The 20 Biggest Clown Questions in Sports
Reporters have tough jobs sometimes.
Most of the time, they have it great—they get to watch the game they love and write about it for a living. But they also have to ask hard questions to the players and coaches who are the least receptive.
It's a given that sometimes the reporters will misfire.
Asking a stupid question to a cranky player while surrounded by a horde of your esteemed colleagues is embarrassing, to say the least. But that doesn't mean we can't make fun of the people who have done it.
Without these clown questions, postgame media scrums would be a whole lot less entertaining. So let's be thankful for that—and that we weren't the ones who asked.
20. Kurt Busch Loses It
Most athletes get asked clown questions at some stage of life. Most of them don't become so enraged that they end up getting themselves suspended.
Kurt Busch probably means well when he says obnoxious things to reporters; he probably figures that they deserve it for asking obnoxiously stupid questions. He probably just thinks he's going to make people laugh.
It is unlikely that he realizes he's going to get suspended every time he calls out a reporter for being an idiot.
NASCAR's most irascible personality went pretty much all the way off the deep end last summer when he was asked by a Sporting News reporter whether being on probation impacted his performance on the racetrack.
Busch would probably take this one back if he could. He would at least retract the part where he threatened bodily harm. But sometimes, when someone asks you a clown question, you don't have time to think; you don't have time to process and then react accordingly.
That's how you end up saying things like, "It refrains me from not beating the [expletive] out of you right now because you ask me stupid questions. But since I’m on probation, I suppose that’s improper to say as well."
Well, at least Busch was correct about that.
19. When a Clown Question Makes an Athlete Cry
When we're talking about clown questions, it's important to make some distinctions. For example, some questions are stupid on their own merit. Then there are others that look dumber in retrospect because they happened to make a grown man cry.
On that note, we should address what happened when Jacob Pullen took the podium after Kansas State's loss in the 2011 NCAA tournament.
After the Wildcats fell to Wisconsin by five in the Round of 32, a reporter asked Pullen—who set K-State's scoring record and carried his team against the Badgers—to describe his emotions in the wake of the tough loss. Instead of answering, he broke down in a fit of tears.
That's when head coach Frank Martin stepped in, saying, "That is what you wanted to see? That what you were trying to get out of him? Make him cry here in front of people? Good question."
Well, at least Pullen adequately answered it, right?
18. 'I Read the Stupid Questions You All Ask'
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Lots of reporters spend months thinking of the dumbest possible questions they can ask at the Super Bowl in order to get attention. Well, probably not, but that seems to be the only way to explain why questions like this get asked.
Often, these questions sound a lot better inside a reporter's head. They may even sound acceptable. It's not until the questions come out of your mouth that you realize how truly terrible they are.
Buffalo's Thurman Thomas was on the receiving end of one of those questions when, in the midst of four consecutive trips to the Super Bowl, a reporter asked how he gets pumped up for big games. As if players need any motivation to get excited to play in the biggest sporting exhibition of any given year.
Because Thomas is a pro, he formulated the perfect response: "I read the newspapers and look at all the stupid questions you all ask.”
17. When Trying Hard Just Isn't Enough
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In defense of reporters everywhere, Norv Turner had lots of explaining to do during his six-year stint as the head coach of the San Diego Chargers
The team always seemed to be loaded with talent and performed well in a weak division, but when it came time for the postseason, he could never seem to motivate his team to get the job done.
One day in 2012—which would prove to be Turner's last season at the helm of the Chargers—he simply lost it.
After dropping to 4-5 with a loss to Tampa Bay, Turner insisted that his squad would "respond" the following week, via NFL.com. One reporter inquired about whether it was acceptable for the Chargers to continued to lose as long as they "responded" and played hard.
Turner went off with a long-winded, furious response that made it very clear it was not acceptable for his players to keep losing, no matter how hard they tried.
As the coach and the reporter passed one another after the news conference, Turner added, "You ask a stupid question, you should get a stupid [bleeping] answer."
16. Brandon Jacobs Doesn't Think You're Funny
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Brandon Jacobs has proven himself to be somewhat irascible. One second he's happy, the next he's having a meltdown—and he's never been one to keep his feelings to himself, which one reporter unceremoniously learned in 2010.
In Jacobs' defense, the 2010 season was a trying time. The preseason revealed that he would split time at running back with Ahmad Bradshaw, and Jacobs quickly proved himself to be the less valuable of the two. It was clear that his job security was in question.
After one particularly bad day, Jacobs didn't feel like answering any questions from the media at all in the Giants locker room, but one chose not to heed that request.
Via NBC Sports, someone asked Jacobs if he and his fellow running back needed to put their "egos aside" for the good of the team. Jacobs' response? "You think I'm stupid, don't you?"
With that, he made his grand exit.
The reporter was probably trolling him and trying to milk the budding running back rivalry in order to get a good quote, but it worked.
15. 'I Don't Get Paid to Make Those F-Ing Decisions'
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Josh Beckett is surly. He doesn't like the media, and he doesn't like being interviewed. Everyone knows it. He and Bill Belichick should hang out and talk about it.
Why, then, a reporter chose to ask this dumb question at one of the best moments of Beckett's career remains a mystery.
In 2007, the Boston Red Sox were once again in the midst of handily blowing an American League Championship Series—this time, at the hands of the Cleveland Indians. It was up to Beckett, therefore, to stop the bleeding with a stellar pitching performance in Game 5, and he got the job done.
In a strange coincidence, the Indians chose Beckett's ex-girlfriend, middling country musician Danielle Peck, to sing the national anthem for that game, which left some wondering whether they were trying to mess with Beckett's head.
Clearly, it didn't work, and Beckett did not appreciate being asked what he thought of the decision to have her sing instead of being asked about his spectacular performance on the mound. Beware of language.
14. How to Annoy Phil Mickelson
If you ask a stupid question, Phil Mickelson will tell you, no holds barred. Especially if you ask him a stupid question regarding his feelings about playing at Augusta, where he's won three times and registered 10 top-five finishes overall.
Don't ask Mickelson if he enjoys playing at a tournament that has given him so much success. Don't embarrass yourself like Bob Glowasky of MasterCard, because if you do, Mickelson will name-check you on TV.
Mickelson pulled off a rare feat here: He managed to insult two clown questions and two people at once. He called out Steve Sands for once holding the honor of asking him the "dumbest question he'd ever heard," but he also called out Glowasky for managing to top Sands with this gem:
"So Phil. You looking forward to Augusta?"
Was Phil a little egregiously mean? Perhaps. But that's what happens when you ask a clown question.
13. Serena's Titles Shirt Provokes Awkward Question
Granted, when you're a female and you wear a shirt that draws attention to your chest area, you're kind of asking for a clown question about it. That is precisely what happened to Serena Williams.
After winning Wimbledon, Williams donned a Nike-produced shirt that read on the front, "Are you looking at my titles?"
Now, the joke there seems pretty implicit. But one reporter actually asked her to explain why she chose to wear that shirt, and whether she would have worn a different shirt had she lost the tournament.
Williams was awkwardly forced to explain, in front of several reporters and television cameras, that she wore the shirt not only to draw attention to her many titles, but also because she thought it would be funny to draw attention to…something else.
12. Heidi Watney Confuses Two Players on Live TV
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It's always awkward when you think you're interviewing one person and you pose your questions to that person, but it turns out the guy standing in front of you is someone totally different.
Such was the nightmare that unfolded in front of MLB Network reporter Heidi Watney during this year's World Baseball Classic.
After Puerto Rico beat the United States, Watney was under the impression she was interviewing Nelson Figueroa, Puerto Rico's starting pitcher. It turned out she was actually interviewing third baseman Andy Gonzalez—and the two don't really look anything alike.
Unfortunately for all involved, this happened on live TV, and Gonzalez simply made it clear that he couldn't provide an answer to, "You held this star-studded U.S. lineup to no runs in six innings. How were you able to get that done?"
To make it even more awkward, Watney didn't apologize for mistaking him for someone who looks nothing like him and instead asked him lackluster, boring questions for the rest of the strange interview.
11. Kim Clijsters Exacts Revenge Upon Todd Woodbridge
Here is a note: Before you send a text saying that a female acquaintance "looks pregnant," make sure the person you're texting isn't friends with the person you're calling pregnant.
Otherwise, you could get called out in an entire stadium full of people.
Props to Kim Clijsters for doing everything in her power to make this dumb reporter look as foolish as possible.
The tennis star revealed during a post-match interview with commentator Todd Woodbridge—while mic'd up, in front of the entire crowd—that he had texted a mutual friend during a prior tournament asking if Clijsters was pregnant because she looked bigger than usual and certain parts of her body appeared a bit bigger.
Woodbridge could do nothing but look on in embarrassment.
That is how you get revenge for a clown question—even if it wasn't posed directly to you.
10. Russell Westbrook Edition: No More Questions for You, Bro
You have to love Russell Westbrook simply because he's not afraid to say he's cutting a reporter off when he or she asks too many clown questions. He doesn't have a high tolerance, as we will come to understand in the next couple of slides.
The Oklahoma City guard is happy to make himself available to the media, but only if the media makes it worth his time. This reporter did not during last year's playoffs, when he asked Westbrook if he thought teammate James Harden was a max player, then followed up with, "How would you rate him as a shooting guard in the NBA?"
Westbrook did him the pleasure of quasi-answering the question by saying that Harden is a "great player" who does a lot of "great things" for the team, but afterward, he added, "No more questions for you, bro." And then, under his breath, he added, "Troll."
Round 1 goes to Westbrook. Handily.
9. Russell Westbrook Edition: What?
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
When you approach Russell Westbrook's locker after a game—especially after a loss—you better know exactly what you're asking. He doesn't have time for convoluted nonsense questions like the one he got from this legend, who asked, "Did you guys lose this game, or did the Jazz win this one?"
It's probably a question that Westbrook had heard before (who hasn't heard it?), but on this particular occasion, he simply didn't feel like indulging the reporter.
Not only did Westbrook refuse to answer, but that inquiry was enough for him to abruptly call a close to this particular media session before muttering some choice words about the reporter who tossed out the clown question.
Note: If you play this clip, beware of language.
8. 'Can You Guard?'
Perhaps there is a time and a place to ask one of the best professional athletes on the planet a sarcastic, ignorant, mildly offensive question.
Actually, there isn't. But this was still funny.
During last year's playoffs, while the Lakers were in the midst of taking a beating at the hands of the OKC Thunder, Kobe Bryant was understandably frustrated and annoyed with his team's lackluster performance.
Therefore, he didn't react favorably when, during the post-Game 1 news conference, one intrepid reporter posed the genius question, "Can you guard?"
No. Kobe Bryant—one of the best players in NBA history—and his team full of perennial All-Stars cannot guard. Not at all.
7. 'Can I Measure Your Bicep?'
Granted, it's not the goal of every reporter who shows up at Super Bowl Media Day to be taken seriously.
But asking a player if you can measure his bicep? Really? That is a guaranteed way to ensure you have no credibility in future endeavors.
At Media Day prior to Super Bowl XLIII, reporter Ines Sainz of Mexico's TV Azteca really brought the hard-hitting questions when faced with Cardinals wide receiver Steve Breaston: She asked him if she could measure his bicep. She came armed with a measuring tape and everything.
At least there's something to be said for her preparation. And if the goal of showing up at Media Day is to make headlines, she gets an A+ for that too.
6. 'I Won the US Open on a Broken Leg'
Here is a hint: If it takes you upwards of 30 seconds to pose your question during a news conference, you probably should do yourself—and everyone around you—a favor and just let it go.
Sadly, this poor guy didn't heed that advice at the AT&T National last July.
To be fair, last year, plenty of writers made plenty of news out of Tiger's perpetual status as the favorite in virtually every tournament he entered, and his seemingly perpetual state of falling short.
But when Tiger won at that particular tournament, why would you choose to remind him of all of the times he had previously failed?
This particular reporter tried to tactfully ask Tiger how much he was affected after a perceived injury led him to walk off the course at Doral (you can read the question here; it's hard to hear). A visibly annoyed Tiger shot back with, "Yeah, I won the U.S. Open on a broken leg. I can handle it."
There really is nothing better than a defensive Tiger at a news conference.
5. 'Idiot Kicker'
Back in the day, when Peyton Manning was still one of the NFL's young and up-and-coming quarterbacks, he was far less diplomatic than he is now. His kicker, Mike Vanderjagt, bore the brunt of it.
These days, Manning wouldn't dare to throw one of his teammates under the bus for blowing a game (we think). But in 2003, anyone was fair game.
In Manning's defense, he was baited into issuing this tirade against Vanderjagt—and Vanderjagt started it by criticizing both Manning and head coach Tony Dungy on live TV.
So at the 2003 Pro Bowl, when Manning was asked about Vanderjagt's comments, he told Lynn Swann, "Here we are. I'm out at my third Pro Bowl, I'm about to go in and throw a touchdown to Jerry Rice, we're honoring the Hall of Fame, and we're talking about our idiot kicker who got liquored up and ran his mouth off."
It may have been a clown question, but it did lead to one of the best Peyton Manning lines ever uttered.
4. Shaq and the Snake Venom Question
Shaquille O'Neal is a charming dude. He can get away with saying things that are a little bit questionable without suffering the same consequences as someone who doesn't have such smooth moves.
But anyone probably could have gotten away with answering this asinine question the same way Shaq did, because who would ever ask this question? In front of other people?
At least Shaq made him pay.
In the midst of the 2006 playoffs, a reporter asked Shaq—then a member of the Heat—just how desperate he was to win the title. He proposed a hypothetical scenario: If a snake bit his mother "in the chest area," would Shaq be willing to suck out the venom in order to win the championship?
Shaq's reply: "No, but I will with your wife."
3. Adrian Peterson vs. Terrible TMZ Reporter
This entire video is just an all-around win for Adrian Peterson. Not only does he look like a champ in the first few seconds for stopping and taking photos with every fan who approaches him, but he also dominates the clumsy TMZ reporter who asks him a clumsy question.
The Vikings running back had a nearly record-breaking 2012 campaign, falling just nine yards shy of shattering the all-time single-season rushing record and finishing with 2,097 yards. He also gained 2,314 total yards from scrimmage, which tied the eighth-highest mark in history.
Given his success, Peterson was bound to encounter some terrible questions here and there, and this query about gay players in the NFL certainly qualifies as one.
It is made even worse, however, by the fact that the reporter, in his haste to get the question out before Peterson walks away, completely wipes out on the sidewalk.
The embarrassment of asking a terrible question is enough. That, coupled with the humiliation of falling flat on your face, is just too much.
2. Irina Shayk vs. Lionel Messi Jersey
The look on Irina Shayk's face says it all.
Every reporter knows that milking the rivalries that exist between fans is fun. It's all part of the game. But let it be known that there is a way to take it too far.
Shayk, Cristiano Ronaldo's girlfriend, made the mistake of allowing herself to be interviewed at an MTV party by a Greek television host brandishing a pair of scissors. The scissors should have been a warning sign.
During the interview, the host handed his scissors to a confused Shayk and asked her to hold them for a while, then whipped out a jersey bearing the name of Lionel Messi—Public Enemy No. 1 of Ronaldo fans—and demanded that she cut it.
Not only did Shayk refuse, but she hijacked the interview by grabbing the microphone, shoving the scissors back at the reporter and demanding that he cut it himself. Now that is how you rebound from a clown question.
1. Bryce Harper
Finally, we come to the original, the standard, the question that birthed the phrase, "That's a clown question, bro."
And what a clown question it was.
It's kind of a given that when you're interviewing a player who is under 21, you shouldn't ask him anything about his favorite alcoholic beverages, considering he is not legally permitted to drink them in the United States.
It doesn't matter if he's a native of Canada and he's allowed to drink there. It doesn't even matter if the unspoken truth is that a whole lot of people drink underage and everyone knows it. You don't mention it. It's a rule.
And you certainly don't press it once it becomes clear that the player in question wants nothing to do with you or your clown question.