I have a very close friend who’s about the same age I am and is also originally from the East Coast. We constantly kid each other about being Irish (him) and being Jewish (me). We’ve shared a ton of laughs, and neither of us ever offends the other. Believe me, if that did happen, the offended party would, in no uncertain terms, let the other know how he felt - and I feel certain an apology would immediately follow. I can’t say for certain because that scenario has yet to occur. Apparently, we know the limits.
Throughout the years, having spent 30 of them in college basketball, I’ve developed countless relationships with minorities (obviously, many of them black, but others from foreign countries around the globe). Because I’ve worked in nearly every geographic section of the country (East, New England, Midwest, South, Pacific Northwest, California), I have friends with people from each of those areas. Many of us exchange quips about idiosyncracies and, yes even, Heaven forbid, stereotypes.
We thoroughly enjoy each other’s company and manage to laugh about our differences, whether they be what we like to eat, our different dialects and accents, or most anything native to our heritage or place in which we live. Often, we are proud of what we tease each other about. Throw that repartee out and the realtionships become bland, way too serious (especially with all the really important issues going on - individually or globally) and, worst of all, not nearly as much fun! The PC police would claim such behavior will eventually go overboard, poison the youth who might be subjected to it and cause severe mental anguish to those who become unwilling and unknowing targets of such boorish behavior.
There’s a difference between joking and intentionally attempting to inflict serious emotional harm in a mean spirited manner to someone. It’s to the point now that society’s created a whole new vocation. It’s for those lawyers who aren’t physically fit enough to chase ambulances. They just wait for some terribly distressed person to call them (emails, texts and tweets are accepted too), so they can try to find some absurd loophole where they can file a case, then go about searching for a dozen other woe-is-me losers to pack into a jury box.
Bob Griese’s one game suspension for answering Chris Spielman’s question, “Where’s Juan Pablo Montoya?” when the NASCAR leader board was superimposed on the TV screen and Montoya’s name wasn’t on it, with the line, “He’s out having a taco” is the latest example of people taking themselves way too seriously. Before everyone starts boycotting and demanding suspensions, fines, firings and everything short of draw-and-quartering, why not ask what the reaction was of the supposedly offended person? Apparently, in this case, Montoya was more upset over where he finished than where Griese thought he was.
The uproar over what Griese said caused as much moral outrage as the hurtful, asinine comment Don Imus made toward the Rutgers’ women basketball team. If anyone can’t see the difference between the two, then they are all in need of sensitivity training. There’s one type for those who don’t see Imus’ comments as ignorant, distasteful and lacking human decency (similar to, as I’ve blogged previously, when Jesse Jackson called the Jews, “Hymies” and referred to New York City as “Hymie-town”) and another, just as necessary type of sensitivity training for those who don’t understand Griese’s remark as off-the-cuff banter (because it wasn’t really very funny, I understand the comedians were the group most offended), intending absolutely no harm.
The reason people such as Chris Rock & Eddie Murphy, Larry the Cable Guy & Jeff Foxworthy, and Billy Crystal and, going way back, Jackie Mason have (and had, in Mason’s case) so much success, is that people actually want to celebrate each other’s differences, not threaten lawsuits as soon as they hear something they can construe as a slur. You can say anything you please - as long as it’s a comedy act - and, if you’ve ever heard any of these comedians, their material is infinitely more offensive than a throwaway line used during a telecast - usually of a game that’s become so out of reach and boring, it doesn’t deserve commentary.
These sad advocates, many of whom do not even belong to the offended group (I wish there was a poll taken among Latinos as to what they thought when they heard what Griese said), simply want their 15 minutes of fame, their “Hey, look at me, Crusader for Human Dignity and Fairness,” when the majority of us non-ultrathin skinned humans can let a lighthearted line roll off of our backs - or even have a chuckle with it. In my book, Life’s A Joke, I have a nearly identical story about the late Craig Fertig (no relation) and me (pages 121-122), that if I had said it in a public forum, someone would be looking to haul me into court.
Yet, I have heard so many people - especially those who knew Craig, but even those who didn’t - who tell me how funny they thought it was - even though it was clearly syereotyping two groups. I mean, is there anyone out there who thought Montoya wasn’t on the leader board because he was actually eating a taco? Or that Griese saw Spielman’s question as the perfect opportunity to defame an entire ethnic group?
To those of you, I can only quote Benjamin Harrison, who said:
“Irritations of the cuticle must not be confused with heart failure.”
Note: A story with the same take on it was written by Mike Stone on October 27. Just for those offended by my post. You can read what “Stoney” wrote and get lathered up all over again. �