Here's the thing about sportswriters: When it comes to "protocol" and "professional" and following the rules and stuff, they're a lot more Felix Unger than Oscar Madison.
You can't cheer in the press box, no matter that a fair slice of the press in the box is in the tank for dear old Fill-in-the-Blank U, committing the official version of the truth to paper while dishing the juicier (and truer) stuff back in the newsroom. Coach gets asked -- mostly -- the questions he feels like answering, and Coach gets -- mostly -- the stories he can live with.
Sometimes, though, a sportswriter gets a wild hair. Then there can be hell to pay.
AND WHEN there's hell to pay, a sports reporter can lose "access." And when a paper or TV station loses access, it can lose audience, and when it loses audience, it loses advertising, and when it loses advertising. . . .
It's all quite rational. It's all quite rationalized. And when some Boudreaux from the bayou gets pissed off and starts speaking truth to football power -- even when the Boudreaux is an Hebert who used to be an NFL quarterback -- the horrified "professionals" in the room start reaching for the smelling salts.
Like this guy from The New York Times:
After Miles made an opening statement, the moderator opened the floor to questions. The first came from Bobby Hebert, a local broadcaster and former Saints quarterback, whose son, T-Bob Hebert, plays center and guard for L.S.U.LISTEN, Mr. New York Times, I got a scoop for you. It's better to be the "unprofessional" oaf who asks the obvious damn question everybody wants answered than it is to be a polite, oh-so-professional, ball-less wonder who dutifully repeats coaches' bulls***.
Hebert started, according to the transcript: “Coach, did you ever consider bringing in Jarrett Lee, considering that you weren’t taking any chances on the field? Now, I know Alabama’s defense is dominant. But, come on, that’s ridiculous, five first downs. I mean, so it’s almost an approach, I’ll tell you from the fans’ standpoint, that how can you not maybe push the ball down the field and bring in Jarrett Lee?”
In the often mundane world of post-event news conferences, where coaches spew clichés and reporters worry about deadlines, this rant, in all its fan-like anger – from a broadcaster to the man who coached his son – registered somewhere near the level of “bombshell,” as the room fell silent and faces filled with shock.
In theory, such news conferences are supposed to be attended by objective reporters, which doesn’t mean that always happens. But even then, this was unusual, too. In the press room after the game, talk of Hebert’s lack of decorum dominated conversation more than Alabama’s transcendent championship performance.
Lee served as the Tigers’ quarterback for much of the season, when Jordan Jefferson, who played all of the game Monday, was suspended for his alleged role in a bar fight. Lee, in the Tigers’ locker room Monday, said he “thought I might get” a chance to play when Jefferson and the L.S.U. offense remained stagnant from the first half into the second. But that, of course, never happened.
So back to Hebert. He continued with his “question,” later, again according to the transcript, adding, “I know the pass rush of Alabama, but there’s no reason why in five first downs … you have a great defense, L.S.U. is a great defense, but that’s ridiculous.”
At that point, the moderator interrupted, asking, “Do you have a question?”
Hebert responded: “That’s the question. Do you think you should have pushed the football more down field?”
Miles answered: “I think if you watch our calls that we did throw the football down the field. We didn’t necessarily get the football down the field.”
We Louisianians have a saying about this that I just made up: Sometimes, it takes a couyon.
UPDATE: Let's just say it didn't take long for the Empire to strike back against the Cajun Cannon.
A Sugar Bowl flack told a reporter Bobby Hebert's question was "disappointing" and that he might be banned -- in PR speak, that's called withholding "credentials" -- for future bowl games and BCS championship games. "We don't want to credential people who go into a press conference and act like a fan," he said.
He had no comment on the future credentialing of coaches who go onto the field and act like homicidal maniacs.