Friday, April 4, 2014

Boomer Loser

Boomer Esiason has earned an impressive amount of goodwill because of the work he has done on behalf of cystic fibrosis. He's been one of the leading voices (and wallets) in this fight for a long time, motivated by his son Gunnar's diagnosis more than two decades ago.

But then Boomer comes out and makes the following comments about New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, who took a three-day paternity leave to be with his wife on the birth of their son and missed two Mets games in the process:
“Bottom line, that’s not me,” Esiason said on his morning radio show. “I wouldn’t do that. Quite frankly, I would have said ‘C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day. I’m sorry, this is what makes our money, this is how we’re going to live our life, this is going to give my child every opportunity to be a success in life.’”
My gut reaction to Esiason's comments was the following illogical conclusion: "Boomer is a douchebag."

And then I came to another worse illogical conclusion: "This is why so many athletes are douchebags."

Yes, a disturbing number of people, including Esiason's co-host and another talk show host on the network later in the day, rushed to agree with Boomer's douchey statement. Yes, I'm certain many a jock or jock sniffer had this or a similar reaction. A-holes are like wolves, and they tend to travel in packs.

But. If I dare give myself a moment's pause (sometimes it takes several hundred moments), I can realize this is all about another athlete who was doing the right thing. And he has athlete friends who support him. More pros now than ever are out there making similar "right" decisions. But taking that pause and gaining that understanding makes it less fun to write about, less fun to complain about.

(Because let's face it, when you're a hero or a goat just for taking three days of paternity leave, we're still in a weird cultural world.)

Such is how the virus of judgment infects us. One fallible human being's insensitivity or imperfection gets exposed in a large-scale way, and other fallible human beings take that moment of fallibility and jump to equally fallible conclusions about that person or about an entire group of people. This, in sad fact, is the entire purpose of most talk radio and many TV "news discussion" shows, to GOTCHA someone.

From Michael Richards to Steven Colbert, comedians are in the same boat as talk show hosts. Their job is, in part, to feed off of controversy. Go where the people are, talk about what the people are talking about. Comedians have an additional charge, being expected to expose hypocrisy or irony or plain imbecility about the human condition.

We expect these people to drive into the eye of the pop-culture or political hurricanes but then eviscerate them if they make a single wrong turn. Hell, even tornado expert Bill Paxton and his crew screwed up quite a number of times chasing those Twisters. Maybe if social media had been around in 1996, we'd have been backseat driving his decisions, too.

If our local paper posts an arrest story on Facebook, the post gets flooded with comments from people that say things like, "Save us the money of a trial and just hang him," or "I hope he gets shivved in prison." Not for a trial. Not even for an indictment. Just because of a freakin' arrest! Lynch mobs come pretty cheap nowadays.

For what it's worth, Boomer Esiason was back on less than 24 hours later apologizing. He was apologizing well before that. When you earn goodwill working with places like March of Dimes and say callous or insensitive stuff about parenting, you're gonna get some calls. Thankfully they called him on the carpet, and thankfully some part of him listened.

Were Boomer's apologies sincere? Was he apologizing because he pissed into the wind and didn't like the blowback, or because he genuinely realized how douchey his statements were? Does it matter? Will we ever really know?

In moments like this, when my frustration rises and my judgmental nature rears its head, I only know I'm better off when I can gather myself for a minute and ask, "What would Patty do?"
I heard somebody say
Today's the day
A big old hurricaine
Is blowing our way
Knocking over the buildings
Killing all the light
Open your eyes, boy, we made it through the night
Let's take a walk on the bridge
Right over this mess
Don't need to tell me a thing, baby
We've already confessed
And I raised my voice to the air
And we were blessed
Everybody needs a little forgiveness


G. B. Miller said...

To crucify someone for doing the right thing is imbecilic and moronic. Would Boomer criticize Dan's wife for taking a long maternity leave from her job (if she has one)?

I know plenty of guys who took paternity leaves longer than three days from their job to be with/help out with their wife and newborn, and to crucify them would be stupid and counter productive.

And is his apology sincere? Probably not. There might be some residual fall out from his engaging mouth before putting brain in gear, but it won't be as bad as Gilbert Godfrieb's bad miscue of a couple of years ago.

Robert Berman said...

Great song! As for the rest, an excellent example of why people who are good at one thing (hitting and/or catching balls) should not attempt things they are not good at (articulating the challenges of balancing family and career in high-stakes settings). Alas, our society offers celebrities lots of opportunities to speak whereof they know not.