The Chicago Bulls break the Miami Heat’s winning streak. LeBron James raises questions about how the Bulls played. The Boston Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge criticizes LeBron for his comments. Heat President Pat Riley then issues the following statement:
“Danny Ainge needs to shut the f— up and manage his own team. He was the biggest whiner going when he was playing and I know that because I coached against him.”
I’m not checking my notes, but that statement likely breaks several rules we teach during media training. However, it is possible we’ve never told someone to specifically not include the word “f—“ in a sound bite. That was an oversight.
Despite conventional wisdom, I liked what Riley said. I actually loved it. First, I’m a Heat fan, so I’ve spent several days receiving texts from a Bulls fan telling me everything wrong with the Heat. I never responded by saying, “Shut the f— up.” But I reminded him he sounded like a jilted boyfriend or girlfriend and that he roots for a baseball team which hasn’t won the World Series since 1908.
Second, I liked what Riley said because it blows back with such harshness the rules of corporate speak. Long ago, I tired of the B.S. language some corner office executives employ when speaking to their underlings. I learned when some managers complimented me, their strategy was simply to soften me up for a request they figured I wouldn’t like. Managers often meant to say, “Shut the f— up,” but they used carefully chosen language that anyone could easily misinterpret as, “Those are very pretty flowers on your dress.”
Few people say what they mean. And we certainly can’t start teaching executives, when confronted by a hard-charging reporter, to respond with, “Shut the f— up you whiny member of the media.”
But in a world in which people are so scared to say “no” that they instead tell us they’ll keep our information on file, I appreciate when someone, every once in a while, breaks the rules in such a blatant way. It sometimes just feels so good to hear. You feel like you are dancing, exhaling freedom, like Steve Carell at the end of “The 40 Year-Old Virgin.”
Don’t like it. Then you can … I appreciate your opinion and respectfully disagree.