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Athletes can't help spouting off right after an event

Posted: Wednesday January 18, 2006 4:51PM; Updated: Wednesday January 18, 2006 11:14PM
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Joey Porter
Joey Porter (55) did his best to stop Petyon Manning last Sunday, but the linebacker felt the refs were twarting his efforts.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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As a Browns fan, I'm expected (required, actually) to hate the Steelers. Alas, this has never been easy. The Steel Curtain teams of the '70s, while frustratingly dominant, were manned by an admirable collection of players. I always had a soft spot for the two Jacks (Ham and Lambert, even though Lambert almost killed Brian Sipe on a late hit one year). I thought John Stallworth was an amazing big-game talent. I found Lynn Swann's athleticism mesmerizing. And how could you not love Rocky Bleier, especially after Robert Urich's portrayal of him in Fighting Back?

Unfortunately, the team is still tough to loathe, primarily because of Bill Cowher. For starters, the man has links to the Browns. He played for them and was Cleveland's special teams coach (and later secondary coach) under Marty Schottenheimer. And he's always impressed me as a solid, stand-up guy, one who has got more in common with Dudley Do-Right than a lantern jaw.

Now Cowher is at it again. He did a completely classy thing after last Sunday's Colts game, which was a terribly officiated affair. He not only stood up for the officials, but he also criticized one of his own players for shooting off his mouth. After the game, Joey Porter said of the Troy Polamalu non-interception: "It was just one of those games, the world wanted Indy to win so bad, they were going to do whatever they could. It was like the 9/11 year when they wanted the Patriots [who beat the Steelers in the AFC title game] to win it for the world, just for the patriotic of the world. That's what they wanted for Indy today. They wanted [Peyton Manning] to win that game no matter what happened. They want him to win that game and they were going to give him all the opportunities to win it."

I've never bought into conspiracy theories (at least in football), and referencing 9/11 wasn't exactly a classy move. On Tuesday Cowher said, "Our officials are doing the very best that they can do. Obviously, at times, there's going to be mistakes made. To me, those guys are human like the rest of us, and we're moving on."

Of Porter, he said: "Joey's comments at the end of the game were certainly made out of frustration. But there's no conspiracy, or things of that nature, that's ridiculous."

Good for Cowher for taking the high road. And good for Porter for backing off his remarks. The Steelers had a 15-minute cooling-off period after the game, but Porter admitted he could have used half an hour. And he makes a good point. If my boss came into my office and told me my writing sucked and that I was a hack with no future (a typical Tuesday, in other words), than 50 media members swarmed into my office 10 minutes later and asked how I felt, I might say something out of line.

The worst case of athletes getting quickly bombarded with questions is in NASCAR, where reporters can get guys as they literally step out of the car in which they've been cheating death by banging into other cars at 180 miles an hour for four hours. One's nerves can be a bit frayed at such a time, which goes a long way in explaining two of Tony Stewart's more memorable meltdowns: shoving a photographer at Indy and knocking a reporter's tape recorder out of his hand at Daytona.

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