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Wednesday, August 28, 2002
Updated: August 29, 1:09 PM ET
Men say the darndest things

By Chris McKendry
Page 2 columnist

The following assignment came down from my editor at Page 2: During the week of Aug. 26-30, Page 2 plans to publish its definitive package on sports movies. ... If you have any suggestions or questions, please let us know.

I had a couple questions.

Bill Murray
Bill Murray's "Caddyshack" might be the most quoted sports movie ever ...
Like, didn't we do this sports movie thing last month?!?

And that's when -- silly me ... I work with men! -- I remembered: Men will watch, debate and quote the same movies over and over again for eternity.

Women will never understand it. It's one of the fundamental differences between the sexes. Even I will never understand it ... and I exposed this manly secret last year when I wrote about The Things I Know Because I Work With Men.

Remember this?

Men have selective memories. Believing that men cannot remember birthdays and anniversaries just helps to perpetuate a convenient stereotype. Memorization is not a skill they're lacking. But playing dumb might be a choice they make. I know men who were born in the 1970s who can remember the most meaningless statistics from the 1960s. And not just numbers, but words and lyrics and entire movie scenes. For example, Mark Malone, Trey Wingo and Mark Schlereth think quoting "Blazing Saddles" and laughing for 10 minutes counts as a conversation.

Still, while my experience enabled me to identify this habit, it was beyond me to explain it.

Until now.

Using -- or maybe abusing -- my insider status, I returned to my source: my lunch table, featuring on this occasion Trey Wingo, Mark Malone, Mark Schlereth, Dave Revsine and Mike Greenberg.

I asked one question: Why do men use movie quotes to communicate?

Here's what I discovered:

1. It's a Bonding Exercise
Men use quotes to get a laugh from the guys, or to remind each other of a shared experience or running gag.

The Hanson Brothers
... but "Slap Shot" is definitely in the running for that honor.
"Putting on the foil, coach," the famous line from "Slap Shot," was uttered before each game by someone on the Broncos offensive line, according to Mark Schlereth. As the guys sat around taping their hands and preparing for battle, the quote served as the perfect tension breaker ... while making the guys feel closer. Simply put, we're talking about camaraderie.

Mark Malone's penchant for old westerns endeared him to his teammates when he first joined the Steelers. Malone and a group of guys who liked Westerns loved "McLintock," in which John Wayne and red-haired Maureen O'Hara played a battling married couple. Malone says they had watched the film so often that any fellow "McLintock" afficianado could take either character and recite the lines while watching.

(In the SportsCenter newsroom, movie quoting is a competitive sport. Rece Davis, Scott Van Pelt and John Anderson -- huge fans of "O, Brother Where Art Thou?" -- fought to see who could get the George Clooney quote, "There are all manner of lesser imps and demons, but the great Satan himself is red and scaly with a bifurcated tail and carries a hayfork," on the air during SportsCenter first. Anderson won.)

2. Men Can't Express Themselves, and Need the Help
Dave Revsine offers this explanation for his excessive quoting. The entire table nods in agreement, although nobody can explain what they mean by it! (Now, that's humor.) Revsine gives it a try, but at the first sign of trouble says, "You know, it's like in the movie 'City Slickers,' when Billy Crystal's character says he and his dad had nothing to talk about until they talked about baseball." In other words, he is relying on a movie scene to explain himself. Point taken.

Scherelth jumps in with a story about his 16-year-old son, who's a typical teenager, meaning he's not the most talkative person in the world. But dropping a movie line they both find funny is family code for, "Everything's all right." For example, at the dinner table, if anyone spills anything, Scherelth says it's a race to see who can say, "Don't spill the salt, Harry ... do you know how unlucky it is to spill the salt." (From "Dumb and Dumber," of course.)

In other words, a shared laugh between father and son is similar to a real "heart-to-heart" between mother and daughter.

3. Nothing to Talk About
Following up on the father-and-son relationship conceit, Trey Wingo says movies can also bridge the gap between strangers. He's met guys on trips, or at dinners, and thought, "I have nothing in common with this man." However, by dropping a quote from a sports movie, he usually finds something to talk about. And that "something" often leads to another topic.

Women usually start by asking about another woman's children, clothes or shoes. And not necessarily in that order.

Office Space
"Office Space" was one of the most quotable movies of the 1990s. "Yeah, riiiiiight."
Scherelth says he could call a guy from his clique on the 1999 Broncos and say, "That no-talent ass clown" ("Office Space," or so I am told) and get an instant laugh. This shared experience dates back to the team's trip to Australia and the many times they watched that movie on pay-per-view. Recalling the movie serves as an ice breaker now for the guys who don't see each other every day and might not have anything in common but a game they no longer play. Maybe they're really calling to say, "I miss you and the good times we all had"? But what guy would ever say that? And that brings me to my next reason ...

4. Fear of Intimacy
Men use quotes to express thoughts and feelings they're afraid to express more directly. Mike Greenberg swears the best guy relationships are the ones in which nothing is ever said. Guys can hang out and watch movies without talking ... and leave without saying goodbye. If days of pizza eating and sloth are some of the best in a man's life ... then maybe recalling a movie is code for explaining ones' friendships?

See, here's why I have trouble with this: if a group of women hang out and don't talk, then everyone thinks someone's mad.

5. Quotes Become Part of the Subconscious
A language crutch, if you will. Each guy in my focus group admits using quotes or scenes is easier than original thought. It's certainly something they resort to when nervous. Greenberg quoted "Arthur" when he proposed to his wife! Greeny said, "Will you marry me ... and you can take the weekend if you want." He said it was nervousness and when he asked, "Will you marry me," his brain and mouth kept going on their own with a quote he knew so well. His wife said, "Yes." Of course, tad neurotic Greeny feared she meant, "Yes, I'll take the weekend."

This story and the "Arthur" quote triggered a Pavlovian response at the table. The guys started playing the time-honored classic -- Name that Quote. Many hours have been wasted ... I mean passed ... playing this sport. And here I was, watching yet another round.

"My name is Eniego Montoya. You've kill my father. Prepare to die." ("The Princess Bride")

"It's only a flesh wound." ("Monty Python and The Holy Grail")

"You'll get nothing and like it!" ("Caddyshack")

"Did you get a bowl of soup with that hat?" ("Caddyshack")

"Lighten up, Frances." ("Stripes")

"Surely, you can't be serious." "I am serious ... and don't call me Shirley." ("Airplane")

On and on they went.

And as I sat there, nearly comatose at a big round table, cornered by men and their quotes, I could only -- God help me -- imagine Patrick Swayze reaching his hand across the table to me and saying, "Nobody puts Baby in the corner."

SportsCenter anchor Chris McKendry is a regular columnist for Page 2.