Kevin Sherrington: Pursuit of truth can sure be frustrating

Friday, September 29th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

In the downtime between tremors out at Valley Ranch, sports writers often are engaged in high-level discussions of an extremely sophisticated nature.

Example: "If you could only have one super power, which would it be: People must tell you the truth, no matter what they really want to say?

"Or do you just want everyone to return your phone calls?"

Most reporters settle for the second option.

But, just the other day, a miracle happened. Two-year-old woke up crying in the night, stirring her parents from semi-comas.

"I think it's my turn," I said to the wife.

"No," she said. "You went last time. I'll go."

Suddenly, a choir went off in my head.

The Power! I have the Power!

Actually, it comes and goes.

Take Terrell Owens. Talked to him at length after the game Sunday. Asked him all kinds of questions about running out to the star at Texas Stadium, spreading his arms and acting as if he were going to fly through the hole in the roof.

Why did you do it, Terrell? What could you have been thinking? Did you know George Teague was bearing down on you like a freight train? Did you know some of your 49er teammates thought it was classless?

Do you care?

Through it all, wave after wave, Owens was polite and thoughtful. He looked reporters in the eyes. Never raised his voice. Even smiled a few times.

And not once under all that grilling did he let it slip that he was "praying to God" as he now contends, basically ever since the 49ers suspended him for one game.

The Power was out at Valley Ranch this week, too. Asked about the growing debate over Troy Aikman or Randall Cunningham, injured Cowboys receiver Joey Galloway said, "I have absolutely no comment on the quarterback situation."

Did this mean, as one reader suggested, that Galloway didn't want to rip Aikman or Cunningham publicly?

Or is Galloway simply remembering that, no matter which one's his favorite, he's only one injury away from a quarterback who just might refuse to throw him the ball?

Who knows? Reporters over in Sydney could have used some help this week. Did you hear U.S. shot putter C.J. Hunter at his news conference?

"There's nothing anyone can offer," he said, "to get me to bring any shame on the people I love."

He came up with that pearl after reports that he failed not one, not two, not three, but four drug tests this summer.

Reminds of the old Saturday Night Live sketch. Claudine Longet, the French actress, fatally shot her boyfriend, skier Spider Sabich, as he was dressing to go out on a date with someone other than Ms. Longet.

An accident, her character says during the skit. Gun just went off.

Nine times.

Oops, I shoot zee Spider again.

One of the big drawbacks about asking questions for a living is that many subjects apparently feel no compulsion to tell the truth, no matter how innocuous it might seem.

Former Oilers coach Bum Phillips once explained his view on this phenomenon rather eloquently. All week long, he gave reporters one story line about a player's health. Then, as the game wore on, it became apparent that he had been a little more "colorful" than usual.

"If it comes down to winning or telling you guys the truth," Phillips explained later, "I'm gonna lie to you guys."

Editor's note: Readers did not exactly leap to the defense of journalists.

One of the all-time greats is Jackie Sherrill. Back when he was at Texas A&M, he didn't lie so much as get out his own version of the facts, which usually had little to do with a reporter's question.

Reporter: "So what do you think about your chances against Texas?"

Sherrill: "If you're asking me if we can win a national championship ... " and off he'd go, into the blue and beyond.

Not sure even the Power would have worked on Jackie Sherrill.

Or on Johnny Oates, for that matter.

Went out to Arlington last week and talked to him about the Rangers' play this season, which, admittedly, is an impolite topic to bring up.

"Johnny, this is a broad question, but what did you learn about your team?"

"Which team are you talking about?" he asked, a startled look on his face. "The one I started out with or the one I ended up with?"

"The one you ended up with."

"That's not my team."

"OK. Then the one you started out with."

"I never saw them play."

This is how a lot of conversations go with Johnny Oates, unfortunately.

Good thing he doesn't have the Power.