01 March 2013

Do You Like Girls?

Like teams at the NFL Scouting Combine, I'm just asking

Sports on Earth

Welcome to the column. Glad you're here. Plenty for me to write about. Lots for you to read. Should be a great fit.

Before we begin, however, I have a question. For you. An important one. A question I need to ask. But don't worry. It's quick and easy -- and once we get it out of the way, I'll be able to move on with the rest of the piece.

Do you like girls?

Go ahead. Answer. Don't be shy. Do you like girls? By which I mean: do you wish the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue featured a little less parka and a little more Kate Upton? Or maybe you like guys. Maybe you wish that SI cover sported a little less Upton and a lot more David Beckham. That's cool, too. Whatever. The crucial thing is that you tell me. Because I really do need to know. Somehow, some way, it might affect your enjoyment of what I'm about to type. Or cause you to leave a nasty comment below. Or get you to recommend me to your friends. Or prompt you to share this on social media. Or lead you to book me on the "Today" show. Or spur you to sign me to a five-novel deal with a huge advance and a three-film Hollywood option. Or result in you handing me a Pulitzer Prize. Who knows how these things work?

The key thing is that it could have an impact, and since I'm about to invest hundreds of precious words into our potential relationship -- words that could otherwise be tailored for an entirely different reader on an entirely different subject, like writing about Ryan Leaf instead of Peyton Manning -- it makes complete and total sense for me to cover my bases. Practice due diligence. Leave no stone unturned. Gather every last possible scrap of potentially relevant information before extending myself in any significant way.

Speaking of information scraps: do you like HBO's "Girls?"

Believe it or not, that might matter as well. I could make a clever episode reference, only to have you completely miss the joke; I could link to this and become your favorite writer ever. There's a chance. A small one, probably. But no matter. As long as there's a chance, any kind of chance, it's better if you lay out your cards up front.

Along those lines, do you like Girl Scout cookies? 'Cause the crumbs might smear on your computer screen.

I know what you're thinking: This is dumb. I've never had a sportswriter preface a column by questioning my sexual orientation, let alone my snack preferences. Is that even legal? Actually, yes. It's perfectly legal. Probably. I think so. Maybe you should ask an actual lawyer. Just to be safe. Only make sure you also ask said lawyer if they like girls. And "Girls." And Samoas. After all, we're talking about legal advice. Don't you want to know as much as possible about the person who's giving it?

It's akin to the NFL Scouting Combine. Coaches. General managers. Executives. Area scouts. All in one place, all with the same job: evaluating potential professional football players. Do you have a girlfriend? Are you married? Do you like girls? Team representatives -- at least some of them -- don't think it's offensive, inappropriate and downright stupid to ask the likes of former Colorado tight end Nick Kasa about his romantic life, both actual and hypothetical. They think it's smart. And necessary.

By the way, "Golden Girls" or "Gossip Girl?" "Mean Girls" … or "Girl, Interrupted?"

Okay, sure: other sportswriters won't ask you that. Because they're idiots. Not the least bit forward-thinking. They don't want to do their homework, give themselves the best possible shot at entertaining you. Not like the cutting-edge human resource pioneers populating professional football front offices. For them, there's no query too invasive. No item too personal. No factoid too irrelevant.

Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland once asked receiver Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute. The New York Giants once administered a 90-minute psychological test that included the question True or false: I prefer a shower to a bathtub. Loofah or rubber ducky? Like gay versus straight, soak versus spray might seem besides the point when it comes to making tackles, catching touchdown passes, avoiding buttfumbles. But is it really? Can anyone be sure? Couldn't anything -- and everything -- be part of the performance prediction puzzle? What if preferring baths means you're soft? What if preferring showers means you don't know how to relax? What if the plumbing breaks in the team hotel on a Saturday night and you can't enjoy your preferred bathing method, and then you play terribly the next day? What's wrong with sussing that out ahead of time?

Do you like Katy Perry's "California Gurls?" The Beach Boys' "California Girls?" The David Lee Roth version? Motley Crue's "Girls Girls Girls?" Duran Duran's "Girls on Film?"

Seriously -- I want you to answer. More data for me. Same as the NFL, I can't get enough. What does it all mean? Does it mean anything? Will it make you a better reader? I'll worry about that later.

At the combine, draft prospects are asked to bench press until failure; in actual football, ending up on your back means you've already failed, no matter how many times you subsequently can hoist an Olympic bar. At the combine, prospects run unmolested, straight-line 40-yard dashes in their underwear; in actual football, players stop and start, run and cut, spin and bounce in every direction, all while wearing pads and getting hit. Former NFL lineman Mike Mamula reportedly scored a 49 out of 50 on the combine-standard Wonderlic intelligence test. He's still remembered as a draft day bust. Former quarterback Dan Marino reportedly scored a 15. He's in the Hall of Fame.

Has the league dumped the dash, scrapped the bench press, tossed the Wonderlic in the trash? Hardly. Teams are still poking, still prodding, still convinced that 15-minute combine interviews -- less than time it sometimes takes to order a drink on a blind date -- can provide genuine insight into future relationships with living, breathing human beings.

So: were you charmed or annoyed by Obama Girl?

Perhaps you'd rather not answer. Perhaps you're turned off by my entire line of inquiry. Perhaps you suspect I'm making a fetish out of pointless preparation, indulging a control-freak fantasy, doubling down on self-delusional bet-hedging. Maybe you believe I'm drawing all the wrong lessons from the NFL, where draft day decision-makers cope with the messy, stressful, inherently uncertain boom-and-bust business of predicting human potential by wrapping themselves in an ass-covering security blanket of quantified athletic parlor tricks and questions about which half of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" -- Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie -- you'd rather take to prom.

Maybe you're convinced the league should stick to football game tape, and I should focus on sentences and paragraphs, and that both of us should be a little more comfortable with the inevitability of getting things wrong. Maybe you're even right. I'd like to think so. Only I'm not entirely sure. Definitely not sure I can afford to take that risk. So help me out. Forget about girls. Instead, let's start with something more germane.

Do you like to read?

Read the original article on Sports on Earth