Being a sports reporter is, at times, an absolutely horrible job. Sure you get to watch games, travel, and interact with athletes, but there is a horrendous downside. (Which is pretty much everything else.) And this is never more disturbingly clear than when a reporter has their first (or 50th ) awful experience with a half-naked, exhausted athlete. Sometimes they'll be openly dismissive, sometimes they'll yell, and sometimes, well, they'll fart in your face. Most of these stories never end up in the newspaper the next day. So now, Deadspin proudly presents "The Dark Side of the Locker Room" where current and former sports writers can share some of their most distressing interactions. If you've got your own story to share, please send it along to firstname.lastname@example.org.
First up, current Boston Daily editor Paul Flannery, who was an Eagles beat reporter with the Delaware County Times, and had this unfortunate run-in with former Eagles defensive end Hugh Douglas.
Hugh Douglas just called me a motherfucking asshole. Not just an asshole. Or a motherfucker. A motherfucking asshole. Now, Hugh Douglas is a large man. That's a given, but it's hard to comprehend just how big NFL defensive ends actually are until you are being called a motherfucking asshole by one.
On most days, Hugh was a great quote. He's smart and very funny, and he also completely understood that you were going to ask him some dumb-ass questions, and he was going to give you something good. And when he did give you something less than his A+ material, he'd laugh to let you know that he knows that it's crap, but that's all you're getting, probably because Andy Reid had told him to stop being so damn funny and smart.
Not on this day, though. Hugh is pissed, and I'm the one who pissed him off. The Eagles had just lost on a last-second field goal. Maybe that's why he was mad. I don't really know, but I also don't have time to figure it out, because he picked me out of the pack and now I have a bigger problem. Again: How does one respond to a 270-pound man calling you a motherfucking asshole? I ran through the various scenarios until I settled on Hold your ground. Yeah. He'll respect that.
But I didn't. Instead I said, "What?"
There are a million different comebacks I could have come up with, but "What?" probably wasn't my best option, because now Hugh is really screaming at me and everyone left in the locker room is now staring at us. Meanwhile, I'm still frozen. They didn't offer this class in journalism school.
Finally, a friend yanked me out of the way, and a couple of the veteran beat guys got between us, but Hugh still yelled over to me, "You're telling your friends that I'm an asshole now, aren't you? You're the asshole." I was really in no position to argue that point. Finally, he left and I went back upstairs to bang out a few stories.
I still don't know why I pissed Hugh off, but I know that I did because this story has a coda. A couple of months later, I see Hugh and Hollis Thomas whispering and looking in my general direction, which I figure is probably bad news. I decide to lay low and continue with my busy schedule of standing around and waiting for Koy Detmer. Still, I know something's coming, and when it finally does, I'm not entirely surprised.
What happened was this: Hollis snuck up behind me and let loose with a blood-curdling scream mere inches from my right ear. Then Hollis laughed. Then Hugh laughed. Surveying the scene, a columnist from the Inquirer just looked at me and said, "Huh."