In sports, its easy to absorb all of the neutral quotes and run-of-the-mill actions like a continuous flow of white noise and misty media. Tell me if you've heard this before:
"Right now, we're just thinking about next week. "
"I think that if we can all focus on improving what we do individually that we can accomplish a lot of great things collectively."
Don't get me wrong. I feel that our athletes and coaches have a responsibility to themselves, their teams and the public to carry on with respect. Nobody is going to appreciate millionaires who are anything short of consummate air-wave professionals.
Gunfights in night clubs, physical violence off of the field, and tastelessness in general are among the most disenchanting elements of today's sports culture. But you must admit: the stock type NFL personality has become more redundant than the sun rising and setting.
Whether we choose to love them or hate them, Jim Mora, Rex Ryan, Mike Ditka, and countless other large personalities have given the history of football a great deal of extra color that it would otherwise be absent. Not even the NFL (No Fun League, according to many critics) could force conformity from these originals.
This article pays respect to one of those larger than life podium-personalities that we'll remember forever: the Microphone Maestro. He's a man who never minced words and so often created them. He deserves this acclaimed reflection, and for those who disagree- well, who gives a diddley-poo?
I say that the NFL needs "more'a" Jim Mora.
The former Saints and Colts general didn't conform to the "NFL Head Coach: Automatic Response to Typical Questions" Handbook. His post-game commentary packed so much of a punch that replacement jaws are still being imported to New Orleans (where he coached the Saints in the early 90's) and Indianapolis (where he was Peyton Manning's first coach) to meet dire needs.
Jim Mora's accomplishments are many. His vocabulary defined non-conformity, and pushed aside all of Webster's expectations of right and wrong. Thanks to Coach Mora, the word "didley-poo" has a common place in the Slang in Athletics Dictionary, S.A.D., which aptly describes coach Mora's interpersonal skills after a few famous losses.
Smile lines would run down his cheek like replicas of the Nile River (though he wasn't smiling), an exasperated demeanor would overcome his face, and his heart would pour out through his words and sarcastically raised dark brown brows.
Often, his conference outbursts would be followed by moments of silence as journalists would scratch their foreheads, deciding how to appropriately follow up. In a famous post-game speech given as coach of New Orleans, Mora described the lackluster performance delivered by his entire team.
After going through the full laundry list of deficiencies that lasted nearly a minute, he finished by saying, "We couldn't do diddley-poo." A nearby reporter responded as aptly as he could: "Okay?" Unfortunately, the particular speech is rather profane (thus, I did not add it to the article), but it can be easily accessed online.
Perhaps when my children get old enough, I'll make sure they remember that they can do anything they set their minds to! "Son, you can do diddley-poo!" Too bad for the Saints that one random Sunday when they couldn't!
It's important to specify that my regard for Coach Mora's personality is not entirely sarcastic. I always found his candidness to be, albeit over the top, entirely refreshing. He was pain-stakingly honest, even going as far as to question the actions of an NFL crowd who cheered after an injury that required enhanced medical attention.
People will debate how critical NFL personnel should be regarding the fans, and it makes for an interesting conversation. Many contend that the price of an NFL game should afford fans the opportunity to behave in the manner of their choosing, so long as no harm befalls other people. Mora's response to the aforementioned incident caught great attention. Even at the most hostile NFL environments and games, my experiences with live football have always included a respect for those players who are hurt.
Instead of briefly mentioning it, Mora defended the player and relayed his opinion with great zeal. Mora felt that their actions crossed the line, and he was blunt about it. Beyond sheer eccentrism, Mora showed a very human side to himself. His openness was compelling, even if you didn't agree with his point of view.
Mora saved one of his best post-games for his final days as coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Following an exasperating loss, a reporter asked him about his plans in the weeks to come to keep the team focused on rebounding and making a possible playoff run. From there, words can't describe the screeching response that was offered. While nothing like the rant itself works (see the video listed), I know that a single word will trigger this memory in the minds of many of the football-faithful.
Fans of the game during the late 1990's and early century will never forget the coach and his infectious personality. Jim Mora was one of those guys that simply made you pay attention, the perfect blend of an eccentric character with character (minus a few expletives). While Jim Mora's legacy with many fans has taken on a caricature nature, the truth is the coach had a great passion for the game.
Opposed to so many personalities who only say those things that we all want to hear, there was a level of genuineness that made the coach unique among his "podium playbook" peers. His players largely seem to agree that he was a fine coach and a good man. It just so happens that he was also the perfect example of the life of an NFL coach unleashed in an unadulterated manner.
If Jim Mora's qualities had to be described with a single word, exasperation could arguably be the perfect summary. If Jim Mora's quantity had to be acknowledged, "one of a kind" would unarguably be the apt description.
The post-game microphone misses Jim Mora, whose iconic responses will endure with those folks who appreciate the light-hearted moments that press conferences have to offer!