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The Media Day Ritual: Doug Williams At Super Bowl XXII

Posted by Matt Terl on February 1, 2011 – 2:18 pm

It’s Super Bowl Media Day, and around these parts that means one thing: the annual retelling of the story of the stupidest question Doug Williams was never asked — or, rather, wasn’t asked in the way that people currently believe. Here’s the efficient retelling, from Jeff Merron of ESPN.com:

The dumbest question in Media Day history came prior to Super Bowl XXII. You’ve probably heard the story. A mediot actually asked Redskins quarterback Doug Williams the following: “How long have you been a black quarterback?”

Can it get any worse than that? Probably not. Here’s the thing, though — the question was never asked. After Williams suffered through countless queries about being the first black QB to start a Super Bowl, Butch John, a reporter for the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger, seemed to have had enough. So he said, “Doug, it’s obvious you’ve always been a black quarterback all your life. When did it start to matter?”

John’s statement and question were jokes. Most reporters there got it, and they laughed. And then it was printed. But it has been twisted around and repeated, in the form it takes in this story’s first paragraph, ever since.

But that’s not to say that there weren’t any dumb questions asked at that particular Media Day. Norman Chad was writing WaPo’s Sports Waves media coverage column back then, and his piece on the Super Bowl coverage is pretty terrific. He breaks down what was done station by station — and (as an aside) there were two features I would honestly pay cash money to be able to watch today:

  • WTTG-5’s “Redskins Playbook” Super Bowl pregame show that week, featuring the late Glenn Brenner (of WUSA-9), the late George Michael (of WRC-4), Frank Herzog (of WJLA-7, and Redskins play-by-play man at the time), and hosted by WTTG’s Steve Buckhantz., and
  • Charles Mann’s “A Day In The Life Of Charles Mann” for Channel 9.

Only at then end of his review of WUSA-9’s coverage does Chad get to his Media Day anecdote.

“The highlight of the week was the incidental juxtaposition of two Media Day reports,” Chad writes. “First, Brenner asked [Redskins defensive end Charles] Mann what the dumbest question was he heard all day. Mann said there were two of them — he was asked that, if he could be any tree he wanted to be, what tree would it be, and he was asked what his favorite color was. Just minutes later, on Channel 4, Pat Collins filed his Media Day report. And we saw him ask Manley what tree he would be if he could be any tree, and we saw him ask Mann what his favorite color was.”

It wasn’t just the Redskins or the local media, either. Tom Zucco’s piece in the St. Petersburg times has a couple of brainachingly dumb anecdotes as well. There was Broncos tackle Dave Studdard being asked if recently-split Sean Penn and Madonna “should give it another try”, for example.

So the moral of the story — this year like every year — is this: there were plenty of dumb questions asked at Media Day even back in 1988, but the one everyone remembers wasn’t one of them.

(Also, via Mister Irrelevant and the SI Vault, check out Charles Mann and MTV personality Downtown Julie Brown at Super Bowl XXVI Media Day.)

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2 Responses to “The Media Day Ritual: Doug Williams At Super Bowl XXII”

  1. By SLT-A77 on Nov 17, 2011 | Reply

    Its Pleasure to understand your blog. The above articles is pretty extraordinary, and I really enjoyed reading your blog and points that you expressed. I really like to appear back over a typical basis,post a lot more within the topic. Thanks for sharing…keep writing!!!

  2. By mark h stowers on Jan 29, 2013 | Reply

    Here’s the writer that asked that question.


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