You’ve got to love those teachable moments on Sunday afternoons with the kids.
So what did you tell your kids when Indianapolis Colts wideout Reggie Wayne tangled with Houston Texans strong safety Bernard Pollard during the second half of Sunday’s game?
Unless you were in a coma, it was difficult to miss the expletive-laden tirade Pollard unleashed on Wayne. We’re talking hardcore cussing of the worst kind caught for millions—young and old—by the network’s television cameras (and microphones). I won’t go into specifics here, but let’s just say one of the words used by Pollard started with an ‘f’ and another included that same word, but started with an ‘m’ and had a couple more letters on the back end. And they were said in a most hateful way.
So, what did you tell your kids? What did you tell yourself? That these are grown men playing a violent game. That’s true. That sometimes emotions get the best of you when you’re in the heat of competition. Well, we are all human. Maybe you held up the U.S. Constitution and pointed out everyone’s right to freedom of speech and expression. I’m almost ready to start singing Yankee Doodle Dandy.
My personal favorite tactic is to act like nobody heard it. Yes, they say the dumb act will only get you so far. But it's worked for me to this point.
The participants in this game at this level must remember, the National Football League is a business, and its customers include young children and families. And while most people understand that a fair number of people cuss, that doesn’t mean they want a steady diet of it. And they certainly don’t want to consume it on Sunday afternoon with the younglings.
After all, what double standard directive do you give your kid to live by during the next Pop Warner game? Or any other competition for that matter? Or when he or she gets frustrated by someone or something at school? Well, shucks, they do it in the NFL. The same rules, more or less, should apply here. When you say it that way, it's quasi logical.
But in reality nobody wants to hear a Tanner Boyle impersonation, especially when it’s coming from your own kid. Why? It reflects poorly on you. Just the same way Pollard’s on-air act reflects poorly on the NFL.
Clearly Pollard, a Purdue University product, didn’t get Tony Dungy’s anti-cussing memo.
OK, maybe I’m being too harsh on Pollard. I’m not naïve enough to be blind to all the jawing that goes on down on a football field. As a former photojournalist, I’ve seen plenty of it up close. So I’m guessing Wayne might not have been a complete innocent. But I admire the way he walked away from Pollard with the CBS cameras pointed at him.
Dungy has from time to time been portrayed as a prude. He again got that label after he criticized N.Y. Jets Coach Rex Ryan after Ryan dropped a few f-bombs during a cable TV documentary last month.
But Dungy’s point is valid. Is one incident like this going to bring the almighty NFL to its knees? No. But no matter what you think about this sort of colorful language, there are enough people who don’t want to be exposed to it, and don’t want their kids exposed to it, that over time it eats away at the shiny image of the shield the NFL guards with a fleet of Loomis trucks.
In the end, what’s bad for the kids, is bad for business.
And the NFL can’t afford to turn a deaf ear toward it anymore.