When 49ers Understand the Media
This is a shout out to 49ers who get it.
Interactions between athletes and sports writers can be quite unpleasant.
Sometimes, the interaction is perfunctory. A writer asks the usual questions, an athlete gives the usual answers and never learns the writer’s name or thinks twice about him. And both parties feel subhuman for those few minutes.
Other times, an athlete learns a writer’s name because he criticized the player, or said he’s a bust, or said the team should trade him or give him a pay cut or sign someone else. In that case, the player just might hate the writer’s guts, and call him out in the locker room, or on Twitter. And both parties feel upset and wronged.
But athletes and journalists aren’t natural enemies. Journalists are neutral -- not fans or haters. And some athletes get that, and know how to disarm sports writers and have fun with us.
Most 49ers get it.
Here are three 49ers who get it the most.
1. Robbie Gould
It started with a ping pong table.
For years, the 49ers had one in the middle of the locker room even though they were perennial losers on the football field. And the players loved that ping pong table. They played on it all the time.
I thought it was a bad look. Thought they hadn’t earned the table. Felt only winners deserved ping pong in the locker room. I tweeted about this. I wrote columns about this. I even went on KTVU and called quarterback C.J. Beathard “Forest Freaking Gump” because he practiced table tennis so often.
The players read my comments. The team removed the table.
Cut to 2019.
The 49ers were 8-0 -- the hottest team in the NFL. And after a year-long hiatus, the ping pong table returned. The players had earned it.
As I stood and looked at it, Gould walked from the showers to his locker. And as he walked by me, he said, “Hey Grant.” I stared at him in shock. He had never used my name or spoken to me. But I guess he read me.
“Want to play ping pong?” he asked with a giant grin. In a devilish way, he was saying, “How do you like us now?”
I turned him down. I didn’t want to get destroyed at ping pong in front of the whole team.
I’m a punk.
Last week, I did another punk move. I noticed Gould had more Twitter followers than every 49ers player except Richard Sherman and Jimmy Garoppolo. Who knew the former Chicago Bears kicker had such a large fanbase? He must be huge in the Midwest.
I started to tease him on Twitter, but I didn’t write to him directly. Somehow, he found the tweets anyway and responded. He wrote; “Thanks for the shoutout, Grant. Include @RobbieGould09 and I might get a couple more (followers) from your post.”
God, I love Robbie Gould.
2. Mike McGlinchey
I’ve been on McGlinchey’s case since the 49ers drafted him in 2018.
I didn’t like the pick. I thought they should have taken someone else -- I don’t even remember who. So when training camp started during McGlinchey’s rookie season, I videotaped every bad rep he took during one-on-one pass-rushing drills and posted them on YouTube. Showed every time journeyman pass-rusher Cassius Marsh beat McGlinchey, the 49ers’ first-round pick.
Turns out, McGlinchey is a better player than I expected. He’s a fabulous run-blocker, and one of the main reasons the 49ers’ running game is so dominant.
But I still didn’t give him a break. I don’t know why.
The other day, McGlinchey tweeted his top-five favorite bands: The Eagles, Queen, Rush, The Beatles, Van Halen.
A perfectly innocuous tweet. I could have let it go.
But the inclusion of the Beatles bugged me. McGlinchey was born in 1995 -- there’s no WAY he listens to them willingly. At least that’s what I assume. So I fired off a bunch of snarky tweets about the Beatles and McGlinchey’s taste in music. Pulitzer-prize-worthy stuff from yours truly.
An hour later, McGlinchey responded: “The Beatles changed the game for everyone that followed them. I enjoy the history and progress. Doesn’t necessarily have to be my favorite, but I respect the trailblazers.”
What a great comeback. No one should have to defend his or her taste in music. I had been a jerk, and McGlinchey had been the mature adult.
So I apologized. And he wrote, “All for the debate. It’s what makes it fun.”
God, I love Mike McGlinchey.
3. George Kittle
Kittle doesn’t get criticism -- he’s one of the best players in the league.
Kittle gets bombarded by sports writers and people who want his time. He’s a superstar. Usually, superstars avoid the media as much as possible, because they don’t need us and we can’t help them.
Not Kittle. He has fun with the media.
One time when I was standing in the street near Levi’s Stadium, he almost ran me over with his car, then stopped, poked his head out his window and gently reminded me to stand on the sidewalk. I haven’t almost gotten run over by a car since, so thank you, George.
And then this weekend, after I ridiculed McGlinchey for liking the most popular band of all time, Kittle chimed in: “Mike go on the podcast to discuss,” he tweeted. He meant my podcast.
God, I love George Kittle.
Mike, you’re welcome on the podcast anytime. We can talk about whatever you like. But, please don’t make me listen to the Beatles. I can’t stand the freaking Beatles.
And George, you’re welcome to come on, too. Just don’t kill me with your car.