Saturday, May 24, 2014

Grumpy, Honest Old Men


I've been following the Donald Sterling bruhaha with a modicum of interest. Here's the story: an ex-lawyer who owns the LA Clippers told his mixed-race mistress to stop cavorting with minorities in public. One way or another, TMZ got a hold of the recording and put it on air. Now, most people want blood, while others argue that what's said behind closed doors isn't of any business to others. I generally agree with the latter opinion, for what it's worth.

The story didn't surprise me as much as the fervor of the response. Sterling has a long and well-documented history of being a bigoted asshole. Why this particular situation stoked people's passions rather than all the discrimination lawsuits that preceded it is a mystery to me, but better late than never. The NBA's response was swift: banned for life from games and the maximum allowable fine, pressure to sell the team. I'm sure the story will continue to drag on, but I've heard all I really care to hear about the subject.

The spectacle has made me think again about filters and when they seem to disappear, though. There are three times in life when people are remarkably honest and open. The first: childhood, of course. My kid wants what he wants, when he wants it, and is more than happy to let you know who's fun, who's fat, and who makes him “furious” (he especially loves this last one). The second: the drunken periods. No need to explain that one.

The third is old age. My dad was the king of impolitic one- to two-liners when he hit his 70s, like “You're my family, not my friends,” and “A lot of people were sad when JFK was killed. Me? I'm glad the %@!#er got shot.” But he's hardly alone. A lot of my friends spend a lot of their time now smoothing over nerves after their dads told their neighbors that they're boring, or after their mom went off on another cashier. “Old age honesty” doesn't get a lot of attention, which is too bad, because it's probably the funniest given that it's peppered with a lifetime of observations and given how we expect seniors to be dignified.

For what it's worth, DAC was nowhere near Dallas in 1963

 

And in the end, that's what I think happened to old Donny S. He doesn't like black people, immigrants, poor people... the list could go on and on, given what you've heard about the guy, and he has to let someone know in some way. He'll play the game PR game for as long as he can, but this won't be the last time he says something dumb because the filters get weaker and weaker. The question I wonder about is what kind of stupid stuff will come out of my mouth as I get older.