Here is my two-part advice for Bill Parcells. Part one: If Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones sticks his nose too much into your business, as he has a way of doing with coaches, bust him in the mouth.
Of course, you ought to run this by your legal people first. But even if they waver, as lawyers often do when decisiveness is called for, there’s a big upside. Jerry won’t have the guts to fire you, for one thing. Besides, smacking him not only would cement your position among existing Cowboy fans, most of whom have been wishing for the same opportunity for years, but would likely create a whole new generation of rooters for America’s Former Team.
Part two: If some NFL player refers to you publicly as a “homo,” the best response is to get on the air and denounce him as a “double homo,” which is slightly more evolved than the next most appropriate retort: “I know you are, but what am I?”
You would think that the opportunity to apply the first advice would come up sooner than the second. But no. This is what we’ve come to today in the world of sports and media.
In case you missed the big story in what, except for Kobe, was an otherwise slow week for sports departments, Jeremy Shockey of the New York Giants attacked the onetime Giants coach and TV analyst as a little light in the Adidas. Though Shockey’s quote was in a magazine article that wasn’t scheduled to hit the newsstands until this week, word of his words leaked out and touched off a lot of fear, loathing and mad scrambling in the Giants’ front office.
The Media Geniuses, meanwhile, seemed shocked that an athletic warrior who’s richly compensated for abusing opponents physically would resort to a schoolyard taunt instead of devoting his off-field time to Proust and the Metropolitan Opera.
There’s been a little ill feeling between Shockey and The Tuna since last September. On ESPN, Parcells suggested that so much hype was attending the arrival of Shockey, a rookie tight end, that the media might as well go ahead and induct him into the Hall of Fame. Parcells offered no supposition as to Shockey’s sexual orientation.
Shockeywho, unlike fellow New Yorker Mike Piazza, has apparently not found it necessary to announce that he is straightis not the kind of player to turn the other cheek after receiving a slap. During his first season, he was twice fined $10,000 for responding to hecklers in San Francisco by making an obscene gesture and throwing a cup of ice into the crowd.
So it wasn’t surprising that Shockey lashed out against Parcells, whom, we can venture out on a limb to presume, Shockey doesn’t truly regard as gay, bisexual, transgendered or other. And it probably shouldn’t have been surprising that everyone else reacted as if Shockey had just outed himself as a crypto-Nazi.
The media are calling for a muzzle. Giants coach Jim Fassel huffed, “I won’t tolerate anybodyanybody, I don’t tolerate it in the offices around here or anywheremaking disrespectful comments about people whether it’s about race, religion, sexual preferences, whatever it is. It’s just not acceptable.”
Disrespectful, profane comments about a player’s gamesuch as a heard-throughout-the-building tirade Fassel directed at wide receiver Ron Dixon a couple days laterevidently are exempt. Or perhaps we’ll hear Fassel this season on the sidelines offering words like: “Great effort, Jeremy! If you had concentrated just a little bit harder, you’d have made that catch! We’ll get ’em next time!”
Precisely when Fassel became Mr. Sensitivity is unknown, but my guess is it’s around the time that Shockey crossed from foul territory over the line of political correctness. Had the player referred to Parcells as a fat, stupid [Oedipus]not that far a stretch from “Tuna”Fassel and the Giants would have applauded his footballer’s tough mindset, suggested he be a tad more careful about showing off that mindset when reporters are sniffing around and paid absolutely no nevermind to any possible offense given to fat or stupid people or incest-mongers. It’s not yet universally incorrect to disparage fat or stupid people.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that athletes should enjoy the license to go off on Rockeresque rants. That kind of speech is genuinely offensive, and professional sports franchises have a right to expect that players who represent them will not slur people based on ethnicity, national origin or sexuality.
But homo? When was the last timeexcept among fourth-grade boysyou heard someone slandered with the word “homo?” Before we summon the Correctness Police and make a serious issue out of this, shouldn’t we make sure the words are actually ones most people would take seriously? Aren’t we getting a little too worked up here?
It also helps to consider the source and the motivewhich is exactly what I told my daughter when she complained that her older sister had teased that her head looked like a potato “and stuff.” The older sibling, in search of a yankable chain, possessed no scientific authority for the potato-head claim.
Similarly, Shockey, though he may well become the most formidable tight end of his generation, ain’t exactly lighting up the Meadowlands with brainpower. This is the guy who reportedly told Maxim magazine (in an upcoming issue) that he fantasizes about a threesome with a mother and twin daughters. Jeremy perhaps forgets from his calculus class at the University of Miami that his participation would actually make this gathering a foursome.
Parcells may yet bring that up, knowing Parcells. But my friend Dee from Atlanta called on Tuesday with another possible tack for Tuna.
“I think he should say, 'Yes, Jeremy outed me. We had a little tiff when he called me fat, so I called off the civil union we had planned in Vermont. So this is his retaliation, the little minx.’ I think,” said Dee, “that would send Jeremy over the top.”
Dee has been pulled over so many times by the Correctness Police that he’s lost count. But I like his thinking here. Sometimes the best way to fight stupidity is with stupider. I just think a simple “double homo” would suffice.