Our executive producer Jeff Proctor gave me an interesting book for Christmas: "The Great Book of Detroit Sports Lists" by Mike Stone and Art Regner. Since I like the authors and arguing about who's better than whom in the history of Detroit, MSU and Michigan sports, I knew I'd love it. Outside of the horrendous editing that missed numerous punctuation and spelling errors, I did love it.
Among the dozens of lists by both the authors and some guests, is one titled "The Ten Baddest, Meanest, or Just Plain Rudest People in Michigan Sports" by Rob Parker. First, about the author of the list, Rob Parker is a first-class jerk, as my grandpa would say. His newspaper columns are based in fantasy and wild conjecture (he once proclaimed after the 2001 Final Four that Tom Izzo wouldn't get to another one for 20 years... he's been to two more in eight years) and when he graces a TV audience it's usually to bellow and blather on about nonsense at a high volume. Ironically, he's putting together the list of undesirables. Irony, because he'd likely appear on every athlete's list of the same title for sportswriters.
Anywho, on his list in order from 10-1 are; Ty Cobb, Jack Morris, Mike Vernon, Christian Laettner, Gary Ward, Lloyd Carr, Kirk Gibson, Bobby Ross, James Toney, Bill Laimbeer.
I guess I agree with most of it, but how do I know these people weren't just mean to Parker. It is possible. However, just about all have been corroborated by others. Except for Lloyd Carr. I've never heard anyone say, as Parker does, "The former Michigan coach was just nasty." We've all caught Lloyd's coy sideline interviews or testy exchanges, but in his defense, many followed very dumb questions.
Since I've had the chance to cover Lloyd I can say from experience he's a great guy.
My first encounter was at Michigan media day in 2000. I had been on the job for all of two months and my boss Ben Holden was a great guy-- when you got your job done. I was terrified of him most days, because he was my mentor and I didn't know squat. So on this Friday morning you can understand why I was so nervous as we left Lansing for Ann Arbor at 8:50 a.m. when media day started at 9 a.m. I arrived and all the players were gone except a few signing autographs in the stadium. I was about to hang myself from the nearest flagpole when Dave Ablouf, the media contact, approached me to ask if I needed anything. Boy, did I. For one thing, I knew the competition had dispatched the guy who used to work for us-- Eric Hess-- to do the same story. So, I was motivated on many levels. I was still nervous when I saw Drew Henson stroll up the tunnel. My mouth dropped, but I fumbled out a few questions about the upcoming season. Then Dave sent David Terrell my way. And then walked up Lloyd Carr. I thought he'd be upset about having to do accommodate the new guy who couldn't tell time. He was anything but. Courteous, funny, honest and down-to-earth as I asked him a bunch of questions. I got there late and instead of coming back with nothing-- I came back with one-on-one interviews with the three people we wanted most! It was a great little preview package and I even used the standup in my montage that aired on Regis & Kelly last summer. I never saw what Eric put on Channel 6.
The next few times I ran into Lloyd were postgame interviews and in the tunnel at the Big House and he acted like we were old friends every time.
Then there was the press conference in the fall of 2002. It was Michigan-Michigan State week and Lloyd had just lost the infamous 26-20 "Spartan Bob" game the year before. Following a win a few days earlier he was normal Lloyd, but on this day he had his warrior face on. This may be what Rob Parker is thinking of when he thinks of Lloyd Carr, but I remember it as the best press conference I ever covered. Lloyd sat down and gave a brief statement on the rivalry and focus of his team and opened it up for questions.
Larry Lage - AP Sportswriter: Coach, do you think last year's game and one-second controversy will be motivation for you this year?
Lloyd Carr: Does anybody have any good questions?
I almost laughed out loud.
For the next hour, he answered questions tersely and without any semblance of a smile. It was almost restrained anger. I was sitting right in the middle and his default stare while questions were being asked was almost right in my eyes. I was waiting for our eyes to meet to see if he'd become the Lloyd I had grown to really enjoy covering and talking to. But they didn't. I never asked a question, I just sat back and tried to hide my smile, because it seemed like an act a little to me. Lloyd putting on a mean face to let his players and fans know how mad he still was over the year before. It worked-- on both counts: we had fantastic sound bites for the next couple days and Lloyd destroyed MSU 49-3 on Saturday sealing the fate of Bobby Williams.
I ran into the coach at some charity events as well with the same verdict: great guy. So, sorry Mr. Parker, but Lloyd Carr has no business on your list of rude folks. Like I said, he's just probably a good judge of character, which was why he was cool to me and not you!