It is often said that sports are a microcosm of life. The statement contains a scintillation of truth, but the correlation is often overblown into a heaping pile of nonsensical fandom and analogical fallaciousness. With that being said, we can learn from sports. This past week, sports has — like an inebriated Eagles fan screaming at a preseason game that “this is our year!” — taught us once again just how dumb we are.
A few days ago, the starting quarterback for the New York Jets, Geno Smith, had his jaw broken when, now, ex-teammate IK Enemkpali landed a post-practice haymaker. Great sadness instantly reverberated throughout the defensive-back meetings of all of the Jets’ AFC opponents. All kidding aside, this is an important story because of the fact that it has not been a big story. Sure, during a slow period in the sports calendar, it has fueled many vacuous segments of sports talk radio and television, but it has not been a national news story.
Now juxtapose the way this story has been covered to the media assault and national shaming that accompanied former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s situation last year. Rice became a national villain and a poster-boy for all that is evil in the world when a video surfaced of him punching a woman (now his wife) forcefully in the jaw.
America’s self-righteous indignation raged against Rice. He lost his job and endorsements. His friends and former teammates felt the tug of political correctness dragging them to disavow their allegiance to him. He was forced into rehab and public apologies. To many of his potential employers he is a pariah, an untouchable. To this day he is still unemployed. On the other hand, IK Enemkpali was signed by another NFL team within 24hrs of his assault on Geno Smith.
This has not been a story on the scale that the Ray Rice’s incident was for one reason and one reason only, because IK punched a MAN and Rice punched a WOMAN.
But here lies the rub.
We live in a culture that has been screaming from atop academia, shouting through the hills of Hollywood, and ferociously barking on the daily news, that we must accept the fact that gender is a social construct. It is bigoted to believe that gender is firmly tethered to biology. It is as fluid as an IK Enemkpali right hook.
Given this cultural climate, if I were Ray Rice’s publicist (thank God, for his sake, that I am not), I would have crafted the following statement for Ray to read to the media, post to Facebook, tweet to his followers:
“I’d like to take a moment to express my utter disappointment in the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens, my teammates, the media, and society at large. I cannot begin to believe the bigotry and hetero-normative lack of compassion with which this incident has been talked about and handled. The fact that in the 21st century all of you can still be so full of hate and so blinded by medieval ignorance as to say that I hit a “woman” almost leaves me at a loss for words. Unlike all of you, I have progressed to the point that I no longer see gender. What happened in that elevator was one, slightly larger human-thing, hitting another, slightly smaller human-thing, and for that and for that only, I apologize.”
No publicist would ever pen such a statement, because that statement is too true. It sounds absurd because it is consistent with our cultural assumptions. Its sounds ridiculous because it is logically tied to a position which is ridiculous. Our cultural logic should yield an equally proportional response in both of these cases. They are both the case of “bigger thing hits smaller thing” (Keep in mind IK is a linebacker who bench pressed 225 Lbs for 28 consecutive repetitions).
This illogical culture has gotten intellectually fat and lethargic at the buffet of inconsistency. They gorge themselves daily. Geno Smith will just have to get his fill through a straw for now.