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Even the Asshole Opinion Fraternity to which many of us claim long affiliation and fraternity has some rules.
First, you can't fear scrutiny or being mocked. Eventually your opinions will inspire you to say or do something worthy of public scorn. Especially because we no longer have wise people - we called them "editors" - to prevent those awful instincts from reaching the public airwaves and ethernet.
We do not live in a world where public scorn is in short supply.
So those of us in good standing among the Asshole consortium concentrate on the powerful, mean-spirited, self-dealing, greedy, venomous, and indifferent because they all deserve to be smacked for their false superiority. None of those qualities is missing these days, either.
But most fundamentally, you can't be Skip Bayless, and do what Skip Bayless has done. Not on your worst days. If you do become Skip Bayless, you become like the cruel nabobs you ridicule for thoughtless injury to others.
You become talented, but cruel.
When Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott admitted that his brother's suicide and pressures of the pandemic had led him to seek professional help for depression, Bayless responded on his Fox Sports show Undisputed this way:
I don't have sympathy for him going public . . . If you reveal publicly any little weakness, it can affect your team's ability to believe in you in the toughest spots, and it definitely can encourage others on the other side to come after you . . . You just can't go public with it in my humble opinion. We all went through COVID, some sort of depression, right? I don't have sympathy for him going public with 'I got depressed, I suffered depression.' I'm going to ask our audience to feel free to go ahead and condemn me if you choose as cold-blooded and insensitive on this issue.
He went on to suggest the feeble-spirited Cowboys would never trust such a person to be their CEO-level franchise leader because, you know, MENTAL PROBLEMS.
Bayless has written three books about the Cowboys, including Hell-Bent, in which he spent six pages assessing how coach Barry Switzer's "people" feuded with quarterback Troy Aikman, and damned Aikman's fitness by insinuating he was gay.
He delivered a very Bayless-esque technique by seeming to anguish over the question without knowing the answer, and wondering if it even was a fair topic. Bayless could claim he did not actually claim Aikman was gay, only the rumor of it.
Making the rumor's existence the topic is literary bait. A purposeful pose.
All the while, the local homophobic audience was writhing predictably in delicious debate. It sold books.
There are several obvious points about Bayless's Prescott proclamation. First, he has never had a "humble opinion," so this would be his first if he ever were humble.
Second, giving listeners his permission to view him as "cold-blooded and insensitive" is unnecessary flummery. Don't worry. Skip. They already do think that.
And third, it's not as if the National Football League is not rife with personality disorders and psychological quirks - and that's just the owners.
As for Prescott, he responded by suggesting that he believed in transparency and honesty. And seeking help was no admission of weakness.
It was an admission of his humanity. And perhaps suggested that others who felt the same anguish could - and should - seek the same help.
Is this not the testimony and revelation of a leader?
This indeed was a moment of exemplary strength and maturity. And if the Cowboys are anything as noble and resolute as they proclaim themselves to be, they will value him even more.
After all, Prescott showed everyone he was a person to be trusted with hard self-realizations. He did not hide from himself, or anyone else.
"I got the help I needed, and I was very open about it. Emotions can overcome you if you don't do something about it," Prescott told reporters. "Mental health is a huge issue, and it's a real thing in our world right now, especially the world we live in."
He was a grown-up, who acted like one.
As for John Edward "Skip" Bayless II, he owns decades of insufferable arrogance as a sports opinionator beyond the Aikman episode, and often has held and expressed brazenly bizarre views, even back to his days as a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.
We easily forgive all those transgressions because that is the big-money media world we inhabit. Banality reigns, as do bad ideas. But Bayless is paid as a provocateur. And there hardly are any more consistent practitioners of banality than Bayless.
Bayless was merely making a buck the same way he always has - by being insufferable.
But when he shamed Prescott this week, Bayless crossed the invisible Maginot Line into a different land of old men who have stayed too long and grown too little. He's pushing 70.
He has seldom seemed so clearly trapped in the wrong century.
He was not only just a smug know-it-all (aren't we all?), now he was punishing a man's admission of frailty and concern.
He was cleverly lacerating a man for admitting he was wounded, in pain and needed help. He needed understanding. He shared the truth of himself because hiding only gives depression a comfortable place to hide.
That hiding spot is what gives depression its power in our culture.
Prescott had committed the multiple sins of clinical depression, affluence and vulnerability. And worst of all, he had admitted to all three in public.
That honesty does not make Prescott weak, as Bayless suggested.
Prescott showed everyone that there is no good in hiding pain.
That honesty did not make him flawed. It made him a hero.
David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. His most recent piece for us was Why Mocking The Marines At Belleau Wood Is A Blood Libel. You can also check him out at his Theeditor50's blog. He welcomes your comments.
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Posted on Jan 11, 2021