The Trouble With Florio: Why Athletes Should Never Say Anything, Ever

I’ve written in the past about how I’m not an especially big fan of Mike Florio, editor of ProFootballTalk. Much as I’m a blog booster, and admire that Florio was able to build his blog from scratch into something influential, it doesn’t mean the blog itself is good, at all. Florio isn’t a particularly good writer or reporter, but tries to be both, and there’s an ever-present smug, insufferable tone that comes through every single day.

Take this post from the other day, written by Florio himself, titled “It’s time to end the ‘he was answering a question’ excuse.” It’s an argument I’ve heard before, often in relation to political gaffes, when a politician says the “wrong thing” in response to a question he wasn’t expecting. But Florio applies it to football players:

When someone says something inflammatory, controversial, and/or divisive, they often get a pass because the inflammatory, controversial, and/or divisive comment came not as an affirmative statement but as an answer to a question.

Okay, I’m with you so far. Example?

 The concept first hit my radar screen in 2011, when Giants quarterback Eli Manning declared himself to be an elite quarterback.  Sure, he was asked by Michael Kay of ESPN New York whether Eli regards himself as elite.  But just because a “yes” or “no” question has been posed doesn’t mean the guy has to say “yes” or “no.

Okay, first of all, what’s the problem with Eli Manning declaring himself “elite”? Is that supposed to be an earth-shattering gaffe for some reason? The guy had won a Super Bowl at the time, and has since won another. Manning was asked about a stupid sportswriter debate, and answered in a way that was truthful. What’s the big deal?

 He could have (and even though he went on to prove his elite status that season should have) said, “That’s not for me to decide.  I don’t worry about labels applied by others.  I worry about what I can control.”

So in other words, he shouldn’t have given a substantive answer, and instead replied with mushy bullshit. Shame on him for that.

Recently, that dynamic reared its head in connection with Panthers quarterbackCam Newton, who apparently said that he wants to be a team captain because he was asked whether he wants to be a team captain.

Regardless of how the topic is teed up, if a guy says, “I want to be a team captain,” it means he wants to be a team captain.  In this era of 24-hour news cycles (which helps justify player salaries and off-field earnings), players need to constantly run whatever they plan to say through the filter.

Once again- who cares that a star quarterback wants to be a team captain? Is this some kind of major controversy? And why wouldn’t he say yes?

Sounds to me like Florio is defining “controversial, divisive comment” way, way down. It used to mean a racial or ethnic slur, an aggressive ripping of a teammate or coach, or some reference to off-the-field scandal. Not friggin’ wanting to be a team captain.

This post is illustrative in that it shows what Mike Florio wants and expects from athletes: Never, ever say anything interesting or memorable. Always answer all questions with boring, rehearsed, uncontroversial replies. Be an automaton at all times, because saying anything newsworthy means you’re selfish, and not a “team guy” or something.

Florio must be the only journalist in the world who doesn’t want his sources to give good quotes.

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