By Jared Max
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If George Carlin were still alive to witness the stories that have dominated sports media — doubled in coverage on local and national news and talk shows the last two weeks — he’d probably be one or two ticks away from suffering a massive coronary. Veins popping from his funny, expressive forehead, what would George say about the NFL and its critics, the gruesomely physical league’s criminals and many of their equally impure, sanctimonious fans? What would George say about where society has sped — seemingly-suddenly thrust back 321 years to a witch’s hotbed in Salem — without his watchful eye (too harsh for some) and truthful voice (too painful for many to swallow) to help Americans navigate through an overwhelming, daily serving of bull——?READ MORE: 2 Islanders Games Postponed Amid COVID-19 Outbreak
While George Carlin once condensed the Ten Commandments to a fifth of the list — if here today, I think he might add a biblical passage to his routine. Commandment Three: He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her. In this case, “her” is not solely a woman. It is Ray Rice. It is Ray Rice’s wife, Janay Palmer. It is Adrian Peterson. It is every figure who becomes a public talking point because his or her actions are salacious enough to seduce an alarming number of people to suspend thoughts of their own imperfect realities and character flaws (some inherited, some learned) — and cast judgement on their previously precious heroes and/or relatives thereof.
With George Carlin long gone, I turn to another powerful New York voice to help to help raise awareness of an increasingly dangerous American cycle in need of an immediate reversal. I call on the Piano Man, Billy Joel, to dedicate one of his upcoming monthly concerts at Madison Square Garden to celebrate next year’s 35th anniversary of his popular album “Glass Houses.” The iconic LP cover features Billy, arm cocked like a baseball pitcher, looking at his reflection in a glass house, set to throw a rock at its window. While “Glass Houses” produced several hits, including Billy Joel’s first No. 1 Billboard single, “It’s Still Rock n Roll to Me,” its most important, lasting contribution may be the album imagery. It should be on the cover of the next Rolling Stone magazine — actually, make it every issue — until our world gets its head screwed on straight. When a man on the street was asked by a local TV news reporter, “What do you think the NFL should do about its bad boy players,” the subject should have quoted from the book of Joel, answering the pointless question, “Don’t ask me why.” Instead, he offered this gem: “They need anger management.” Thank you, Dr. Backup Armchair Quarterback.
Since when is the NFL an institution of higher learning, or school for basic moral development? The NFL is not somebody’s father. It is a professional football league. Within our most popular sport — which often commands a warlike mentality to succeed — resides a significant percentage of folks who are more familiar with violence than say, those who are world champion chess players. In one breath, we relish the nastiness of the game, believing this is a key ingredient to the sport’s popularity. In another breath, we feign concern for players who suffer head trauma. We cannot have it both ways. There is a reason that despite its mega-billion dollar value, the NFL finds its lifespan at a sudden, puzzling crossroads. Fortunately for the league, its audience, by and large, shares a collective short, convenient memory. Since 2000, there have been no fewer than 85 reported cases of domestic abuse involving NFL players. Question: What do you think domestic abuse looks like in real-time? Why did America fail to process the barbarism of the 84 cases that preceded Ray Rice’s?
Many of the same people who are shaking sticks at Ray Rice for physically abusing his wife, or criticizing Ray’s wife Janay for sticking by her man, cyclically became abusers or victims, themselves. Adrian Peterson allegedly beat his son with a stick as a result of his son pushing another child off a motorcycle on a virtual reality video game. Instead of addressing the problem of the cycle of abuse, our media goes straight to retribution and a conviction. Then, a few days after savoring its kill in the GOTCHA game — ignoring the fact that it remained silent to the countless reports of previous abuse — the news cycle asks, “What can we do to prevent occurrences like this in the future?” Instead of society addressing matters as they should be, we are often held back by fear of offending, by political correctness. Instead of having important discussions about why domestic abuse involving NFL players seems to be an epidemic, we distract ourselves by playing judge, jury and executioner — opposed to reformer. As George Carlin lamented, “political correctness attempts to restrict and control people’s language with strict codes and rigid rules . . . I’m not sure silencing people or forcing them to alter their speech is the best method for solving problems that go much deeper than speech.”
A four-year-old was whipped with a stick by his father who happens to be the best running back in the world. The young boy’s mother was angered by the publication of faceless images of his bodily wounds. Obviously, these pictures are disturbing. But, have we not proven that we often do not take matters seriously unless exposed to unsettling, empirical evidence? As George Carlin said, “Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality. Americans have trouble facing the truth. So, they invent the kind of a soft language to protect themselves from it. And, it gets worse with each generation.”
Without audio and video recordings to serve as giant pop-up books to teach Americans how racism sounds and what domestic and child abuse look like, we would likely continue to be silent, passively observing black-and-white headlines like wallpaper. For years, sports fans read about Donald Sterling’s racist ways. Yet, until a damning audio recording surfaced, people targeted in Sterling’s rant seemed relatively unfazed, cashing the old man’s checks. While the recording may have been illegally obtained, it drew light on an alarming truth that we are so busy fiddling with our important lives on our smart phones that we are losing the ability to see, listen and trust.READ MORE: Stolen French Bulldog Found Safe On Long Island, Burglary Investigation Continues
Whether the subject was Donald Sterling, soon-to-be former Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson, Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson, we have been witness to widespread punishment of each sports figure, despite a lack of due process. Regardless of each man’s guilt (or, innocence), they are linked to a cancerous phenomenon: fear of association. You’re either with us or against us. If, in any manner you side with or defend Sterling, Levenson, Rice or Peterson, you are at a dangerously high risk to be branded a racist, a wife-beater or proponent of child abuse.
If you are a $200-billion sponsor of the NFL, you do like Anheuser-Busch did this week, issuing a public statement to proclaim dismay with the league. Question: Did Anheuser-Busch truly fear that its consumers would boycott their products if they did not denounce the league publicly? Since when do sponsors feel a need to protect their standing with smaller companies who they’re associated with, by making apologetic statements about their most powerful business friend? Castrol didn’t say, “Well, we don’t like what Adrian Peterson did, so we’re issuing him a warning.” They fired him. Understandably, a deal worth a fifth of a trillion dollars does not dissolve easily. I believe that Anheuser-Busch (and other large sponsors) is scrambling to respond to the script of a modern day rewrite of The Crucible meets McCarthyism. They’re screaming, “We’re not witches. We’re not commies.”
Do they need to speak at all?
George Carlin was right. Political correctness is dangerous.
Jared Max is a multi-award winning sportscaster. He hosted a No. 1 rated New York City sports talk show, “Maxed Out” — in addition to previously serving as longtime Sports Director at WCBS 880, where he currently anchors weekend sports. Follow and communicate with Jared on Twitter @jared_max.
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