Wednesday, January 31, 2007

It was awfully big of the people responsible for Adult Swim to apologize for their amazingly insensitive publicity stunt before their lineup of animated programming went on the air this evening. For the life of me, I cannot imagine why people would be sensitive to suspicious packages and officials would not have a sense of humor about a gimmick like this is the post 9-11 world. More importantly, however, I still wait for the people at Adult Swim to apologize to me for their generally terrible programming.

Between Assy McGee, Squidbillies, Morel Orel, Aqua Teen Hunger Force (which is now a pale shadow of what it was when it was a pale shadow of its former glory) and the hit or miss Robot Chicken, it's getting very hard for a moderately intelligent well-adjusted grown man to watch a night of animated programs each week. If it weren't for the Venture Brothers, I'd flag animated programming altogether.

But on the off chance that the boys at Williams Street are included in the 14 or so masochists that find their way to this little waste of time, remember this: satire is no longer satire when it's not funny. Once the laughter is gone, you're left with a half hour of claptrap indulging the impulse to be a douche to every one who bullied you or simply didn't get you in high school. And maybe, just maybe, if the shows were a bit better, a major city would not have to be paralyzed in a childish effort to generate buzz for said programming.

You might be wondering at this point where this relates to any of the sports topics I tend to pursue in this space. After long absence, America's moral compass is back. Too often we lose sight of things in this country, and we need to be awakened to the shocking, agonizing, crippling injustice that is the Tank Johnson saga. Instead of being deported (despite being an American citizen) or broken on the rack or put in the stocks in the public square or forced to wear a scarlet handgun on his jersey, the Bears defensive tackle will play in Sunday's Super Bowl.

It takes the acid keyboard of a writer like Jay Mariotti to punish Tank Johnson for his transgressions. Jay Mariotti doesn't like the fact that Tank Johnson thinks his many critics (overwhelmingly, but not exclusively, of the middle-aged, Caucasian variety) might be racist. How dare he talk about race. After all, since when did that become the prerogative of an African American? With keen insight and bizarrely insensitive hypersensitivity, perhaps Mariotti could be a party standard bearer in 2008.

Among Tank's many sins: he mentioned race (I loathe the expression race card and avoid it where possible), he had 10 unregistered firearms in his house where he also had two daughters and he did not avail himself of "a chance to paint a remorseful self-portrait on a global stage." It's quite convenient to attack a guy for not busting out the tearful apology when the journalist in question would rip into him in equal measure had Tank come out with the remorseful self-portrait.

Even before Mariotti's piece, I thought Tank had every right to play in the Super Bowl. It's not because I am rooting for the Bears (even though I am, as the guy who kept the bandwagon rolling through some rough patches earlier in the year). Yes, he was arrested for the unregistered guns in his home and if he were Terry Johnson, defendant instead of Tank Johnson, defensive lineman, he wouldn't be allowed to leave the state. However, the system favors the wealthy and influential and this isn't the case that's going to restore liberty, equality and fraternity to human affairs. On top of that, not only did the judge approve, but the prosecutor raised no objections. What more do the guardians of all we hold sacred in the media need?

What would Mariotti have written or said had those guns actually been used in the commission of a crime. I imagine Jay would have found his backbone and been the first to volunteer to serve as executioner in a scene reminiscent of the killing of William Wallace in Braveheart. For the record, I don't know if one can deprive Tank of his life but not his freedom and I'm not comparing him to William Wallace. All I'm saying is that had Tank so much as fired one of these unregistered firearms and been caught in the act, the same people who are incensed that the guy is playing in the Super Bowl would probably demand that the authorities hang, draw and quarter this menace to society.

In addition to disagreeing with Mariotti's opinion on Tank Johnson's lack of contrition and status for Sunday's game, I find it shockingly reprehensible that Jay should criticize a black man for "playing the race card." It's almost as though some other Jay Mariotti wrote this piece a scant four days ago to exult in the first Super Bowl teams coached by African Americans. Why did no one bother to alert me that race could only be discussed by Mariotti in Mariotti-approved contexts? It would have made things ever so simple. I needn't think for myself at all any more.

It is an excellent thing that Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy have led teams to the Super Bowl. And I realize that it is a hard thing indeed to have to justify one's trip to Miami on an employer's dime with a daily column. Poor Jay, having to tear himself from fun in the sun, and having to work around Around the Horn's schedule to boot. It's too much to expect that hypocrisy, coin of the realm in Jay world, not rule the day.

But back to the original point (such as it was). Jay Mariotti is an unprincipled bully. I sincerely doubt that he honestly cares one way or another about the future of Tank Johnson, beyond his existence as fodder for a quick column. But it's a chance to lash out at a bigger, faster, stronger man who in the ordinary run of things could crush the average sports columnist like a bug. So for every bigger, faster, stronger kid that didn't tremble in his den at Jay's approach, now it's Tank Johnson's turn to feel his wrath. Take a run at Tank if you must, but at least leave a portion of the righteous indignation at home until there is a real crime to condemn.

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