Friday, September 24, 2010

Hey, Look at Me!

Jesus said to them, “You are those who want to make yourselves look good in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.”
Luke 16:15

I think I was in Junior High I heard this totally wonderful Bill Cosby record. And, yes, it was a record, and I probably still have it, although our record player ceased to work some time in the previous millennium. It might have been the same record that had the famous “Noah” routine. But that’s not the monologue I’m remembering now.

This one was about a speech by the High School football coach about what to do if they were injured on the field. The most critical thing, for the coach, was that no matter how badly they were hurt; there were certain parts of their bodies that they must not touch. At least on game day with hundreds of parents and children and young girls in the stands watching.

It was hilarious.

I’m guessing that Jonathon Papelbon has never heard that (or any?) Bill Cosby routine. In any case, he did not take it to heart.

Earlier this season, when the Red Sox were still in the pennant race, Papelbon blew a save against the Yankees and gave up a home run to Alex Rodriguez. That was bad enough, but I was surprised to see that as he turned around to follow the flight of the ball, he grabbed himself where Bill Cosby’s coach said an athlete shouldn’t touch.


I assumed that this was a behavior reserved for either A-Rod or the Yankees or (worst case) home runs. I forgot about it. The truth is that because I go to bed early, I don’t that often see the end of a game. By the time Papelbon comes in to close a game, I am either asleep or listening on the radio.

But I saw him this week and it’s possible this grabbing routine takes place after every hit. I haven’t checked the tapes, but this has not been a good year for Pap and there would have been a lot of that. As long as he was striking out people, it was all good. When he strikes someone out, he just pumps his fist.

I do not wish to speak ill of the dead, but people who study popular culture much more assiduously than I do say that it can all be traced to Michael Jackson. Great singer. Loved the Moon Walk. But he was a strange dude. Is this his legacy?

You may ask who cares. Does it make any difference? And compared to certain song lyrics and music videos, it's pretty tame.

I think it does matter. I am not a prude (at least by clergy standards). I have made a career out of irreverence (again, by clergy standards). And some people think I am a fairly tasteless person. But crude and coarse are not good for our common life.

It is part of a larger tendency to call attention to ourselves, not by achieving something or doing something good and right, but just by calling attention. It’s like celebrities who are famous for being famous.

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