Wthe immediacy of modern technology, it is way too easy to write something or disseminate information that will be regretted about 3½ seconds later. (Please see: many of the other articles I have written.) Imagine if the requisite hackneyed apology existed throughout history. Nero: “Perhaps in retrospect, I probably should have done something else but play a lousy musical instrument while Rome burned to the ground.” Ivan The Terrible: “I got a bad rap. It’s not like I chose that nickname.” Attila the Hun: “I’m sorry for my actions. This is not how a barbarian is supposed to act.” Fortunately for these figures, immediacy of communication was a little spotty. Perhaps if there were YouTube clips of the Massacre of Novgorod or CNN footage of the Battle of Châlons, then things would have been different. (Feel free to Google the references.) Anyway, the recordings would be grainy. Flash forward to the present generation, where actions are posted and relived on the Internet before the left brain has had a chance to figure out what the right brain just did.
Sports figures give modern society innumerable chances to teach lessons to others by repeatedly completing the sentence, “See what happens when you…” To break it down into perplexes and oh no’s, the general playbook of athlete stupidity usually reads the same way: 1) Commit Stupidity 2) Wait for public backlash 3) Make heart-felt/gun-in-the-back apology at the request of media/PR person 4) Enumerate the number of people and entities you’ve let down and how you’d like to learn/move on from said foolishness and no longer answer any questions on the topic so as to not revisit the past (where have you gone, George Santayana?).
Over the past few weeks, sports has been subjected to the increasingly familiar phenomenon of an athlete committing athletic-induced imprudence (perhaps inspired by perspiring?) that invariably leads to a subsequent “I was misquoted” or “I’m sorry for the problems I caused,” which is simply code for “I’m sorry I got caught.” One of the latest malcontents is Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall. Shortly after the news regarding Osama Bin Laden’s death a few weeks ago, the maelstrom of responses included a running back’s tweet — I still can’t believe that’s a legitimate word — containing nearly as many syllables as his name but caused a furor no less. “What kind of person celebrates death?” began his missive. If that was him taking a stab at existentialism, then the public wasn’t buying it. Champion, neither. His sponsor dropped him after apparently not championing his lack of common sense, which also included him questioning the validity of how a plane could take down a skyscraper. After the hullabaloo was ignited, Rashard tried to turn down the tweet by the now-famous clarification ritual that every myopic athlete undergoes. He quoted a Bible verse or two (don’t bring HIM into this), and then merely stated that he was trying to “generate conversation.” Watch out Barbara Walters, it looks like Mendenhall is coming for your job.
Keeping with the theme of tweet stroke and athlete shortsightedness, Reggie Bush, out of the realm of indignity for the last five minutes or so, joined the rash mob after his series of less-than-140 character observations. Shortly after the New Orleans Saints drafted running back Mark Ingram, Bush penned an un-Shakespeare-like memo, “It’s been fun New Orleans.” You may remember that both running backs have Heisman trophies on their mantle, the difference being that Bush’s features the not-so-catchy nickname “Vacated” etched on it. Regardless, it’s hardly the stuff you expect to be written by leaders unless Caligula had a “C” sewn onto his toga. He then followed that doozie up with his commentary on the NFL lockout, an extended bye week, or Club Reg’ for short: “Right about now we would be slaving in 100 degree heat, practicing twice a day, while putting our bodies at risk for nothing.” By the way, as a frame of reference, the “nothing” he’s referring to is about $7 million of salary, give or take.
Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum didn’t need to mince any words to impugn his character when he tried to cleave J.J. Barea with his elbow. He cooked up an explanation after the game that was far from apologetic, saying that he wasn’t going to let the diminutive guard score on their already-beleaguered defense. Soon after, he was roasted in the media and by the fans who felt it was a crock of … Well, enough of the Emeril imagery. However, after a few days of deep, transcendental reflection (read: phone call from his agent), Bynum realized that the foul was indeed harsh and expressed regret over the incident. Perhaps if there were no scrutiny on the foul, Andrew still would have voiced his contrition. And, maybe, just maybe, that acre of land I bought from that Erik Estrada infomercial will be my ticket to an early retirement.
If athletes aren’t the only ones committing random acts of malevolence, leave it to the professional sports media to further devalue the craft (it currently is worth slightly more than Enron stock at the moment). Following the recent death of Alabama offensive lineman Aaron Douglas, the college football world was stunned. While folks were trying to make sense of the sudden fatality of a 21-year old athlete, blogger Albert Lin was already moving onto the apparently more important task of figuring out who would take his position on the line next season, the post reading in part: “Possible starter found dead in Jacksonville, opening door for five-star signee Cyrus Kouandijo.” He later went on to say that head coach Nick Saban was “prescient” to give other linemen snaps during the spring, as if he had some sort of ghoulish Nostradamus prediction powers. Maybe the writer took that whole objectivity lesson in Journalism 101 a bit too far. That, or maybe he had to go run to the john when they moved on to the section about clueless and common decency. Either way, don’t expect to be bogged down by Mr. Lin’s blog postings anytime soon.
A picture, a voicemail message, a post, a tweet, or some other incriminating act of inanity is just a simple mouse click away. I’d tell professional athletes to think before they act, to get well-acquainted with the ‘backspace’ key. But, they’d probably misinterpret the advice, and end up getting angry. Then, I’d have to say “I’m sorry.”Google+