest, almost to a fault. He had an interest in what you wanted to know and he always tried to be helpful without pandering.
Ray Nitschke was about the worst. Dumber than dirt he thought shouting and being fake tough made him seem smart. Once he shouted in barely comprehensible English at me in the courtyard of a Los Angeles hotel and then came over to try and throw me in the pool. I stayed dry. Obviously, he got hit in the helmet too many times.
James Lofton was close to Lanier. He was very in touch with his feelings and how his individual performance related to the whole. He was also very brave, both as a player and as an individual and was never afraid to tackle any subject.
Robin Yount was always someone who was such a dichotomy. He was one of the greatest players ever, but someone who couldn't or wouldn't express opinions or anything about himself. I tried over the years, but could never get anything really interesting out of him.
Andy North, the two-time U. S. Open champ from Madison, was a wonderful guy to talk with. He understood the mental and intellectual part of golf and never got tired of exploring it in conversation.
Has anybody ever heard Michael Redd say anything interesting? He seems to have been created with a cliché for a brain and a picture of Jesus Christ for a heart. He almost never says anything that seems to mean much.
Once you got past the shell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was amazing to talk with. This man had depth of intellect and character. Not phony depth. The real stuff.
Bart Starr had one of the most significant problems of anyone I ever talked with. He didn't always tell the truth. You have no idea how difficult that makes things.
Some of the other real good guys: former Packers tackle Greg Koch, former Bucks guard Brian Winters, former Packers cornerback Willie Buchanon, Brewers GM Doug Melvin, tennis player John McEnroe, former Bucks' owner Jim Fitzgerald, MU women's basketball coach Terri Mitchell, Jack Nicklaus, Billie Jean King, Bob Harlan and former Bucks guard Lucius Allen.
And finally, more of the real dogs: Charles Barkley, Bill Walton (pompous and too full of his own intellect), Fuzzy Thurston, former Bucks forward Dave Meyers, former Bucks broadcaster Howard David, former Packers quarterback Don Majkowski (a story about him in just a minute), ex-Packers kicker Chester Marcol, former Brewers pitcher Pete Vuckovich and golfer Gary Player
Now, the Majkowski story.
One night, the Bucks were hosting the Chicago Bulls and the two teams were in front of their benches, waiting to take the floor for the tip.
Majkowski was at the game, came down and walked across the floor toward the Bulls. He was wearing cowboy boots and some kind of flashy jacket. He got to the Bulls and walked up to Michael Jordan. He put out his hand and said, "Hey, Mike. Don Majkowski." Jordan looked at him for a second, didn't take his hand, and replied "Who?" The Majik man said "poof" and disappeared from the floor.
HERE, HERE, We in NC, never wanted Tyler Hansbrough to be on the speaking circut. What we wanted is what we got. He's a fine individual, who is the best at what he does. All of you out there know what that is !!!!
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