Your right to say no more
Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.
Kris Kristofferson wrote that line and Janis Joplin made it famous more than 40 years ago, but it still rings true. For anyone with a family to keep together or career worth saving, there is no such thing as complete freedom.
There are rules to follow, both written and unwritten, and violating them often results in severe consequences. Some of the rules are obvious and have understandably become actual laws, but what about those times when the demarcation line between right and wrong is blurred?
The surest bet is to err on the side of conservatism and follow the safest route, which is, of course, what the world’s explorers and inventors have always done. That’s why, in 2013, we Americans all hail the queen and I’m using a quill pen to write this column.
However, there is little room for that same independent, consequences-be-damned kind of thinking these days, especially in those areas that involve human behavior. To dispute means to despise; to grow irritated translates into intolerance.
Thus, for anyone with a public forum at his or her disposal, being cautionary means treading very lightly, regardless of topic.
The latest individual learning that lesson is Chris Broussard, a former New York sportswriter who covers the NBA for ESPN and whose name has suddenly become much more well known to the masses than he could have imagined. Creating the notoriety was Broussard’s refusal to mince his words when commenting on the biggest basketball story of the past couple weeks: Jason Collins.
Collins has been an NBA journeyman for over a decade, but it’s likely that the only people aware of him before this were fans of whatever team employed him at a particular moment. And he might have remained anonymous even to some of them, seeing as how Collins has spent more time on the bench than a toolbox.
Basically, Collins was the classic case of someone carving out a lengthy pro sports career primarily by being a good team guy. He knew his limitations, played within them when called upon, and he kept his mouth shut so he didn’t rock the boat.
Until recently, that is. In an edition of Sports Illustrated, Collins became the first non-retired athlete in any of America’s four major team sports to ever admit to being gay. That admission, not surprisingly, engendered a great deal of discussion.
Among the parties who entered into it was Broussard, who stated his views on homosexuality from a Christian viewpoint during a conversation on TV. Broussard said God sees it as a sin, just as He sees intimate relations between non-married heterosexual couples as sinful.
Broussard never belittled Collins, didn’t say he should be kicked out of the league or banned from it, or profess any personal dislike toward the player. Broussard was asked for his opinion, he gave it, and suddenly in some circles he’s being touted as a homophobe.
And this is where everything jumps the track. For some reason, a simple disagreement no longer can be just that, but must immediately morph into hatred, especially when the point of dispute involves a hot-button, politically correct issue.
Frankly, this is ridiculous. If Collins had the right to declare his sexual preference in a national magazine — thereby opening the revelation up to public discussion in the process — why is Broussard castigated for commenting on it while holding a contrarian’s viewpoint?
Just to ensure that everything remains non-toxic, though, perhaps we should start eliminating all words that might put one at risk of being offensive. Imagine some of the interviews we’ll be treated to in the future:
Announcer: “Wow, that’s some contract you signed there, Joe.”
Player: “Oh, yeah, it’s a big one. Man, it’s all about gettin’ the green and...”
Announcer: “Uh, Joe, please don’t use any colors when you speak with me.”
Player: “Come on, I said ‘green.’ What the heck is wrong with that?”
Announcer: “Look, Joe, most of the fans watching this broadcast will never make the amount of money you do, so they’re envious — and you know what color is associated with that. By mentioning it, you’re insulting them and their meager earning power.”
Player: “Sorry. I didn’t know...”
Announcer: “And, by the way, try not to ever mention again that adjective you used to describe the size of your contract. People with dietary issues may take offense.”
Player: “Well, OK, can I talk about the touchdown I made by running right over that tackler...”
Announcer: “Nope, because it’ll sound like you’re advocating physical abuse.”
Player: “But it’s football, and it’s a physical sport. What am I supposed to do — tip-toe past a defender?”
Announcer: “Don’t say ‘tip-toe.’ Folks who face podiatric challenges every day may think you’re mocking the way they walk.”
Player: “Well, then, can I at least say, ‘Hi,’ to my mom who’s watching the telecast?”
Announcer: “You’d better not. How do you think those people whose moms have abandoned them will feel about that? They’ll think you’re rubbing it in.”
Player: “So what can I say?”
Announcer: “Good-bye is OK, but don’t direct it toward anyone specific because that’ll make everyone else feel left out.”
Player: “So that means I can say, ‘Good-bye everyone?’”
Announcer: “Sure. After all, we live in the land of the free...”
Player: “And the home of the muzzled.”