By Tim Hayes


It’s tough to appreciate it until you’re actually in the moment, but there’s a world of difference between standing up on short notice to speak before a group, and handling an impromptu news conference. 


Most noticeably, when you’re at a podium, you’re in control of the environment, the pace, and the content of what is said – but while during a news conference with microphones suddenly in your face, the reporter is in control and you’re forced to react and play defense. 


Part of my practice is dedicated to helping clients get ready for either situation, and there are plenty of examples of folks fumbling the ball.  Try these verbal clunkers on for size, all from the wide world of sports:


·        “Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.”  This gem comes to us from Washington Redskins quarterback and Notre Dame alumnus Joe Theismann.  Somewhere, Knute Rockne is weeping.


·        George Foreman, in his pre-grill boxing days, once quipped: “The referee is the most important man in the ring besides the two fighters.” Well, I guess that narrows it down.


·        Torrin Polk, who toiled as a wide receiver at the University of Houston, once boasted of his head coach, “He treats us like men. He lets us wear earrings.”  Coach must have drawn the line at wearing open-toed pumps with cleats, though.


·        “I owe a lot to my parents, especially my mother and father,” said golfer and aspiring genealogist Greg Norman.


·        Here’s one from way back, attributed to Ohio State quarterback Bob Hoying: “I’m really happy for Coach Cooper and the guys who’ve been around here for six or seven years, especially our seniors.” And here, all this time, I thought they called it the Big Ten because of the number of teams in the conference, not the years required to graduate.


·        “Hawaii doesn’t win many games in the United States,” opined Lee Corso, former college coach, current ESPN football analyst, and quite possibly the first guy to sit down during every geography bee he’s ever entered.


Again, to be fair, it takes real concentration in the heat of the moment to calm the mind sufficiently, so that only cogent statements come out of one’s mouth.  For athletes and other performers in particular, the surge of adrenalin can addle the brain cells a bit, leading to some of the bloopers cited above.


As with anything else in communications, preparation, practice and persistence are invaluable.  Making the sort of humorous statements seen here can be charming and endearing.  You just don’t want to make a habit of it.


Copyright 2009 Tim Hayes Consulting