May 20, 2016 -
I started a joke
which started the whole world crying
Little did the Bee Gees know when Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb wrote and released that song on their 1968 album Idea, that former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw would adopt it as his personal theme song in May 2016.
Brokaw, for those who may not know, had the nerve to poke a little fun at the University of Alabama when he delivered the commencement address at the University of Mississippi last weekend. As he spoke to the graduating Rebels, Brokaw joked: “I’m so relieved … If I were speaking at Alabama I’d have to use smaller words and shorter sentences.”
Cue self-righteous freak out from our friends at al.com (and University of Alabama officials).
The news site published multiple stories about Brokaw’s wisecrack, including one where it boasted that Brokaw had been “owned” by responding Tide fans who posted inane and predictable Twitter comments about national championships.
An official response from the University was also highlighted, one which to all but a handful of observers noted wallowed in a distinct lack of a sense of humor. If there were ever a chance for the University to show some humility by responding to a throwaway joke with a good-natured jab in the opposite direction, it was wasted in a self-aggrandizing recitation of test scores.
Yet another story on al.com chronicled the negative response from Tide players to Brokaw’s comments.
Nearly a week after Brokaw’s speech, al.com columnist John Archibald weighed in, positing that the quip exemplified the worst in social decay.
Archibald opined that “hundreds of thousands” of readers were more interested in and focused on Brokaw’s jibe than they were stories of far greater import.
Because the Tom Brokaw joke explains our changing nature as well as anything in the news lately. It explains our farcical politics and refusal to deal with issues of climate change and rising crime, education and drug abuse and every daunting thing that faces us.
Okay. That’s enough. Get over yourselves.
Brokaw made a joke, a small one at that. Society didn’t make the molehill into a mountain. No, al.com did that.
Brokaw made a tiny little throwaway joke intended to amuse his audience. Al.com turned it into an issue.
Archibald’s argument that Brokaw’s joke is the problem is flawed from the start. It’s not the joke that’s the problem. People have been poking fun at others (good natured or not) for as long as there have been people. It’s the overly sensitive and unjustifiably aggrieved reaction to the quip that’s the problem. Why was there such faux outrage? Because in search of cheap clicks, Archibald and al.com worried the non-story like a starving hyena gnawing on a gazelle rib.
Multiple stories and multiple updates on al.com, including Archibald’s own misguided missive, propped up a puff of a story that would have died a natural death seconds after the words escaped Brokaw’s lips (and the Rebel laughter subsided) had al.com not continually fanned the flames.
Contrary to Archibald’s point, it’s not the joke that’s the problem. It’s the full bore, high and mighty wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth that followed. That hypersensitive reaction was nurtured and encouraged by al.com’s continual focus on something so insignificant.
While we can all likely agree that the nation as a whole has become far too focused on the inane, seeking outrage where there should be none, Archibald completely misses the point. No, John, it’s not the joke itself. There’s nothing wrong with the joke. It’s the focus your site brought on it that’s the problem.
But wait just a minute. Why was Brokaw’s joke so offensive in the first place? Aren’t we supposed to laugh at public officials who make comments in jest?
When Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin took to Twitter and took shots at Auburn, why that was the funniest thing ever.
Haw, haw, haw, yuk, yuk yuk! John Talty at al.com told us how hee-freaking-larious Kiffin was with his trolling Tweets.
And that Mark Fox over at Georgia? He’s a regular ding dang comedian! Remember when the Bulldog baseball coach told a crowd at a UGA rally that Kirby Smart was “used to beating Auburn?” Mark Heim over at al.com does. He wrote all about that funny remark.
Oh and baa haa haa, remember that time Obama made an Auburn joke when the Tide went to Washington? Michael Casagrande at al.com sure does. He made sure he highlighted it in a piece he authored in March.
And remember that gut-busting time the Bama fan put a hat on the Bo Jackson statue? al.com snickered. Auburn fans were supposed to giggle along with those all-in-good-fun shenanigans. You know, the same sort of offense that was so egregious when somebody taped a Cam Newton jersey to Bear Bryant’s statue. Remember how that slight helped push Harvey Updyke to destroy cherished landmarks?
Funny. That’s some knee slapping stuff right there.
A joke’s a joke. When it’s blown out of proportion in a misplaced and indignant effort to right a wrong that never really existed as al.com, Archibald and the University itself did? It proves a significant lack of a sense of humor and the absence of a capacity to laugh at yourself. It displays the appearance of being too easily offended and, to be honest, smacks of an entitled sense of arrogance based in insecurity.
Instead of letting people chuckle at Brokaw’s little jab and forget it, al.com’s thin-skinned freak out — a thinness curiously absent when the “jokes’ were at Auburn’s expense — only drew attention and made Alabama and its fans look worse than they did before.
The joke, as it were, is really on them. Again.