Athletes love such questions, because they beat the alternative, which demands real answers. Anyone who has watched Pentagon (or baseball-playoff) press briefings knows that they are often little more than bear baitings—the poking of a caged animal with a stick until that animal reacts. Last week Astros manager Larry Dierker was asked why he brought in Mike Jackson (who had coughed up a lead) to pitch the eighth inning of a National League Division Series game rather than Octavio Dotel. Said Dierker, "If I put in Dotel, you'd say, 'Why not Mike Jackson?' " The press blinked back at him, as if to say, "And your point is...?"
That, however, is the beauty of the press conference, and America, and even democracy itself. Any knucklehead can, and usually will, get a press pass, entitling him or her to ask impertinent questions of anyone from Michael Jordan to the president of the United States. In this way we slake the public's "right to know," so that you—tomorrow morning, over a bowl of Froot Loops—may start your day with one unyielding certainty: that last night, in Atlanta, Tommy had good stuff.