Pineapples, Political Correctness, and Public Discourse

This began as a reply to the "pineapple" post, but, as so often happens with things I feel strongly about, it got to novel-length proportions, and so I decided to make it a separate post. I'm putting it in the fanposts because I want to make it clear that it is my opinion and in no way necessarily represents the opinions of the editor, etc. etc. of Behind the Steel Curtain.

I'm not a huge fan of being PC, but I'm really not a big fan of personal invective. Calling a player a "big fat %$@# and other such remarks are what is really beyond the pale to me, and yet it seems to be an accepted part of football fandom. I'm afraid, though, that I just don't get it.

I was as upset as anyone over Kemo's play last night, but I have a real problem with personal attacks on a player. I don't care whether you are being paid a million dollars or eight dollars per hour, you are only human, and you have bad days sometimes. Perhaps you screw up at your million-dollar a year, or $100,000 a year, or $10,000 a year job. It's entirely appropriate for your superior(s) to point out to you where your performance is lacking, and even to fire you if it doesn't improve and you are compromising the integrity of the company.

It is another thing altogether for random people to vilify you for your failure, even if they feel that they have somewhat of a financial stake in your company. (Question - does purchasing a Polamalu jersey give one a financial stake in the Steelers?)

This is, of course, assuming that your failure was not malicious or for a lack of effort. And there may well be extenuating circumstances which, were people to know about them, would at least help to explain your failure, if not to excuse it.

In the particular case under discussion, I have heard that Kemo has had severe problems with arthritis this season, which has caused swelling in his knees, and he has been dressed and sent in for some games not because he's really fit to play but because there isn't a better option, apparently. I can't say why Essex wasn't sent in last night, but I can't imagine it is because the coaches didn't think that Kemo would do a better job. They presumably were wrong about that, although perhaps Essex was even in worse shape than Kemo from last Sunday. We only know what the Steelers are forced to reveal about injuries, and it is clear that they don't have to reveal everything by any means.

And if you were Kemo, consider the alternatives. Holding penalties are missed all the time. Your guy slamming into your already-injured quarterback is not going to be missed. You know that the Browns were thinking that another good hit might take Ben out for good. (And it might well have done so, although fortunately he sustained at least one more without apparent further consequences.)

Let's say that the state of your knees, or whatever else was going on, precluded you from actually being able to prevent your guy from getting through without holding him. Yes, a holding penalty is really a drive-killer. But better to kill the drive than to see your quarterback killed.

I'm not being an apologist for Kemo's play. If last night was a reasonable sample of what he's now capable of, I hope we never see him on the field again. I hate to even type something like that, but it isn't fair to the rest of the team if he can't contribute. But I also hope that we can understand that these are people in these uniforms, not automatons. And as a result of realizing this, I hope that we can discuss their job performance without resorting to schoolyard language and behavior. Racial slurs (and I have no idea whether "pineapple" was intended as one or not) are obnoxious, but really they are just the tip of the iceberg. The problem with racial slurs is that they demean the personhood of a whole group of people. So why is it not okay to do that, but okay to demean the personhood of an individual?

Debate away all you like about what is or isn't a racial slur, or PC, or whatever, but let's not lose sight of the very valid reason behind all of the PC stuff—the need for some sort of civility in public discourse.

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