Arian Foster's long been the most interesting athlete in Houston, the blinding talent who never fit neatly into the machine. He challenged reporters to go beyond the usual rote, tired sports cliche questions for years. He often wouldn't answer a question if it was too predictable and completely devoid of imagination and any semblance of original thinking (i.e. What are the keys to winning on the road?)
So what happens when Foster gives in — and only delivers robotic, unthinking answers himself?
The Houston media — or at least the overwhelming majority of it — goes apoplectic.
Yes, the Texans press corps has lost its damn minds because Foster had the gall to answer question after question with the same short spiel about just wanting to be a good teammate. And then deliver something of a follow-up tweet, declaring "The media is full of propaganda" and other such "slights." The nerve of this guy. Who does he think he is?
The furor from Houston reporters over Foster is more over-the-top than Sharknado 2. Unfortunately, unlike Tara Reid's masterpiece, it's ridiculousness is not intentional.
No one ever accused most sports writers of possessing a sense of humor — or perspective. This uptight Foster backlash has gone on for days.
But guess what? What Foster did isn't offensive or disrespectful. It's funny.
Foster had a little fun with the media game. It's another example of his creativity.
That's why it led the 10 p.m. SportsCenter Wednesday night (bumping even some Jerry Jones nonsense to later in the show) and got compared to Allen Iverson's epic "Practice? We're talking about practice!" rant. That's why it ended up on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Thursday night. It's the rare original sports moment.
Call it the Yeah Man Press Briefing.
Arian Foster can't help himself. Even when he tries to be as bland as possible, he's exposed as the Most Interesting Man in the NFL.
The reasons for Foster's media boycott are misguided, but with the results this good who cares?
Besides a whole lot of offended middle-aged, white sports writers, of course. The furor from some Houston reporters over Foster's repeat answer session is more over-the-top than Sharknado 2. Unfortunately, unlike Tara Reid's disaster flick masterpiece, it's ridiculousness is not intentional.
Many of the Foster offended trotted out the tired, "But we're the voice of the fans — so he's really disrespecting the fans" argument. How 1990s. In an age of Twitter, athlete websites and alternate outlets galore there are plenty of ways Arian Foster can get his message out to the fans without giving a cliched (non-repeat) quote to the local paper or TV station.
The fans could care less if Arian talks to the media or not. They only care how well he plays (Foster only happens to be the single most critical player on the team, the one with nothing close to a comparable replacement).
The only ones offended by Foster's stunt are reporters with an inflated sense of self importance.
Upon further review . . . Let's cut to chase. Arian is an narcissist jerk. This isn't exactly breaking news either.— Dale Robertson (@sportywineguy) July 30, 2014
Did Doctor Dale diagnosis Foster by standing besides his locker a few times? What would Robertson brand the running back if he repeated no comment over and over again? A raging sociopath?
Some Texans beat writers even eagerly wondered how O'Brien would respond to Foster's "bad media behavior" in his Friday press conference (it was the second question asked). As if Bob McNair's handpicked head coach is fixated on the hurt feelings of an entitled press corps (O'Brien predictably offered no thoughts on Foster's media comments).
Foster doesn't owe the media an original answer. Not that 95 percent of the reporters covering the Texans even truly desire an original answer. No, they just want Foster to use different cliches to answer different questions. They want him to play the game by their rules.
Arian Foster's New World
Arian Foster's never been one to play the game by those tired rules — and now he's not playing the media game at all. He hadn't given any mass media interviews in nearly a year when he went all Yeah Man. This boycott seems to be a response to the TMZ-fueled story about the lawsuits flying between him and a University of Houston student who says the NFL star is the father of her newborn.
Foster became rather predictably irate when Fox 26 reporter Isiah Carey showed up in his driveway and tried to interview Foster about the whole tabloid mess.
There are a lot of things that can define a man's character. This isn't close to one of them.
But Foster's missing the mark, if that's his beef. The reporters at training camp aren't the ones detailing the drama of his alleged baby mama. Sports writers have little interest in the story. Foster's injury status (he sat out another training camp practice Friday) is much more relevant to anyone who is fixated on the NFL.
Foster's semi media boycott seems woefully misdirected, but it's still his right to wage it. He complied with the NFL's media access mandates by stopping to talk. How he chooses to answer those questions is his call. The obligation's met.
And for all the teeth gnashing and keyboard diatribes, the truth is that the whole thing says much more about Foster's media critics than No. 23 himself. Arian Foster isn't a bad guy because he keeps repeating "I'm just trying to be the best teammate I can be." There are a lot of things that can define a man's character. This isn't close to one of them.
No matter — Arian Foster's become the pinata for Houston sports writers. He's been branded as an ungrateful punk and damn if they're not going to show him. It's a wonder no one blamed Foster for the Houston Astros raising their ticket prices.
Foster's the rare athlete who's likely to be unbowed by such a backlash. He won't back down and suddenly turn into just another smiling puppet athlete and seek a fake forgiveness. One only hopes he doesn't back away from the fans as well. People forget, but before J.J. Watt burst onto the scene, Arian Foster stood out as the Texan who engaged fans in real, unconventional ways.
He treated a young couple to a Rodeo day. He played pickup basketball with a bunch of regular Houstonians on a holiday weekend. He opened up eyes — and tear ducts — with the stories of his childhood at his new contract press conference.
That Arian's been largely absent from Twitter lately. You just hope he's still doing those types of things privately, still enjoying the amazing life he built from nothing.
What Foster says — or repeats — to the media means little. Foster's entertaining and different. Neither one happens to be an outrage.
All those crying otherwise need to get over themselves.