There is a faux media storm in New York this week regarding the way the New York Giants radio color commentator, Carl Banks, described the team’s 38-0 Week 3 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Banks, a former linebacker of the New York Giants, and a two-time Super Bowl winner, is one of the best football analysts in the game. He criticized the Giants’ poor performance during, and after the game. He repeated his opinions the following day during his semi-weekly spot on WFAN radio. There were plenty of negative words Banks used to describe the G-Men’s performance throughout the first three weeks, but there is one word he specifically did not use. And that is the dreaded “Q” word, “quit.” And that is because that is the worst thing you can call a professional athlete.
The problem is that throughout the week, the rest of the media, especially the beat reporters and one very influential radio personality, have asked the Giants’ players and coaches to react to Banks’ comment that the team quit. And Banks has taken umbrage to that. Not because he wants to be on the players’ nice side, but because he knows that word means to a player.
It is not just a question of semantics. A player or a team can be called out for a variety of reasons when they lose badly. You can say that sed player or team lacks talent (compared to the other team). In many cases in many sports, there is often true. You can say there was a lack of hustle, or energy. Depending upon the circumstances, this could also be true. You can say there was a lack of determination or sense of urgency. And in leagues with parity and equal talent levels, this could be the difference between winning and losing. An athlete can accept those critiques for the most part because most of those elements are out of their control. If they didn’t give their best effort, or if their best was not good enough, so be it. But to raising the question that they gave no effort at all is crossing the line. That is an insult to their livelihood and integrity. They don’t care if you think they stink. But they do care if you believe that they don’t care.
The “q” word is spewed out often in the sports world. It is understandable when one sees a player or team that has been under-performing late in the regular season. Often time it precedes why a coach or manager has been fired, e.g.: “The players quit on the coach/manager. It was time for a change.” It is easy to accuse a team that is not motivated of quitting. But the “q” word has dangerous connotations in the professional sports world. An athlete that is unmotivated can receive a contract from a team if the team believes they can unlock that player’s full potential. An athlete that is under-performing can receive a contract from another team if that team believe that their style of play is more suited to that player’s skill set. A player that is accused of quitting is virtually blacklisted. They are worse than a scab. A quitter is the antithesis of a team player. It is the antonym of professionalism. No franchise wants to associate with someone labeled as a quitter. And no franchise wants to be called a bunch of quitters.
The media has the right to say what it wants. When a team is going in the wrong direction, you can say that their awful play emits the perception of quitting. While that straddles the line, it is acceptable. But expect some flak and backlash from players, coaches, and media watchdogs if you flat-out accuse a player or team of quitting.