For All Our Sakes, Can We Please Shut Up and Listen?

by | July 22, 2010 at 4:16 PM | General, MLB, NBA, Sports

We are a fast-twitch society. Now that technology gives us instant news, we want instant analysis, preferably in under 140 characters. I’m a man of the Tweeple. I get that.

But I never thought the desire for fast news would commandeer the requisite for common sense. And yet, that’s exactly where we find ourselves.

It’s as if we’re trapped in a never-ending episode of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. We stick microphones in people’s faces, we wait for one of them to utter one of the “secret words” and then we all go absolutely bananas with fake outrage.

First we “caught” Dwyane Wade.

When Wade was asked about the Heat’s upcoming season, he replied:

“We might face times when we would be losing a game or two or perhaps even three consecutively. It is uncertain and it might feel as if the world has come to an end. You might feel as if the World Trade has just been crashed down one more time. It is just a game of basketball, losing a few games is not the end. We need to retrieve and start winning again.” (emphasis added)

No need to read the entire quote. Lord knows most of the media didn’t. In the need to “catch” D-Wade, all anyone heard were the words I emphasized above. Oh no! Wade talked about the World Trade Center attack and basketball in back-to-back sentences? He must be insensitive. We must make him apologize.

No one bothered to read the entire comment. No one cared to worry about what Wade was actually trying to say.

Because it doesn’t matter that Wade was criticizing the media for treating basketball games too seriously. It doesn’t matter that Wade had a legitimate point about our culture’s reflexive impulse to overemphasize the now and overlook the big picture.

All that matters is that Wade dared to use one of our taboo buzzwords in an interview.

Forget common sense. Don’t worry about parsing Wade’s words for their actual meaning. Resist the urge to use your mind.

Bad word. Bad man. Must apologize.

The same fate befell Tim McCarver. I hate to defend McCarver on anything. His announcing is audio ipecac for my soul. Yet, I find myself alone on this milk carton.

So be it.

While calling a game between the Rays and Yankees last Saturday at the new Yankee Stadium, McCarver said he felt Joe Torre had been inappropriately airbrushed out of Yankees history.

“You remember some of those despotic leaders in World War II, primarily in Russia and Germany, where they used to take those pictures that they had … taken of former generals who were no longer alive, they had shot ‘em. They would airbrush the pictures, and airbrushed the generals out of the pictures. In a sense, that’s what the Yankees have done with Joe Torre. They have airbrushed his legacy. I mean, there’s no sign of Joe Torre at the Stadium. And that’s ridiculous. I don’t understand it.” 

This week McCarver was pressured to apologize.

I ask you in all earnestness: Apologize for what?

The analogy, while admittedly hyperbolic, fits quite neatly. McCarver wasn’t saying that the Yankees were Nazis. He wasn’t comparing the Steinbrenners to Stalin. He was commenting on the organization’s lack of recognition of one of the great managers in Yankee history. It reminded him of the way autocratic, fascist regimes used to erase fallen-out-of-favor generals from their written histories.

Who is outraged by that? Who is offended?

No one can honestly look at that quote and claim McCarver was trying to equate any perceived evil of the Yankees with the evil of Nazi Germany. But who cares about intellectual honesty? Why worry about whether the comment, in its entirety, is offensive or not? McCarver mentioned Nazi Germany and baseball in the same sentence.

Gotcha Timmy.

The problem isn’t isolated to the sports world. Shirley Sherrod and her scandalous offense of trying to talk openly, honestly and maturely about race is proof that this absurdity has become an epidemic.

Somewhere along the line of this 24-hour news cycle, we stopped caring about what people were actually trying to say and began picking apart what they say for the juiciest sound bites.

It’s as if the entire country developed a case of ADHD.

And if that weren’t bad enough, we have pretended to be outraged and offended by everything for so long that we’re now actually outraged and offended by everything.

(Sidenote: I apologize if I offended anyone when I said the entire country had ADHD. I realize that millions of children and adults suffer from this disorder every day and I empathize with their plight. If I in anyway belittled the people who are impaired by this disease, that was not my intention and I again sincerely apologize.) 

This doesn’t have to be our future. America, we are thicker-skinned and smarter than our current actions indicate. We know real news from fake. We know honest dialogue from malevolent intentions. We know passionate debate from offensive hate speech.

Let’s all slow this down a bit. Instant information doesn’t have to mean idiotic analysis.

Because if we actually start listening to what other Americans have to say, we might start to understand why our Founders believed so deeply in our freedom to say it.

 

Email me at russakoffrules@comcast.net; follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/leerussakoff.


The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.