“Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” We used to teach our children that. But there are words in the English language that are just plain unacceptable. You know them. I know them. Most of us know better than to use them. Some don’t.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper repeatedly shouted one of them in anger, was recorded doing it, and the recording made public just before it went viral. Drunkenness is no excuse here. Cooper will pay the price for this indiscretion with his reputation and quite possibly, his job. His name will be forever linked with it and few, as a result, will care to be linked with him. Cooper is currently in counseling.
It has been 14 years since John Rocker’s brush with infamy. If you know the name, it almost certainly isn’t because he had a six year Major League pitching career and 88 saves. It’s because of a Sports Illustrated article where Rocker, in a single sentence, managed to insult New York City, kids with purple hair, homosexuals, AIDS patients, and single mothers. Rocker later went on to explain that he pretty much hated all foreigners, especially those who don’t speak English. That’s what we remember about John Rocker.
Since grand jury proceedings are supposed to be held secret, let’s just say this is a story I heard. There were these two prison inmates. Female inmates at an area correction institution. One of these women called the other ‘the name’ and an assault occurred. The grand jury was asked to hand down an indictment, which it did by a 22-1 margin. The evidence was pretty clear and the decision warranted. But I had a hard time with it.
Sports teaches you many things. And one of those is while in the heat of battle, you can pretty much say what you want about an opponent’s mother, father, home, college, attire or intelligence, but you can not use the aforementioned words. They represent an open invitation to “throw down.” So my vote in that grand jury room stood alone.
Call it the boomerang effect because in the end Cooper will be hurt far more than anyone he originally sought to offend. He reminded us again that words do hurt, and the damage done lasts longer than that inflicted by most sticks and stones.
Bill Pucko is a career journalist, an award-winning writer and broadcaster. He has worked for more than 30 years in television, radio, and newspapers in Rochester. He is a sports columnist for the Messenger Post Newspapers, co-founded and editor of Bylinesports.com, and producer and host of a high school sports show on WBGT.