This has been a good week for my hobby. I collect odd public statements, those spoken in defiance of how the speakers generally operate. After all, people are now paid good money — or at least a lot of money — to make no sense, thus they stoke our sense of the absurd.
It’s like those interviews on “Jeopardy!” in which, after the contestant is introduced as an astro-physicist and jungle explorer who graduated MIT at 14, he or she is asked to tell about their fascinating pastime. And it turns out to be stamp collecting.
Morant: “I take full responsibility for my actions last night. I’m sorry to my family, teammates, coaches, fans, partners, the city of Memphis and the entire Grizzlies organization for letting you down.
“I’m going to take some time away to get help and work on learning better methods of dealing with stress and my overall well-being.”
Did none of the bright lights behind that publicly released statement consider, for even five seconds, that such words — such contrition and mature self-examination — are perversely comical?
Did none give the public credit for knowing that anyone capable of such thought, let alone action and self-control, would not be inclined to place himself in positions worthy of such apologies, suspensions and soon, perhaps, worse?
Surely, Morant’s public relations ghost writers were inspired by de Gaulle. On Aug. 25, 1944 upon entering liberated Paris after The City of Light had been under four years of Nazi conquest then rule, de Gaulle, in French, famously declared:
“Paris! Paris outraged! Paris broken! Paris martyred! But Paris Liberated! Paris Liberated by itself! Liberated by its people …”
Well, not quite. Despite an army believed to be the best on the European continent, France in 1940 surrendered faster than it could flee. De Gaulle, operating as the self-assigned leader of Free France — mostly out of London — could not rescue Paris until its United Kingdom and United States allies sacrificed blood, treasure, ordnance, food, medicine, logistics and, in the final days, gasoline, to the French.
Imagine being among the tens of thousands of British and American parents to lose their sons during D-Day operations only to hear de Gaulle’s “Paris, liberated by itself.”
But c’est les public relations business. The scripted, vetted, disseminated Morant “apology” brought a similarly transparent, “why-even-bother?” companion statement from Morant’s other employers, those at Nike. Morant had signed a deal with Nike for his own signature model sneakers.
Nike: “We appreciate Ja’s accountability and that he is taking the time to get the help he needs. We support his prioritization of his well-being.”
Well, Nike had to say something. It couldn’t come out and say that it actually supports the original Morant model as it represented what Nike sells: hideously overpriced, Chinese factory-made street status symbols that values-starved urban kids have consistently mugged and murdered for since the late 1980s. As if Nike had no idea.
And so the statement released by the virtueless on behalf of their immediate need of virtue persists. “Thoughts and prayers. This puts everything into perspective. That’s not who I am,” and, finally, “A zero tolerance policy (in most cases).”
But those barely scratch the surface of the Doozie Collection of prepared statements in service to sports.
For those we turn to leaders such as Roger Goodell, whose impassioned plea on behalf of civilized society and his solemn responsibility as the integrity-first NFL commissioner called for the total and sustained separation of the NFL from gambling. Until the NFL and Goodell got their cut.
And there will always be NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw. Two days before the 1996 Olympics began in Atlanta, TWA Flight 800, JFK-to-Paris, exploded, killing all 230 aboard. And so Brokaw, from his Olympics sales stage in Atlanta, began NBC’s coverage with some happy-faced “perspective.”
Brokaw: “The explosion of Flight 800 was a tragic and unexpected prelude to the Games. So tonight, the Opening Ceremonies take on a richer meaning of healing and celebration to temper the anxiety and despair.”
Sure, unless you were on the NBC payroll or in the public relations business, it couldn’t have been easy to spin the sudden, violent deaths of 230 airline passengers as a “rich meaning of healing and celebration.” Most of us wouldn’t have even bothered.
Boomer & Gio have different rules for others, selves
Yet, no radio or TV team seems to have more low fun with the afflictions of others — callers, public figures — than Giannotti and “Weekday” Boomer Esiason. Despite their own personal and family issues, which they only address in dead-serious, mature-adult terms, all others are child’s prey.
Given these overly sensitive times, it still strikes me as impossible that the “Boomer & Gio” show suffered no official sling or arrow from management for last year’s cheap, childish and cruel degradation of former Knicks general manager Donnie Walsh, then 80, for being relegated by spinal surgery to a wheelchair.
Nothing funnier than a man in a wheelchair. But such are modern radio stars.
Howard Stern, whose fame and enormous fortune were largely predicated on put-downs and ridicule of the well known, demanded respect for his privacy during his divorce.
Don Imus and company laughed themselves dry playing the recording of Mike Schmidt’s tear-filled retirement news conference. Then, Imus broke down while discussing his retirement on “CBS Sunday Morning.”
Once again, and with feeling: In former Manhattan, Villanova and Massachusetts coach Steve Lappas, CBS has one of the best and best-hidden college basketball analysts, period.
His calls throughout the Kentucky-Arkansas game Saturday were so accurate and spontaneous — “How can that count? He was hanging on the rim with one hand, scoring with the other!” — were so sharp one couldn’t help but pay full attention.
Can’t turn him off and won’t be tuned out. Glue.
Whose advertising patches will appear on the Yankees’ once-sacrosanct (pre-Nike swoosh money) uniforms? As with the umps’ FTX patches, pure greed, nothing better, will determine the winner.
So with his role in a near-campus shooting murder unresolved, Alabama freshman Brandon “Wrong Place, Wrong Time” Miller has been named the AP’s SEC Player of the Year. The award could not have been held in abeyance pending the legal outcome? There was, after all, a murder, not an unresolved parking ticket.