Thursday, January 24, 2008

Many a Truth Said in Jest: ESPN's Jacobson Strikes a Blow for Anti-Catholics Everywhere

"F**k Notre Dame." "F**k Touchdown Jesus." "F**k Jesus." And with those words, uttered under the influence of tongue- and mind-loosening alcohol, ESPN’s Dana Jacobson has helped to expose the longstanding—but long ignored—American bigotry against Roman Catholics.

Jacobson’s recent drunken tirade at an ESPN roast for the overly ambitious and minimally talented duo of Greenberg and Golic confirms what I’ve suspected for years: that anti-Catholicism is the last unaddressed bigotry in this country.

Blacks? Got ya covered. Decades of attention to righting the wrongs. Jews? Yep, the Holocaust and the evils of anti-Semitism have been drilled into our heads. (PBS programming continues to pile that on, too.) Asians and Hispanics have their advocacy groups. Heck, even Arabs have attempted to combat negative stereotyping pretty actively, and with some success, in the post-9/11 world. With the rise of presidential contender Mitt Romney, there’s been a more open approach to the acceptance of Mormonism. Other examples abound.

Whether it’s an ethnic thing or a religious thing, America and its media always like to jump on the latest bandwagon and show what openness is all about. It’s the American way, after all. We are a melting pot, and we’re all supposed to espouse liberal attitudes about color, creed and nation of origin.

But if you’re an American Catholic, you’re supposed to turn the other cheek, while media hammer on—always with impunity—against the priesthood, the Pope, the church’s supposed “millions of dollars,” its stand against abortion and its male-dominated hierarchy.

Catholics get the short end of the apologist stick. They can’t cry virulent racism like blacks or Jews. At the same time, they remain a bit of a curiosity to America’s millions of Protestants, especially in the South, where Baptists and evangelicals still harbor a lingering suspicion of Catholic practices and beliefs. To narrow minds, if you’re not a black or a Jew, but you’re not in church on Sunday listening to hellfire and brimstone speechifying and thumping your Bible, then you might be a Catholic and you might be suspect.

There are supposedly about 50 million Catholics in the U.S. Those are big numbers, but many Catholics’ regular practice in the faith waxes and wanes. They don’t always go to church on Sunday, and they don’t always drop money into the collection basket. They tend to struggle with the papal stand on many social issues as well, and this has strained their commitment to a church they wish were more “understanding” of human frailty. To be a Catholic is often a work-in-progess type of thing. I know, because I am one.

Yet I would argue that that is the faith’s very strength: its pledge to forgiveness, its mode of penitence, and its willingness to accept its black sheep back into the fold. Disagree with the church’s stand on social issues if you will, but you can’t say that the faith isn’t consistent. If you want a faith that turns a blind eye to abortion or that allows women as priests, then by all means go seek out such an organization. But don’t rag on the Catholic church. They’re doing their thing the best way they know how. They also do what a lot of other groups don’t: commit millions of dollars and (wo)man-hours to ministering to the sick and poor worldwide. So stick that in your vodka bottle, Dana Jacobson.

Jacobson, 36, a Jew from upper-crust Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and a grad of the University of Michigan, has been with ESPN since 2002, having joined the ever-increasing fraternity of fellow non-jock Jews, male and female, who fairly dominate the sports giant’s anchor and reporting duties (except for the jocks themselves, of course). Her vile remarks put me in mind that, shortly after the college football season ended, Tony Kornheiser, another Jew, made a negative comment on “PTI” about Notre Dame football. In sum, Kornheiser doesn’t like Notre Dame and he was glad to see them doing so poorly on the field. So what’s with Jews and Notre Dame? (Honestly, just wonderin’.)

According to the Chicago Tribune, Jacobson was suspended one week for her outburst. The Notre Dame response? University spokesperson Dennis Brown was quoted thusly: "While we in no way condone Ms. Jacobson's comments, we're aware of the circumstances in which they occurred, and, in the interest of forgiveness, trust that she and ESPN have addressed the matter in an appropriate way."

No, I don’t think so, Dennis. Sometimes turning the other cheek is a crock. Sometimes forgiveness is not in order. A one-week suspension is outlandishly lenient. Jacobson should be fired. Public drunkenness and an attack on a major world religion have gotten her less a slap on the wrist than the one Kelly Tilghman received recently for her “lynching” remark re: Tiger Woods.

Should the punishment not fit the crime? Let's say a Catholic reporter for ESPN got drunk and proclaimed in public, "F**k Jews. F**k the B'nai B'rith. F**k Moses and his clan." You think he'd last a day more on the job?

It’s funny how we tend to forgive those who say things when they’re drunk. We acknowledge always the altered behavior. But there’s another property about alcohol that can’t be undervalued here: that it often causes a person to reveal their deepest held beliefs and innermost mind-set.

Dana Jacobson, you've offended me. Have a nice day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

well said