Winston Groom, author of the novel 'Forrest Gump', introduced us all to the line of "Stupid Is as Stupid Does". This line may mean different things to different people, but it clearly speaks to the identification of stupid actions. This is not to say that someone who performs a stupid act is therefore a stupid person. Brilliant people make mistakes, stupid mistakes, all the time, and our only hope is that individuals will learn from that particular event and not repeat the stupidity in the future.
The story of Forrest Gump also allowed us to take a look at racism and the historical impact it had on our American culture. The character created by Winston Groom was immersed in real racial events, from school segregation to the KKK to the Black Panthers, and it was those events from the sixties and seventies that help mold the era of political correctness in which we live today.
Bob Griese was recently suspended by ESPN for one game for comments he made in the telecast of the Minnesota-Ohio State game. ESPN was promoting ABC's coverage (both networks are owned by Disney and often times cross-promote each other's programming) of the upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Martinsville. A graphic was shown listing the top five racers of this year's Sprint Cup chase. Fellow analyst Chris Spielman inquired as to the why NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya was not listed, to which Griese quipped, "he's out having a taco."
Griese apologized for the comment following the game and then again during ESPN's College Gameday Scoreboard show later that evening. Various media outlets, mostly blog sites, have ruled Griese's comments as racist. ESPN's decision to suspend Griese for a game can be considered as a necessity so as to show proper disciplinary action towards Griese and avoid any potential racial fallout as a result.
I agree with ESPN's decision to suspend Griese. Not because his comments were racist – they weren't and they were clearly meant in jest – but because they were stupid. When you're an on-air personality and you don't have the presence of mind to refrain from a comment involving race, you deserve to be suspended.
Griese is a Hall of Fame quarterback and is viewed in the context of NFL history as one of the smartest players to play that position. He's the "Thinking Man's" quarterback, and when you think about all-time, smartest QB's to have played in the NFL, his name is definitely in the conversation. That's what makes Griese's comments during the broadcast so incredulous. He knows better. Forget the comical error whereby Montoya is Colombian and not Mexican as the 'taco' comment would imply. That's Bob Griese having a blonde moment. The real stupidity lies in Griese thinking it's okay to joke about anything racial on national television.
We live in an age where political correctness rules all. The only way you're allowed to joke about race is if you're making fun of the minority group to which you belong. I am Hispanic of Mexican and Cuban descent, and I can joke all I want about stealing the rims off your car or being proficient at building makeshift rafts. However, I won't dare joke in public about African-Americans, Asians or any other minority groups; and I'm not even a public figure.
Griese and all sports broadcasters who are hired to do a job of providing analysis and insight to a game or particular matchup need to steer clear of any and all racial pitfalls. Regardless of how funny they think a comment may be, there will always be some watchdog group ready to pounce and make a mountain out of a mole hill comment. Griese's gaffe was not racially insensitive. Rather, it was simply stupid. Forrest Gump was on to something. Let's hope Griese remembers that going forward.
Read Dan LeBatard's column on the same topic.