Keith Olbermann, Derek Jeter, John Thrasher and the Artlessness of Rants
FlaglerLive | September 29, 2014
By Ed H. Moore
This is a first for me, but I am going to include the name Keith Olbermann in a column. I am forced to because riding along the other day, I heard a tape of his comments about why everyone was making such a fuss about Derek Jeter, the New York Yankee star who is retiring after this season.
He was perplexed because after all he is “not the greatest player ever.” Olbermann rants all the time, but for some reason this one struck me. Maybe it is the culmination of all the national and social media rants of late about a certain FSU football player, or maybe the vitriol heaped upon a highly qualified person chosen to lead a state university.
Maybe it is just the tiresome posts on social media where so many people have such strong positions on matters about which they have little background or experience but somehow through the magic of the Internet their opinion matters.
Olbermann rants because it gets attention. He is the guy you love to hate, and he loves to be hated. Others, especially on social media, rant because they now have a vehicle. Not everyone posts rants. Some post thoughtful comments. Sometimes I disagree with them, but the interchange is constructive.
But the vitriolic posters are like Olbermann — seeking attention, highly partisan, and often just so off the mark you wonder if they even read their own prose.
Heck, I am not even much of a Yankee fan now. As a kid I was. Growing up in South Florida meant major league baseball on CBS on Saturdays with Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese as commentators. More often than not, it was the Yankees vs. anybody.
We were allowed to have heroes then. We were allowed to look up to iconic figures, in some part created by the media, but for the most part we created them in our minds, dreaming of being the Mick or Yogi and about making the Bigs ourselves one day.
We don’t have real heroes anymore, something I lament. We know too much about too many people and instead of their stats we know their personal lives, their flaws and their transgressions. We now make celebrities our heroes.
Olbermann knows we are all flawed and by attacking Jeter he is picking at our insecurities. How dare we idolize this man? He isn’t the best! He hasn’t beaten his wife or his child, he hasn’t been arrested, crashed his car under the influence, told stories out of school, you get the picture.
He hasn’t done anything to boost the ratings in a time where we seem to have an insatiable appetite for bad behavior being exposed while we pay little attention to the good things done by so many others.
No, Jeter is not the best. He hasn’t won an MVP award, led the league in hitting or even led his own team in hitting. But he has been great as a shortstop for the Yankees over a distinguished career. He has been high in virtually every category as a player every year and that is what he has been paid to do.
But while doing it, he has shown class. He has led by example and done the best he could with his talents. He has been fun to watch and, by example, given kids someone to admire.
We love to rant about our sports teams and the transgressions of the players. We engage in partisan rhetoric so often about politics that it pervades our every discussion, divides friendships, affects our social lives, and alters our allegiances, even to our favorite universities. When I see people claiming to withdraw support from their university because they didn’t get the pick of the president they wanted, I wonder how deep their allegiance really went.
Presidents are transient. So are students and faculty; yet the institution stands, resistant to our passions, unyielding to our attempts to bend it to the shape we want. Universities are symbols for hope and doorways to opportunity. They will continue to be so, even as we squabble among ourselves.
Olbermann and the recent hubbub at FSU are lessons for me. I need to ignore rants, but listen to and honor the thoughtful, reasoned opinions of those with whom I disagree.
Denigrating others is weak and trivial. In the words of philosopher Bertrand Russell, “The whole problem with the world is that fools are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”
Just as I do with Olbermann, I intend to use the “off” switch more effectively when I hear people ranting about politics, society, education and sports.
Ed Moore is the President of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, a Tallahassee-based association of 31 private, not for profit colleges and universities. He also serves as the Executive Director of the Higher Education Facilities Finance Authority.