Politically Correct? Politically Stupid.
By Joshua Chamberlain
Posted: January 16, 2012
At the end of this last NFL season, Boomer Esiason criticized Mark Sanchez, the quarterback for the New York Jets. Here is the quote, appearing on the website of Boston radio station WEEI, that many people chose to focus on:
"If you watched Mark Sanchez the last month of the season, he was like a Chihuahua standing on Madison Avenue and 36th Street entering the Midtown Tunnel, eyes bigger than you-know-what, and just so shaky.”
Two things stood out to me about this statement:
1. Esiason was absolutely right. Sanchez was a liability down the stretch and has lost the support of a large number of New York fans. As a Patriots fan, this delights me to no end. It was fun watching the Jets, their pretty boy QB, and their loudmouth head coach fall apart this season after predicting a championship before the season started.
2. What, exactly, did he mean by “you-know-what”? I don’t know what, Boomer. I have inserted every swear word and dirty phrase I know into that sentence, and only a few of the really nasty ones make any sense. Give it a shot; it is like a football-themed Mad Libs. Somehow, I doubt that Boomer had those particular phrases in mind when he made the statement (if he did, it would change my opinion of him a little bit). I think we can give Boomer a pass on this, though. Speaking extemporaneously often leads to sentences that don’t entirely make sense.
That was it. Esiason, a football commentator, did his job and made a statement disagreed with by pretty much nobody. He uttered a slightly awkward sentence, but his point was well-taken and the image of the wide-eyed dog staring into the gaping tunnel painted a very clear, uncontroversial picture.
Or so I thought.
It turns out ESPNNewYork.com decided to read a little more into the comments than everyone else and, looking for a story on an otherwise slow news day, “reached out” to Esiason to ask him about the racist (?) comments he made. Esiason then felt obligated to make a statement assuring people that the use of a Chihuahua was not a reference to Sanchez’s Mexican heritage: "I chose a small dog that always looks shaken and has big eyes, and doesn't like big things -- a Chihuahua. It's a skittish dog and he's been a skittish player."
My first reaction was amazement that anyone would feel offended by Esiason’s statement. In my mind, the intent of the statement was clear, and I didn’t even think about the connection between a Chihuahua and a middle-of-the-road quarterback who happens to be of Mexican descent.
As I thought about it more, however, my amazement subsided. ESPN was clearly looking for an edge to the story. It is their business, and the more controversy a story causes, the better their business does. It could be agued that this is irresponsible on their part, but nobody has ever accused ESPN of doing the right thing for the right reasons.
ESPN’s actions, however, are symptomatic of a bigger American epidemic: over the top political correctness. The term “political correctness” is, in itself, highly ironic. In a nutshell, the term (and the concept it describes) is all about lying. For the politically correct, the issue is not doing or thinking the right thing, it is about saying the right thing.
ESPN did not take issue with what Esiason said; instead, they focused on one minute detail of how he said it. This is the same type of logic that leads to the words “Jesus Christ” or, god forbid, “shit” being bleeped out in a television show while the network unapologetically airs programs glorifying violence or misogyny. (For the record, I have no problem with those shows, either. If you don’t like them, don’t watch them.)
For example, does nobody find it ironic that the same network (CBS) that apologized profusely for and had a court battle over Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” in Super Bowl XXXVIII now airs the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in prime time? The lesson: veiled nipple coverage is, apparently, the last bastion of human decency. Just imagine the outrage that would ensue if one of the barely-clothed models said “shit” while walking down the runway! The humanity!
Rather than looking for controversy or trying desperately to make more of a situation than we should, wouldn’t it be better to just look at things the way they are? By spending too much time over-analyzing ALL of the specific language in television shows and radio interviews like Esiason’s, we miss the point. It might just be time to grow up and act like we sat through a couple English classes in our lives.
When major news outlets run stories on their homepages about somebody apologizing for word usage rather than looking at the content or intent of what was actually said, we have a problem. There is a difference between being offended, which can be completely legitimate, and looking for reasons to be offended, which is the mark of a person or institution either unhappy with his/its own existence or striving desperately for a sense of importance.
In the end, Esiason’s point was clear: The Jets suck. As a Patriots fan, I think it would be a shame if we lost track of the bigger message in all of this because of a dog reference.