- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Michael Irvin has issued the obligatory mea culpa after a flat comedic stint that suggested Tony Romo’s athleticism is the product of a black ancestor.

The joke is so old it has gray whiskers on it.

The apology should have covered the worn-out material instead of the perceived racial insult, if an apology of any sort was necessary.

Lots of commentators are upset that Irvin, in effect, had the temerity to say white men can’t jump.

They probably saw the movie. Perhaps they laughed in a few spots.

The rush to be outraged over what amounts to nothing is a growth industry in America.

The talk-show genre has expanded because of our acute sensitivities. The sad go on these shows to whimper and hold hands with the earnest host.

We can’t take a joke that is not even directed at us, the slightest criticism or the aspersion that our mothers wear combat boots.

In this environment, Irvin probably could benefit from a stay at a re-education camp, where he could learn what and what not to say in order to meet the dictates of the thought police.

Shame on him for bringing the locker room to the airwaves.

Shame on him for saying what guys routinely say among themselves.

This is the drill, as you know only too well, whether the attempt at humor is dispensed by Irvin, Fuzzy Zoeller, Tiger Woods or Shaquille O’Neal.

There is a double standard no doubt.

When Zoeller made his fried chicken and collard greens crack after Woods won the Masters in 1997, he soon lost nearly $2 million in endorsements.

That was an excessive reaction of the timid, the same as if Woods had been dropped by companies after making jokes about blacks and lesbians.

Woods was granted more latitude than Zoeller because of his complexion, which was not fair. But then life is not fair, and it is not about to become fair, ever.

The jokesters are in a different company from Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, Al Campanis, Dusty Baker and John Rocker. Each person attempted to be a social scientist of sorts, with no academic credentials and studies to support his unfashionable opinions.

Not that an absence of academic credentials and expertise in a specialized area prevents so many from opining on foreign policy, the environment and Third World debt relief. The distinction is that their uninformed views meet the template of the old media.

Irvin did nothing wrong. He sees a white guy with unusual athletic gifts — usually the province of black athletes — and tried to make light of it.

He meant it as a compliment, which is different only in degrees from the sober-minded political commentators who call Bill Clinton the “first black president.” Theirs is intended as an ultra-sophisticated observation.

Irvin may be a clown, but he is harmless. The same cannot be said of so many of the other clowns on the airwaves. They traffic in subjects far more important than sports and pollute the atmosphere with their politics of personal destruction.

Bush as Hitler is an old one, too.

But there is no outrage there.

The outrage is reserved for an ex-athlete endorsing a quarterback whom he wants to succeed.

Too many of us no longer are serious. Too many of us lack a sense of perspective.

We work ourselves in a lather over the trivial and do not have the slightest reaction to insults and bile that undermine our resolve.

Perhaps you can take that approach if you live in the middle of Nebraska.

The rest of us jammed on the two coasts of America have no such insulation.

Yet we remain oblivious. We refuse to grow up.

An ESPN suit said: “Generalizations about heritage are inappropriate, even in jest, and what Michael said was wrong.”

We are thankful for the education.

And so we promise never to generalize about the heritage of athletes in the speed positions of the NFL.

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