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Columnist's behavior marred Caitlin Clark's news conference

The social media platform X (formerly Twitter) has an uncanny knack for producing a main character every day.

Someone who was previously unknown or at least not a full-on celebrity gets elevated because of something they did, and the moment goes viral — especially if it is captured on video. The next day, the process repeats itself with a new main character.

On Wednesday, Indianapolis Star columnist Gregg Doyel put himself into "main character" territory. At the introductory news conference for the new Indiana Fever megastar and WNBA No. 1 overall pick Caitlin Clark, perhaps the most popular athlete on the planet in this moment, Doyel introduced himself when it was his turn to ask a question.

He then made a heart sign with his hands, as Clark does to her family after games. You can hear and see the rest of the interaction and watch from Clark's perspective:

It was awkward until Doyel's last phrase about the heart gesture: "Start doing it to me, and we'll get along just fine." At that point, it became inappropriate, at the very least, as I talked about on Thursday's Daily Delivery podcast.

I don't know Doyel other than from periodically reading his work over the years. His latest column — an apology for his interaction with Clark — accomplished two things.

First, it gave Doyel at least some benefit of the doubt. He establishes himself as someone known for having awkward conversations with athletes. I think we can accept that what happened Wednesday was clumsy and ignorant as opposed to malicious.

But the ignorance piece is, well, hard to ignore. Writes Doyel of his self-professed ignorance:

"You can say that's absurd, that I should've known better, and I do. But here we are. I was just doing what I do, talking to another athlete, another person, and didn't see the line – didn't even know there was a line in the vicinity – until I crossed it. In my haste to be clever, to be familiar and welcoming (or so I thought), I offended Caitlin and her family."

He really should have known better. Would he really have made a heart gesture to a No. 1 NBA pick from the Pacers, even if that was the player's thing? I suppose it's possible, but that requires a lot of benefit of the doubt.

That his apology, too, felt clumsy and short of the mark to a lot of people is a good lesson.

It's unfortunate, to say that least, that part of the conversation from her introductory news conference has to be about the exchange with Doyel and not just about Clark — an athlete who is selling out arenas, making jerseys fly off the shelves and could soon sign an eight-figure endorsement deal with Nike.

Clark and an entire generation of star female athletes aren't going anywhere. If you don't know, learn quickly.

Social media is always ready for another main character.