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Friday, February 17, 2012

The Doug Williams Standard

Am I going to write about the social significance about historic moments in sports? No. Am I going to write about character and perseverance? No. Am I going to write about giving back to one’s alma mater and the community? No. Today, I am going to write about stupid questions that people ask athletes and sports figures.

In the 1987 NFL season, quarterback Doug Williams of the Washington Redskins led his team to a win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game, advancing to Super Bowl XXII against the Denver Broncos (which the Redskins would win handily). Williams would be the first, ever, black quarterback to start in a Super Bowl. The gamut of questions that Williams was asked, regarding his skin color, ran from profound to stoic to absolutely ridiculous to just plain stupid.

Urban legend has it that Williams was asked, among other insipid color related questions, “How long have you been a black quarterback?” This would be, possibly, the stupid question of the century, were it true. According to and other sources, Williams was actually asked, ''Doug, obviously you've been a black quarterback your whole life. When did race begin to matter to people?'' Snopes suggested that Williams either misunderstood or didn't hear the question because he said, ''How long have I been a black quarterback?''

Regardless, Williams will forever be associated with the stupid question that never was. In the midst of the Jeremy Lin story, which I, myself, have discussed in some manner four times this week, including today, I have heard a handful of stupid statements and questions asked. I heard one whopper, this morning, that made me decide to share a few questions that, like question posed to Lin that I will discuss shortly, met the Doug Williams Standard for stupidity of a question by a sports reporter.

What to ask Doug Williams? About winning a championship? Naw! About a record setting second quarter? No! About engineering the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, a record never broken and only matched once, 22 years later by the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV? No! I KNOW! "How long have you been a black quarterback?" 1


"I never asked for help with my groceries. You can take that can of corn and SHOVE IT!" 2
Before even diving into the details, has any normal person ever been genuinely helped by another person and not appreciated it? Even if you received help from someone you didn’t like or someone to whom you didn’t want to give credit and downplayed or refused to acknowledge the assistance, you appreciated it! This was they type of question posed to New York Knicks point guard and overnight media sensation Jeremy Lin.

In the midst of all of the (mindless) speculation that injured Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony’s return to the lineup may be detrimental to the newfound chemistry between Lin and his teammates, it was revealed, by Lin, that Anthony urged Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni to insert Lin into the lineup. While being interviewed on the Michael Kay show on ESPN New York 1050, Lin was asked if he appreciated Anthony’s intervention, to which Lin replied, “Of course!”

REALLY? Jeremy Lin was in the midst of a 10 day contract and was likely to be released upon its expiration. In turns out that Anthony, who many fans and media members have attempted to vilify and portray as “selfish” and a detriment to Lin’s career, was partly responsible for Lin getting an opportunity to play. Lin has become the hot sports story of the month and now has a future in the NBA. Did Lin appreciate it? REALLY?

Consider the following….

Executioner: The Court has ordered that you die by beheading for heresy! Do you have any last requests?

Condemned: Yes. Don’t chop my head off?

(Laughter from the witnesses in the audience)

Messenger: I have a message from the king! The king has ordered that the prisoner be freed immediately!

(10 minutes later)

Reporter interviewing the prisoner: Mr. Prisoner, did you appreciate the king’s intervention?

(Smack my head)

"Louis XVI can kiss my ass!" 3


The Duke Blue Devils Women’s Basketball team advanced to the Championship Game against Purdue in the 1999 NCAA Women’s Final Four. The Blue Devils were beaten handily. Immediately after the game, a reporter asked Duke standout Michelle Van Gorp how she felt. Van Gorp’s response? “I’m GLAD we LOST!” followed by Van Gorp rolling her eyes, scoffing, and leaving the press conference.

Duke's Michelle Van Gorp: giving an appropriate answer to a stupid question. 4

Imagine this scenario….

November 1992, Election Night – Bill Clinton wins the election, outing incumbent President George H.W. Bush.

Reporter: Mr. President, how do you feel?

(Sound of White House receptionist booking movers in the background)

Bush: You know; this is a stressful job. I am thrilled to be spending more time at Kennebunkport, playing golf and spending time with the grandchildren. Being the most powerful man in the world is overrated.

What the hell did that Final Four reporter expect Van Gorp to say? 5


In January of 1993, the resurgent, historic Dallas Cowboys franchise advanced to Super Bowl XVII to take on the three time defending AFC Champion Buffalo Bills. MTV personality “Downtown” Julie Brown was rising to her 15 minutes of fame. According to, she asked (then-future) Hall of Fame Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith (I could not make this up), “What are you going to wear in the game Sunday?”

Hmm…that seems reasonable. The following gets asked all the time; I’m sure.

Reporter (to an astronaut): I am sure you have to be very excited to be going to the moon, a once in a lifetime opportunity. How are you getting there?

Astronaut: Well, we planned a champagne celebration before takeoff, so perhaps I’ll take a cab.

So remember, Hat Trick readers, think before you speak. Of course, if you do, you may not be qualified, at some outlets, to work as a sports reporter!

Maybe it wasn't such a stupid question. 6

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