A six-year old and his four-year old brother were in their room waiting to be called downstairs for breakfast. The older brother said to his younger brother, “I think today’s the day we should start cursing. When we go downstairs I’ll say ‘damn’ and you say ‘ass.’” The little brother reluctantly agreed and off they went.
Their mom greeted them with a big smile and asked, “What would you guys like for breakfast this morning?”
The older brother winked at his younger brother and said, “I think I’ll have some damn Cheerios!”
With that, the mom jerked him up from the table and began swatting his backside all the way back to his room where she slammed the door and screamed, “You stay in there until you learn how to talk!”
She stormed back downstairs and with a menacing glare asked the younger brother, “Well, what do you want for breakfast?” The little boy immediately replied, “I don’t know, but you can bet your ass it won’t be Cheerios!”
While this is a lighthearted story regarding the use of offensive language, and if I offended anyone with this innocent joke, I apologize, there is a current storyline in the world of sports referring to this topic. Is cursing okay in sports?
Rex Ryan, the current coach of the New York Jets and Tony Dungy, the former coach of Tampa Bay and the Colts are involved in an old-fashioned verbal war on this topic. Tony Dungy is one of the finest men in all of sports. He has an extremely strong faith and is a devout Christian. For Dungy to have gone through what he has gone through in his personal life, he would have to have a strong faith. If I had a son who was going to be playing professional sports, I would want him to have a coach like Dungy. Rex Ryan, on the other hand, may be a good guy but he is known to interlace every other word with expletives. He comes by this naturally since his dad, Buddy Ryan, was also known for his acerbic tongue.
The controversy started when Dungy made some comments with respect to the premiere of this year’s show on HBO entitled “Hard Knocks”. The show is a five-part series, which will follow the Jets as they go through training camp. The first episode showed Ryan cursing in planning sessions with his assistants, cursing on the practice field at the players and just cursing at things in general. Dungy viewed the program and thought Ryan’s use of profanity was excessive and said so, not only to the media but, apparently, to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Ryan took exception to Dungy’s comments and criticized him for “unfairly judging” him. Jokingly, Ryan added, “I don’t need Tony Dungy telling me how I should talk. My mom was the first to call me after the show to tell me I shouldn’t cuss so much. But that’s who I am and I don’t think Tony should be saying those things about me.”
Which one is right? I agree with Ryan that people should let him be who he is. Too many people try to change others and can’t accept them for who they are but I also agree with Dungy that there is no need for the constant use of expletives that Ryan chooses to add to his obvious lacking vocabulary.
I won’t begin to say that one method is better than the other because coaches using both means of communication have been successful. Tony Dungy was a pretty good coach winning one Super Bowl and he never used profanity. He discouraged others from using it on his team but he was astute enough to know that he couldn’t totally curtail it. After all, these are grown men we’re talking about. Tom Landry was another who stayed away from profanity. But then you have Vince Lombardi who was known to have a pretty good temper and I’m sure Bobby Knight didn’t say, “Golly gee whilakers — can you please set the pick and roll a little better?”
The practice fields and locker rooms are not pristine and proper finishing schools for young athletes. They are places where young men and, yes, young women sweat, bleed, and hurt for the sake of their sports. All is not rosy and sweet and sometimes things get out of hand. Tempers flare and words are used that would cause even veteran sailors to cringe. But that doesn’t mean that cuss words have to be used like verbs and nouns.
I honestly cannot remember one occasion when a coach of mine in high school ever used a four-letter word. I saw them get plenty angry. One coach got so mad when we lost a basketball game that he slammed his office door so violently that he broke the glass, but they never resorted to profanity to get their message across.
The Bible has more lessons on how hurtful and harmful words can be than any other topic. Just pick up the Old Testament Book of Proverbs and you’ll see what I mean. I guess all of this is saying that if I am taking sides in this argument, I will side with Coach Dungy. It all boils down to personal preferences. I just don’t care for excessive foul language. I will always prefer Bill Cosby to Chris Rock. And for the life of me I can’t understand why certain TV shows bleep out most profanity but allow the Lord’s name to be taken in vain. Maybe Dungy overstepped a little in being so vocal about it but that’s the type of man he is. He saw something that he thought was wrong in the sport he loved, or in this case heard something he thought was wrong, and he said something about it. How many of us would have just let it slide and not taken a stand?
Subsequently, the two men have handled the situation like two men should — they sat down face-to-face and talked it out. I wasn’t in the room with them so I don’t know what was said or if anything was resolved but I’m glad they didn’t keep a media war going. If you think it’s okay to cuss — then do it. But do it privately. I don’t want to hear it in Sanford Stadium any more than I want to hear it driving down Broad Street.
And for those of you who don’t use profanity — don’t get bent out of shape if someone slips up. But if they keep it up, tell them to shut their *&$%# mouth.
Randy Blalock is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.