Rick's List — History of the Sports Press Conference Edition

As America kicks it into a frenzied overdrive for a Super Bowl in which the New Orleans Saints won't participate, it occurs to me that, all along, I've assumed media interviews with athletes and coaches were flatline intellectual experiences for three very modern reasons.

1. The boring, repetitive responses are by design so that no strategy or inside info is inadvertently provided to opponents.

2. The interviewees are not Tina Fey or Christopher Hitchens.

3. Interacting with journalists is regarded by players and coaches as occupying a niche that fits between "venereal disease" and "curfew" on the "Let's Have Fun" spectrum.

Imagine my surprise when I found out the bland-by-design press conference evolved into an art form from the late 1700s into 19th century Europe with the development of several often controversial philosophical movements and newspaper reaction. The Great Thinkers, it seems, found it beneath them to talk to reporters and were simultaneously wary of disclosing too much to other philosophers.

It all started when transcendental idealist Immanuel Kant, when asked by a reporter from the Leipzig Star to anticipate what effect the newly-published "Critique of Pure Reason" might have on the scope of metaphysics, quipped what became a much-loved cliché we frequently hear today:

"It's gonna be a game-changer, Bubba," Kant chuckled, spitting tobacco juice into an empty Lowenbrau bottle.

Here are a few more philosopher's press conference quotes you might recognize that have been "borrowed" by sports folks today:

1. Reporter: "Sir, in your book 'The World as Will and Representation,' you seem to blatantly reject Hegelian idealism."

Arthur Schopenhauer: "I have nothing but respect for Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. He's a great, great philosopher. But I can't worry about what Hegel might be doing. I just try to stay in my rhythm and work as hard as I can on each new aphorism."

2. Reporter: "Mr. Mill, you were brought up in extremely rigorous intellectual fashion by your father. Do you resent that — or did it in fact help when you theorized the foundations of utilitarianism?" 

John Stuart Mill: "Overcoming adversity is part of my routine. Pondering for a living isn't easy, so I try to bring my A game every time I philosophize. Plus, I'm just trying to feed my family."

And see how the whole thing has come full circle in this example from a recent NFL presser:

Q: "Coach, can you share what you said at halftime that fired your guys up so much?"

A: "I just, ah, told 'em, y'know, fellas, Being and Time determine each other reciprocally, but in such a manner that neither can the former — Being — be addressed as something temporal, nor can the latter — Time — be addressed as a being. Now, let's go whup some ass!"


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