By Ryan Divish
"Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt" - Mark Twain.
Let's be real honest here. I spent a whole column writing about how many stupid things I say or write in a day. That hasn't changed.
So I guess it really shouldn't surprise me that people like Bill Parcells and Larry Bird aren't above doing the same thing.
The exception being this - what I say or write isn't being rebroadcasted on ESPN in one of its 17 daily showings of SportsCenter.
But just because I've already spent numerous column inches of saying idiotic things or criticizing people - Martha Burk, Bob Ryan, Hootie Johnson - who have uttered moronic comments, doesn't mean I won't do it again.
I'm not afraid to rehash a certain point, after all you're reading a person who can still sit and watched "Saved by the Bell," reruns and be entertained.
So lets start with Mr. Parcells first, because, well, it's easy to mock and ridicule him.
If I were ever to write a book of wisdom for athletes to avoid ridicule and scorn, one of my first rules would be ...
If you ever have to use the phrase "No offense to, or No disrespect to (insert name, race, religion or gender), but ...," you should probably just stop right there. Nothing good comes from this, even if you have the best of intentions or the least of malice behind it.
Think about it for a second. It doesn't matter what situation, whether you're saying, "No offense mom, but that dinner wasn't one of your best," or "No disrespect officer, but I think you are compensating for egotistical shortcomings by pulling me over."
See, nothing good comes from it.
Parcells told the media the other day, "Sean (Payton) is going to have a few ... no disrespect to Orientals, but what we call 'Jap' plays.' OK? Surprise things. No disrespect to anyone."
After he uttered the statement, a slight murmur rose in the press conference and Parcells reiterated his "No disrespect to anyone" line again.
Obviously, he was referring to the Pearl Harbor ambush. At least I think he was. Yes, it was a sneak attack. But as person who majored in social sciences in college, historically speaking, I don't think Japan was exactly expecting an H-Bomb to fall out of the sky either.
But Parcells was past the point of rescue. As a person of Japanese descent, I was a little bothered. Not because he used the term "Jap plays," but because he used it to describe plays in the Dallas Cowboy offense. Come on, using my heritage to describe an offense that is so inept is more of an insult to Japanese people than actually using the phrase itself.
And using the word, "Orientals," that's the wrong description anyway. Orientals refers to all of the people of that area, including Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai. If you are going insult Japanese people with the term, "Jap plays" at least get the first part right. What's even more strange is that Parcells' best defensive player, Dat Ngyuen, is - you guessed it - Vietnamese.
Look, Parcells is one of the most calculating and engaging interviews in the NFL. He doesn't allow his assistant coaches to answer questions from the media, fearing they will say something that doesn't follow what he wants. I think it's safe to say, unless his assistants are raging racists, that they could have avoided this fiasco. Then again, most people with egos of normal size, would have been smarter.
On to Mr. Bird. Personally, I feel like Larry Legend got led into the question and wasn't smart enough to back away. The monitor of ESPN's "Two on Two," Jim Gray is a journalist, to use the term loosely, that I would like to beat with a nine iron. He's a smug little man, who believes he is the smartest person in the room - just ask him.
What Gray did was throw Bird a pitch in the dirt, metaphorically speaking. And Bird, not being smart enough, or just wanting someone other than Magic Johnson to talk, swung at it.
Gray asked Bird if the NBA needed more white superstars?
"Well, I think so," said Bird, the Indiana Pacers' president of basketball operations. "You know, when I played, you had me and Kevin [McHale] and some others throughout the league. I think it's good for a fan base because, as we all know, the majority of the fans are white America. And if you just had a couple of white guys in there, you might get them a little excited."
Talk about a no-win situation. If you say yes, as Bird did then you come off sounding mildly racist. If you say, no, then you come off again, sounding mildly racist.
This is what Gray does, and this is why I would probably give him the Stone Cold Stunner if I met him in person.
Still, Bird's statement does bark of a sliver of truth, but it was his next lines that hurt.
"But it is a black man's game, and it will be forever. I mean, the greatest athletes in the world are African-American," he added.
Okay, here's where things get sticky. Bird, while being one of the great players of our time, is not a scientist or sociologist. There's is no scientific proof that African-American's are the greatest athletes in the world. In the realm of the NBA or the NFL, it may seem like it, but there is still no empirical evidence.
Gray asked Magic, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony basically the same question, but they wanted no part of it. Magic gave a rambling answer as only he can do, that really made no sense.
But instead of letting it be, Bird was feeling it, like he was in the 1988 three-point contest
"The one thing that always bothered me when I played in the NBA was I really got irritated when they put a white guy on me," Bird said. "I still don't understand why. A white guy would come out (and) I would always ask him: 'What, do you have a problem with your coach? Did your coach do this to you?' And he'd go, 'No,' and I'd say, 'Come on, you got a white guy coming out here to guard me; you got no chance.' ... For some reason, that always bothered me when I was playing against a white guy.
"As far as playing, I didn't care who guarded me - red, yellow, black," Bird added. "I just didn't want a white guy guarding me. Because it's disrespect to my game."
Bird should have quit after he buried himself up to his waist, there is no reason to keep piling up layers. This last part, isn't particularly racist, unless it reverse racism against white basketball players, something that still confuses me. Really, Larry should have just fouled off Gray's cheap question with a stock answer and let forum continue to go on as it had been, with Magic doing all the talking.
So what have we learned here today?
Never use the phrase, "No disrespect to," because you almost always will, and never do an interview with Jim Gray unless you have a nine iron in your hand.