The subject was Terrell Owens -- as it so often is when the man being interviewed is Donovan McNabb -- and, specifically, whether any of the Philadelphia Eagles' current wideouts could emerge as viable threats in the wake of the NFL's messiest divorce of the 21st century.
"Give me the name of a receiver, someone who no one is talking about right now, that you could see doing big things this year," I said to McNabb last week as we sat in folding chairs across from the recently vacated training-camp practice field at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.
The 29-year-old quarterback stroked his goatee, as if he were deeply considering the matter, before replying definitively, "John Turner."
"Wow," I said, scribbling the name in my notebook. "You've got me on that one, because I've never heard of the guy."
Pausing for effect, McNabb flashed that genial grin of his and said, "You've got me, too, because he's not even on the roster. Dude's so fast, you don't even see him out there."
It was vintage McNabb, turning a tense topic into a lighthearted goof, refusing to take himself or his surroundings too seriously, walking the line between being disarming and inclusive, in an effortless kind of way.
Those personality traits, even more than the leadership he displays on the field, are what endears McNabb to so many of his peers, be they Eagles or players on opposing teams. Well-liked by many of the NFL's most popular current and former players (Tom Brady, Jerome Bettis, Hines Ward, Edgerrin James, etc.), McNabb is a living, breathing feel-good story with abundant ability to match his charm.
So why are so many blowhards perpetually trying to tear the guy down?
From the cheesesteak-grubbing yahoos on draft day to the pill-popping, right-wing radio know-it-all to the below-the-belt-hitting boxer to the race-baiting NAACP branch president, McNabb's critics could form a bad reality-show cast: Real World Haterville. And that's not even counting the relentlessly needy T.O., who continues to send venomous shout-outs to his former QB from 2,000 miles away.
Mel Gibson hasn't ripped McNabb yet, but then again, that may only be because the all-knowing actor hasn't been asked about him.