Marcus Titanicus was a champion gladiator. He won his first match when he was a relative nobody, when he disemboweled the legendary Biggus Dealius. Marcus went on to win hundreds of matches before retiring to a villa in Herculaneum in 78 A.D.
One day, well into his career as a champion, Marcus defeated a nobody: Pliny the Unlucky Shepherd from Umbria. The match was over in approximately 17 seconds and the outcome was never in doubt, particularly when Pliny went into a sneezing fit from the dust on the Coliseum floor, which contained a wide range of organic allergens. Most of those 17 seconds were simply the time it took for Marcus to run across the field before he swung his sword. After the match, as thousands chanted Marcus’ name and prepared to carry him to a lavish bacchanalia, an interview took place:
“How was it out there today, Marcus?”
“It was good, it was a good day for Team Marcus.”
“Tell me about your opponent, Pliny the Unlucky.”
“He fought a good fight… tough guy from a tough tribe… I was very fortunate out there… just made one less mistake than he did.”
“Put this into perspective for me, Marcus. How does this compare to your other victories? How does it compare to your victory over Biggus Dealius? Is this your most satisfying championship?”
“No doubt… definitely. You know, when I defeated Biggus, I thought winning was easy. I didn’t really appreciate how special the moment was. So yeah, this one is the sweetest of them all, because I know that it could have easily gone the other way, and it might not happen again. And by the way, I just want to salute Pliny and all of the folks from Umbria who came out to support him today, and who volunteered to clean up the mess afterward…”
I tell this story to illustrate my belief that the art of B.S. by athletic champions has been with us for a long time. I want to especially focus on this business of comparing championships, i.e., the habit interviewers have of asking repeat champions whether the championship they’ve just won is more satisfying than a past championship. It is a breathtakingly idiotic question that invariably makes me want to change the channel, even if my team is the new champion.
Here’s a post-game interview I’ve never heard – nor do I ever expect to:
“Bobby, how does this championship compare to your other ones? Is this the sweetest of them all?”
“Well, this one is nice, but it can’t hold a candle to that first one. I mean, until we won the whole thing, we didn’t truly know if we could ever do it. So yeah, today is really awesome… but please, nothing can ever compare to that first one.”
“Well then, how does today compare to your second championship?”
“That second one was awesome; the way we came from behind so many times… that incredible play Jackson made coming off the bench when he hadn’t scored in a month… the way everyone had written us off… so yeah, that second one was better than this too. All in all, as difficult as this was, it was honestly the least special of our championships.”
“But Bobby, a lot of people think this victory was incredibly difficult and think it’s far more satisfying than those other ones.”
“Look, it’s tough winning any championship. But honestly, I think these people have forgotten how special that first one was. I mean, this is going to be a big party for sure, but please folks, look up some video from that first title game and victory parade if you want to see some crazy joy and real hysteria.”
So of course no one would answer it that way – even if it was the truth – because fans, broadcasters, and many players live in the moment. The moment of winning a championship is, among other things, a moment to indulge the shallow pleasures of that moment. Any true perspective on the moment, and on one’s career, is not likely to be voiced until years later, probably after retirement. To expect honesty in such a moment would be foolish. But for those of us who’ve figured all of that out, these post-game interviews are likely to send our fingers flying to the remote control, seeking another channel that is covering anything but the sport in question. Or maybe we’ll simply seek out a replay of the championship game itself – you know, the actual important part of the evening’s festivities.
So why do they always ask that question? Hard to say – there are various possible stupid reasons for asking it. Maybe the interviewer is so vacuous that it’s truly the best question they can think of. Maybe they’re afraid that if they don’t ask it, some other bubblehead will ask it and “scoop” them on the reply. Maybe they have such a low opinion of their audience that they believe this is the question we want answered. Maybe the interviewer has never known a moment of victory in their own pathetic life and lacks the mental flexibility to consider what that might be like. I could posit other possible reasons, but I think you get my drift. I’m a big, big sports fan, but my focus is mostly on the actual game. The vast majority of the public statements and events surrounding the game are a waste of my time – white noise at best, genuinely irritating at worst.