“Graveyards are full of indispensable men.” ~ Charles de Gaulle
The above is attributed to the renowned French president but he may’ve cribbed it from a predecessor, George Clemenceau. In any case, as recent sporting developments from Las Vegas have shown, de Gaulle remains correct.
Former Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden was lured from professional football’s periphery back to the gridiron sidelines. Seen as either savior or savant, he was to have restored the franchise’s luster and return it to National Football League prominence.
Instead, issues predating his arrival, ones having nothing to do with his forfeited Raiders post, caught up to Gruden and rendered him quickly expendable.
Before continuing, though, there should be doubts about Gruden’s genius capacity. After all, the success he realized earlier as Tampa Bay headman piggy-backed on a preceding coach’s foundation. Anyway, the matters which tripped up Gruden didn’t pertain so much to actual football but more to style and the tenor of our times.
Let me be honest. I didn’t bother reading any of the calumnies marbling Gruden’s emails. No need to go in-depth into excruciating details. Leave masochism and hair shirts to the mindful.
His emails’ generalizations sufficed.
These made do because after my own years of having participated in organized sports then afterwards interviewing athletes in locker rooms and clubhouses, then finding and taking succor in bars among unfettered male company, Gruden hadn’t written anything I already hadn’t heard and laughed at … whether I received it or contributed.
Clearly a number of factors precipitated the ex-coach’s shotgun splatter. None of them involved racism, sexism, or gay panic. While he certainly expressed opinions seemingly the whole spectrum of attuned humanity detested, Gruden is not racist, sexist, gay-baiting ogre.
He is not the Second Coming of Bull Connor.
Anger and frustration led to his thorough slagging of whoever he deemed deserving of his ire. Who hasn’t done the same? I mean other than the saints reading this? And our eruption(s) spent, and ourselves restored to calm, didn’t we retreat back into our less contentious selves?
Best of all? Nobody got hurt!
Gruden was only a football coach. In fact, through his emails he came across as just that. Okay. Not a recently vinted one.
Now, if you’re a man of certain age, and as a boy, teen, young adult, played organized football when grizzled guys with crew cuts and whistles were regarded and behaved like demi-gods, then Gruden’s musings were jolts back to “the good ol’ days.”
In their time and into further decades along stunted men revered those martinets who “hardened” them.
Incessant screaming. Pointed insults. “Nutcracker” drills. Few water breaks. The tortures within the crucible that hammered out manly men. Or so those who believe themselves beneficiaries of such insensitive and insecure practices still fondly claim into their dotage.
Nonetheless Gruden was not that coach. A coach like that never could’ve gotten a shot in today’s NFL. Whether the front office agreed with his positions or not, who didn’t know these would’ve poisoned the locker room and any coach-player-staff relations inside them? And while few owners are “enlightened,” each is a business figure who wants an attractively packaged product which draws fans as well as sells overpriced merchandise.
Moreover, Gruden did not rent forums, stand before ignorant adoring throngs at rallies, then publicly insult and denounce individuals or groups. He did not openly pollute free speech while claiming his views edified people.
Unremarked upon throughout this period of handwringing, pearl clutching, and swooning-from-the-vapors responses to the ex-coach’s comments is the most obvious lack of propriety. Reading others’ mail. Far more so than when missives were hand-written and delivered by post or messenger, electronic mail has demolished the notion of keeping the circle small.
If Aesop were among us and could adapt Gruden’s downfall to a fable, the moral of his story would instead shame the fulsomely indignant. In their righteousness, they’ve forgotten or ignored that each of our backgrounds likely contains instances of low conduct or notorious discourse.
It’d take even less effort for us to buckle under the same harsh searing spotlight as the former coach.
Certainly, if Gruden ever suspected his discharged spleen would be thumbed through by the public, what he’d have instead dispatched wouldn’t have melted butter on any tongues. True, less pointed observations still could’ve raised the same complaints, but limp punches ill suit football coaches.
Like a considerable number of men in sporting sanctums, Gruden shared his opinions with recipients believed on the same wavelength. The sole difference being he raged through electronic correspondence instead of verbally. Let me be frank: in lively locker rooms, in clubby clubhouses, in bars mainly patronized by guys reveling in conventional manhood, whatever flames Gruden exhaled about non-Anglos, women, gays won’t just be spoken but roared into understanding ears.
Therefore, none should expect, request, demand any admonishment or “corrections.” Only clarifications and its cousin further emphasis may intercede. Every participant in these arenas – pardon the pun – knows the score. Doors swing both ways. Those allowing entry also permit exit.
Naturally what outsiders may find offensive is again usually only loosened upon receptive audiences. They, for the most part, know what’s being uttered is bullshit; bullshit to be taken lightly as opposed with utmost urgency.
Akin to almost every other instance of nonsense digested with the deepest gravity, Gruden’s grousing, like the bar buds’ shooting the breeze, or sportsmen busting on one another or on some topic that’s broken through their bubbles, is transitory/time and place specific.
The views expressed are solely for the assembled. Unsurprisingly, few, if any of what had been bantered, will be repeated or debated over dinner tables among the family. Nor will freely speaking be tolerated in today’s increasingly more diverse workplaces – meaning broad ranges of topics now have the ability to render conversation stilted while further stultifying thought.
Imagine this dilemma: encouraged to speak without fear yet judiciously self-editing like a fiend lest this one, that one, or that mystery nobody really knows much about could declare another’s honesty and sincerity “triggered” them into “going postal.”
Mindfulness, a modern-era problem unnecessarily invented by modern people. Left to its most blinkered and tone-deaf adherents always being fully present could limit language to the unsaid and freight everyone with widespread ambivalence.