Saturday, February 21, 2009


Okay, is it just me, or does it seem like there have been an inordinate number of public apologies lately? From Michael Phelps apologizing for his regrettable behavior to the apparently psychopathic actor Christian Bale apologizing for a fully unacceptable rant at a co-worker, everybody’s on their knees apologizing to the masses. If we consider an apology a statement of one part regret and one part remorse, there is plenty to go around right now. What the hell is going on? Really.

I think this current wave of apologies began when Britain’s rusty-haired Prince Harry referred to his colleague Ahmed Raza Khan as "our little Paki friend". Of course within hours the international media hounds were salivating over the slur, and as is always the pattern with these things, the sometimes indelicate 25-year-old rogue royal told the world how sorry he was. Of course when sorry is not enough, there is always rehab. Or, in Harry’s case, the army has declared that Harry must subject himself to “equality and diversity” training. This, just as British comedian Stephen K. Amos came forward claiming that when he and Harry met at Prince Charles’ 60th birthday party, Harry said, “You don’t sound like a black chap.” Listen, all of this dulls by comparison to the Nazi costume the Prince wore a couple of years back. Harry is so, so sorry. He’s just so sorry. Really.

Aren’t apologies just the product of lazy behavior? I mean come on. Michael Phelps smokes pot from a bong and somebody at the party captures the moment photographically. In the time it would take Prince Harry to offend a whole ethnic group, Phelps is in every newspaper and on every web site from Vegas to Vienna. So, of course, he apologizes. Especially to China. Watch this video apology to the Chinese:

Again, maybe it’s just me, but….do his eyes look funny in that video? Call me a cynic, but could it be that Michael’s lucrative contract with Mazda, which includes a huge TV ad campaign in China, may have precipitated this apology? I’m just sayin’.

High profile guys, when caught in the act – any sort of anti-social act – usually shelve self-respect and just beg for public mercy. Dignity be damned, prostrating themselves seems preferable somehow. A lot of times it works, too. Phelps is getting off with a slap on the wrist. The sensitivity chip missing in Prince Harry is about to be implanted through sensitivity sessions. We’ll see. But what do we do about whack jobs like Christian Bale, the actor who went ballistic when a lighting director stepped into his frame of vision as he performed a key scene in a movie? Bale stepped way out of the societal norm circle. If you’re one of the six people who hasn’t heard this rant yet, here it is:

Yes, yes, Bale ultimately apologized. He called himself a “potty mouth.” He basically did the standard prostrate dance. What do we do now? Do we just forget he did that and go back to our fantasy of him being Batman? How much of a pass does a guy get, simply because he represents big box office?

Or even because at one time you could say about him that “He’s got game”? Consider Charles Barkley. I guess he was prophetic in 1993 when he said he felt sports figures should not be considered role models for young people. Fifteen years later in a drunken stupor he was pulled over for drunk driving, when it was discovered he had a woman in the car prepared to perform oral sex. Married and the father of a 20-year-old daughter, he made headlines worldwide. At 46, without a college degree and with a propensity to swell up to 300 pounds, if your whole life has been built around your ability to put a ball through a hoop, I guess you just have to apologize in order to keep the public’s attention. For eight years Barkley has been a TNT sports commentator. If he loses that, what does he really have left? So, he issues a seven plus minute apology, in which he proves once again how narcissistic he really is. He thanks his fellow b-ball homies, and he thanks TNT, and he thanks his fellow commentators, all for supporting him in his drunken moment of need. At no time does he acknowledge that he had a woman in the car who he had just met; at no time does he apologize to his wife or to his daughter. The apology is, instead, laden with the word “I,” and fully self-centered. Oh, brother. Watch this:
The same thing can be said for hip-hop star Chris Brown, who finally uttered a few words of public regret this past week, without once apologizing to his battered girlfriend, pop star Rihanna. Rihanna, who’s been laying low while her swollen, bruised face regained its former beauty, is apparently not Brown’s main concern at the moment. Watch Brown over the next few weeks. I predict there will be public declarations of his need for therapy and the love of his family and his intention to seek pastoral counseling. Anything to restore his sweet guy image – even after he brutally attacked the person he professed to love the most. Say what you will…I’m not buying it.

Nor am I buying the New York Post’s weak public apology about the tasteless cartoon featuring police shooting a chimpanzee. One cop says to the other: “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” I’m not including the cartoon here because it has had more than enough public exposure. You’ve already seen it anyway. But here is all the Post execs could muster up:
Wednesday's Page Six cartoon - caricaturing Monday's police shooting of a chimpanzee in Connecticut - has created considerable controversy. It shows two police officers standing over the chimp's body: "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," one officer says. It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill.
But it has been taken as something else - as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism.This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.
However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past - and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback. To them, no apology is due.
Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon - even as the opportunists seek to make it something else.
Am I missing something here, or do I sense a tad of unapologetic bitterness at the Post? I think so.

Listen, nobody’s perfect, right? But some easy sense of right and wrong would have helped every one of these individuals or entities avoid the need to beg for mercy. Here’s exactly what I think – (and I know how shocked you are that I’m opining): Young Harry of Wales is stretching boyhood to its outer limits, just as Phelps is fully and simply, only 23 years old. Twenty-three year olds often take bong hits, and high profile 23-year-olds don’t yet really know how to be high profile. So in my mind, I’m giving both of them a partial pass here. But Barkley, Bales, and A-Rod (who came forward with his own choked-up apology last week after admitting he used steroids in 2003)? No pass there. Chris Brown? Well, domestic violence cannot be excused by youth. And the New York Post? Well, if that cartoon were going to appear in a U.S. paper, it was probably going to be the Post. They have a long history of questionable editorial judgment.

Can we just all start behaving a little better? Yes We Can.

No comments: