Lebron James Cursed on TV: Can America Recover?


Lebron James willed his Cleveland Cavaliers down 3 games to 1 in the NBA Finals to come all the way back and be the first team in NBA history to win a championship by that margin. He also gave Cleveland its first professional sports championship in more than half a century. He was resilient. He was magical. He made the angels in heaven cheer.

Then he cursed at the celebration parade in Cleveland. And he made the angels cry. Allegedly. The news media’s sources are a bit unconfirmed when it comes to what God actually cares about.

In researching for this blog post, I developed both the happies and the sads. I was glad to see that there wasn’t a swarm of media outrage over Lebron’s cursing. Scouring the local and national media only bounced back a couple op-ed pieces about it. Sure everybody mentioned the curses, but few condemned him for it. Here in New York the most vocal critic of the 16-minute speech in question was WFAN’s Mike Francesa, who brought it up a number of times over the course of a number of days. (An unhealthy amount of times, basically). His take on it was the most extreme. He said Lebron used the worst curses in the book (he didn’t) and that if the Cavaliers ever wanted to make a DVD retrospective of this past championship run, they’d have to cut the entire speech (they won’t). He called the curses “room clearers,” suggesting that average people would be so put off if they’d heard someone in a room speaking this way that they’d leave. The smallest and most precious victims of all this potty-mouth was…you guessed it…the children. Sniff sniff. There were children in the crowd. Even the elderly! Gasp.

When are we going to get over our obsession with curses and what they actually do and what they actually say, and how insignificant they are on the scale of human depravity? As a general rule I don’t use profanity in my everyday life, and I probably wouldn’t have used it during a nationally televised speech, but then again, I never have (and safe to presume never will) come  back from a 3-1 deficit to win an NBA championship.

Francesa’s reaction reminds me of another time on national television some years ago involving a college football quarterback who pulled off an unbelievable last-second play to upset a heavy favorite in the regular season. The win had cemented a Bowl Game appearance for his team and when he was interviewed by NBC immediately after the game, he exclaimed something along the lines of “I can’t believe we fuckin won!” As if he’d just confessed to a triple homicide, the on-field reporter frantically tossed back to the anchor desk. The male anchor wrapped up the story with the closing line: “A dramatic and incredible victory…marred by that young man’s outburst.”

Marred? Really? How was it marred? If anything the anchor’s commentary marred the moment. And Francesa’s take on Lebron’s sassiness made it seem as though the whole championship might as well have never taken place. Marred by the outburst. Why don’t we literally put our money where our mouth is? If it’s so important to us, how about this: every time someone curses on live television we take $1 million away from the military’s budget. It would be a win-win: athletes would be a lot more hesitant to say these innocence-mauling, children-scarring collection of letters, and it would be an actual mandate on how strongly we care about cursing. But we’d never do that. Because at the end of the day, no one really cares. So can all you program directors and executive producers and news directors and advertising VPs stop making these anchors and commentators clutch their pearls and apologize on behalf of the human race? Pssst! we know it’s not an FCC violation. Your motivation is embarrassingly transparent.  

Aside from the hypocrisy and lip-service, this whole cursing fixation is just weird. I remember listening to Joe Buck talk about how then-Colts coach Tony Dungy never cursed, either on the sideline, or in his private life. Buck told us mooks sitting on our couches a story about the one and only time Dungy cursed: when he was citing the title of a song and said “ass.” Someone immediately remarked to him that he’d just said a curse word and he responded. “Yeah, but you’ll never get me to do that again.”

If the story is made up, it’s corny and insulting to anyone who lives in the real world and has hit their thumb with a hammer. It appeals to no one except a minority Christian extremist element that prefers to believe these Captain America, boy-scout fairy tales. If the story is true, then Tony Dungy is a creep and I wouldn’t want him near my kids. Anyone who is that staunch, that repressed, that publicly disciplined is bound to have a huge back door of vice swinging wide open in their private lives.

As a nation we have been able to fight off a dominant superpower to win the Revolutionary War. We survived another invasion from that same superpower in 1812. We were able to hold it together despite killing one another over the right to own other human beings. We joined and survived two world wars. We learned the word genocide. We managed to come out of a Great Depression. We rebuilt a gorgeous tower after a horrific terrorist attack altered the landscape of New York City. We said goodbye to NBC’s Friends with minimal violence from white people.

But I’m not sure we can weather the excited expletives of a basketball player who will be retiring in about 10 years. It’s a shame too, to see such a great nation brought to its knees because we couldn’t do as good a job as previous generations keeping children completely ignorant of curse words. It’s enough to make me want to curse. But I wouldn’t dare.

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