One of the best parts of "Bull Durham" is when Crash Davis dispenses interview advice to Nuke LaLoosh. Emphasizing the safety of clichés and generic statements, Davis, a veteran minor-leaguer tutoring the red-hot prospect, is giving Tim Robbins' character a basic template to get over on the press, and the public.
"You can't have fungus on your shower shoes in the (majors)," explains Davis. "Win 20 (there), and then you can do it, and the press will say you're colorful." Until then, he adds, you're just a jackass with dirty shower shoes.
The same could be said for winning over fans in MMA, especially when you are operating at a deficit given past statements and interactions.
It's a thin line between being controversial and widely disliked, but one of my favorite observations is how a fighter, well-aware of public sentiment against him, responds, especially after a win.
Brock Lesnar rebuilt his public image somewhat after his meltdown after the Frank Mir rematch and fell back on safe clichés and less bombastic stuff. After bouts against Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez, Lesnar was far less controversial and toed the interview line.
He even got a lot of sympathy for his classy exit interview upon losing to Alistair Overeem, a far cry from the dislike he elicited with the WTF-style reaction he drew after UFC 100.
Yet after decisioning Mike Pierce last night (Sat., Feb. 4, 2012) at UFC 143: "Diaz vs. Condit" in Las Vegas, Nevada, in a tossup bout that could have gone either way, Josh Koscheck pretty much gave any fan left on the fence regarding him a one-way ticket to haterville by flipping everyone the bird in his postfight interview. Then wondering openly to Joe Rogan why they dislike him.
Before the aforementioned bird was flipped, I was watching, hoping Koscheck would spout a few generic clichés, play it safe, utter something along the lines of "It was a tough fight. I hope you fans enjoyed. Mike's a great opponent." Just to let that simmer in the public consciousness a bit.
Instead, he reacted emotionally and advanced a self-fulfilling prophecy. It doesn't really matter in terms of earning power or skills, as Koscheck is an elite welterweight who's been around and is going to stay around for a while. But it was disappointing to see him take the easy way out. You catch more flies with honey -- fighters shouldn't complain why they aren't getting any when you're doling out the middle finger instead.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst and Jason@jasonprobst.com