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Brian Urlacher goes from media snob to media slob

Updated: August 27, 2013 10:32AM



Many years ago, the NFL team I covered had a cornerback who refused to talk with reporters. No one knew where it all had gone wrong in his dealings with the media, but it was clear he rather would have gargled with Drano than associate with us.

No big deal. There were lots of other guys in the locker room who were willing to use their vocal cords. When the cornerback would get burned on a touchdown, we were left to sift through the ashes because he refused to give his side of things. Again, fine. His choice.

A few years later, the then-retired cornerback called the newspaper. Imagine being the reporter who answered. It must have been like hearing Alexander Graham Bell’s voice during the first telephone call. The cornerback wanted to see if the newspaper was interested in writing a story about his new business venture.

How’s that for nerve?

On Sunday, I heard someone mention Brian Urlacher was going to be a TV analyst. I thought I must have heard wrong. No way the former Bears linebacker would join the Dark Side. He wasn’t as bad with the media as the aforementioned cornerback had been, but I never got the feeling he would have reached for a bucket if a reporter’s hair were on fire. So no way he would put in with us media slobs. I went back to minding my own business.

On Monday, I Googled ‘‘Urlacher’’ and ‘‘TV.’’ And there it was. Urlacher will be an NFL analyst for the new Fox Sports 1 network. I guess I missed the news while covering the Cubs’ big turnaround.

How’s that for a 180 on Urlacher’s part?

Maybe he will be great on TV. When he was in a good mood with the local media, which wasn’t often, he could be entertaining and illuminating. But most of the time, he grunted one-word answers. It sounded like a guy trying to pull an airplane with his teeth in the World’s Strongest Man competition.

Three things: 1) The networks don’t care how a former athlete treated the media. 2) Many star athletes lack the self-awareness to understand that when they treat the media like crap, they are treating the fans like crap. 3) Fans don’t seem to mind being treated like crap by star athletes.

So there’s enough blissful fog to cover everyone involved.

But just for the record, here’s what Urlacher said about reporters and fans while defending Lovie Smith in December: ‘‘Two of the people I don’t care about: fans or media. They can say what they want to about our head coach, about our players. . . . They don’t know what they’re talking about, obviously.

‘‘I know there are a lot of experts in the media, a bunch of smart guys out there who know exactly what they’re talking about all the time. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Lovie is the head coach of this football team and hopefully will be for a long time.’’

The Bears sent Lovie packing after the season and made a one-year contract offer to Urlacher they hoped he wouldn’t accept. He didn’t, and now he is getting ready to join his pal Jay Glazer on Fox. I hope the network is coaching Urlacher to slow down when he talks. When he was in an expansive mood, he talked about as quickly as he moved from sideline to sideline on the field.

He won’t be the first person to go from media critic to media member. The most egregious example is NFL Network analyst Sterling Sharpe, who refused to talk with Green Bay media late in his career with the Packers, then went to work for ESPN and NBC. Neither network seemed particularly bothered by the possibility his previous vow of silence suggested a certain disdain for the industry.

No one at ESPN had a pang of guilt over hiring Bob Knight, who as a coach and media hater had been the envy of dictators the world over. Quarterback Brian Griese could be difficult with the media as a player. So could golfer Nick Faldo. But they went on to careers as broadcasters because, well, I’m not sure why they did. Because they wanted to make amends? No. Because the money was good? Yeah, that sounds right.

I have a feeling that, as time goes on, very few people will recall how Urlacher treated the media in Chicago.

But some of us will remember as he yuks it up on Fox.



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