We milled around the green room. If you’re the type of person who cares about such matters, the following people were extremely friendly: John McEnroe, Michael Wilbon, Selena Roberts, and Mike Tirico. The following people were less so: Jason Whitlock, Cris Carter, Joe Buck. I talked to Braylon Edwards, who seemed as confused as anyone else as to why he was on my panel but jokingly pointed out how much better he looked in his suit than I did in mine. And, pacing around the room, clutching a folder of Deadspin printouts (though I didn’t know this at the time) like it was a talisman, was Buzz Bissinger. David went over to talk to him first, and left about fifteen words in with a grimace and a heads-up: “He’s locked and loaded.” Then, with the show about to start, Buzz walked over to me.
“Hey, it’s good to meet you, sir,” I said. “This should be fun.”
He didn’t even look at me. “So, you’re a Cardinals fan?” he said, with a smirk. “Yes,” I said. “They’re pretty much our family religion.”
He walked away, not even acknowledging my response. This was not going to end well.
So, if you don’t know what happened on the show, let’s just say it was not a Socratic exchange of ideas. Bissinger displayed all the ignorance of Costas in that coffee shop but none of the smoothness. Frothing at the mouth didn’t come close to covering it.
I think I kept my cool pretty well, all told, mainly because I was the only person on the panel (save for maybe Edwards) who had heard of YouTube. I remember, toward the end of the segment, when Bissinger — who I suspect was expecting me to crumple, or come in looking like Sid Vicious, all “fuck you and your medium, scum” — either ran out of energy or realized what he’d just done to his reputation. He made his last remark and sort of slumped down in his chair — All done now, bedtime. I felt for him at that moment, and now.
I’ve never had any harsh feelings toward Bissinger. He’s an elegant writer, and obviously passionate. I think you can’t get to where he is without being rabid about what you do, and if you see something you think is a refutation of all that hard work (even if it isn’t), you fight that thing with everything you have. Bissinger might not have been right, and he might not have been particularly articulate, but he was Buzz Bissinger. I respect that. Later, when Bissinger was doing his Contrition Tour on various radio stations, in newspapers, and on any blog that had his e-mail address, he contacted me and apologized. I told him that wasn’t necessary; plus, you know, Obama Cool.
The show, weirdly, couldn’t have gone better for me. I let the crazy man scream; my politeness, as opposed to his, would hopefully speak for itself.
Meanwhile, Bob Costas sat there, calm, smooth, cool, acting stunned — like, wow, amazing that this could have happened. On his show, of all places.
A week later, Costas, in response to what he called “public outcry,” asked me to tape a segment on his radio show, Costas Coast to Coast. I agreed, though I was already tired of talking about the incident. The interview was dull — so dull, in fact, that Costas stopped halfway through and started over. (He claimed this had never happened “in all my years of broadcasting.” I found that unlikely.)
After the interview ended (I was one of two guests that week. The other: Darrell Hammond!), Costas took me aside.
“So, I read your book,” he said. I asked him if he enjoyed it. “Well, I finished it. And I noticed your little line about me peeing sitting down.”
“Yes,” I said. “That’s just a little joke.”
Bob Costas frowned as much as Bob Costas can frown. “Well, I’m guessing that’s supposed to mean that I’m some sort of wimp. But you can ask anybody who has ever worked with me, ask them whether or not I’m a wimp. I’m damned tough when I need to be.”
He pointed to an intern in the corner, the same intern who rode up with me in the elevator when I came to the studio.
“Tommy, Tommy — you tell him. You’ve seen me have some real explosions in here. I think anybody who has ever worked with me can tell you how tough I am. You can ask anybody.”
I smiled, shook his hand, and then, ten minutes later, urinated next to him. He does not do it sitting down. You can ask anybody.