By now, you've probably seen the above video--maybe a couple of times. It depicts Derek Anderson, Arizona Cardinals quarterback, losing it while a reporter questions why he was laughing on the sidelines during a loss. Incredulous (and rightly so) at this idiotic line of questioning, Anderson tries to stand up for himself, then eventually storms off in a fit of frustration.
Anderson's meltdown has brought out the mockingbirds, perhaps none better than NBA superstar and comedy legend Dwight Howard's excellent parody. It's funny, because Howard is a funny guy. But he of all people should recognize the genuine issue behind Anderson's tirade: people are trying to hold an athlete accountable for his mood after the game, which is sheer stupidity. Most of the time, Howard has a downright sunny personality, even when the chips are down--it's only a matter of time before his natural mood and gift for levity creep into a post-loss scrum, and people start questioning his commitment to winning when he isn't even committed to his post-loss frown.
In the world of sports, laughing is no laughing matter, at least when it comes after a loss. It's kind of stupid.
Hockey had a similar controversy last week, when Alexander Ovechkin drew criticism for laughing and fraternizing with Ilya Kovalchuk following a loss. Now, it was pretty self-centered and inconsiderate for Ovechkin and Kovalchuk to have a loud conversation so near to coach Bruce Boudreau's media scrum, but for most people, that wasn't the issue. The real issue was that Ovechkin seemed in good spirits despite the fact his team had just taken a pounding. Kovalchuk's lowly Devils had just shut out Ovechkin's high-scoring Capitals while scoring five goals of their own, and people accused the Capitals' winger of not taking the loss seriously enough. That near to the recorders, he should have been weeping, you see. Weeping shows remorse--remorse for losing.
I can't believe it's come to this. Get over yourselves, people, it's sports. Granted, some people take it very seriously, but those people are the problem, not the athletes who don't. Are we actually trying to enforce a code of dourness? Do we honestly think we have any right to question how a player feels? Derek Anderson doesn't think so. Neither do I.
I remember once hearing a story about Peyton Manning on the radio. Word was someone had seen him out to dinner with his wife, and he was barely able to speak to her because of his deep depression following a Colts' playoff loss a month earlier. People praised his commitment to winning. I just found it ludicrous. Get over it, guy, the world has larger issues.
Derek Anderson is getting mocked for his meltdown, but his frustration is totally understandable. I can certainly guarantee you he wasn't laughing maniacally because his plan to make the team lose had come to fruition. It was likely unrelated to football, as most things in life are. Outside of that short instance, he was probably genuinely upset about the loss, and here he was forced to defend that fact while being questioned for his effort level and implicitly blamed because the camera caught him being not sad for a split-second? It's absurdity.
Justin Bourne put this issue into perspective in a Puck Daddy article discussing the pet peeves of NHL coaches. One of them is laughter--in any context--after a loss:
In 90 percent of the cases, utter silence is expected.
[...] Coaches try to enforce a serious environment as much as humanly possible.
I always felt like hockey wasn't my life, it was just a part of it.
Because being that serious that often about a game? Now that's laughable.
It is laughable, and I genuinely feel for Derek Anderson. I'm sure, like most athletes, he hates to lose, but also possesses the very admirable ability to put things in perspective. Even after a very disappointing loss, he is capable of laughing. That's not bad.
In his same situation, confronted by a reporter who felt I needed to be taken to task for merely possessing a sense of humour, I might have done worse. I might have briefly left it behind and hit him in the mouth.
And then laughed about it.