Monday, October 15, 2012
Foul mouths and wooden shoes
I swear I'm not foul-mouthed.
But, truth be known, some of my students through the years would likely admit that at certain times, here and there perhaps, a four-letter word or two has been known to find its way out of me and into the public square. Not often, but okay, yes, once in a while. I'm a sinner.
My Ph.D. dissertation was a novel, and when my academic committee surveyed the work, I passed with flying colors--with one memorable criticism: two of the committee members claimed that I wasn't particularly good at swearing. Whether or not that's true, I don't know--it's a judgment about self I'm not particularly adept at making. But if it's true, my parents would be proud. I don't know that I ever heard either of them swear--use profanity, that is. Now and then--but very rarely--a vulgarity. Maybe a tempered shit.
I say that because I think I understand what I read in the Des Moines Register last week, in a story about Tom Mihalovich, a man I've never met, who was--emphasis on was--the football coach at Lincoln High right there in the capital city. Was. The school board fired him, I guess, after he punished some ball player of his who made unsavory remarks about the football team on Facebook. Mostly, that's the way it went.
Punished means the kid having to run and run and run--something some people called abuse, which is not a word any teacher or coach wants anywhere near his resume. Mihalovich got ousted, if I read the story right, even though were tons of folks at that school board meeting singing--even screaming--his praises.
What worked against his cause, apparently, was a report that documented wholesale cussing. Mihalovich was, at least by some accounts, given to significantly foul rants.
But, some argued, "Hey, he's a football coach," the implication being that when you coach football the world issues you a licence to cut loose, football players being real men and everyone knows what real men are like.
As I said, I don't know Tom Mihalovich at all, and I have no opinion on whether or not he should have been fired.
But I got a huge kick out of a comment made by his lawyer, Jeffrey Krausman, who played the free speech card in Mihalovich's defense--to wit, that his client had a right to his own free speech. Krausman insinuated that most coaches have foul mouths, that if Mihalovich went down for a few naughty words, every coach in the state would find their jobs in jeopardy.
Here's his line, directly from the Register story: "At one point, Mihalovich’s attorney, Krausman, addressed the cursing with this line: 'If you fire every coach in Iowa who swears, we will have one coach left -- perhaps the synchronized swimming coach in Pella.'"
What he meant and what the Register reporter understood, along with the whole angry crowd presumably, is that only those priggish Pella people refrain from blue language. I doubt it's true, of course. I'm guessing that right there on the floor of Pella Windows or Vermeer or whatever, one might well hear a four-letter or two or three, if the timing's right and you listen closely.
The shot he playfully took at the mythical Pella swimming coach is, in reality, an ethnic slur. "Whatcha' want anyway?--a bunch of holy roller Dutch Calvinists coaching your kids?"
I can't help but laugh. I'm not from Pella, but I'm part of that ethnic slur, really, being thoroughgoing Dutch Calvinist and, to boot, a sometimes-novelist who was once told by other novelists that I wasn't much good at swearing.
I'm part and parcel of a tribe of people who are apparently known, state-wide, for clean living and clean mouths.
Well, I got news, Mr. Smart-mouth Krausman. If that's the worst you can do, I can live with that. All I have to say is, "Just pardon the clunk of my wooden shoes as they run over you."
I don't want any part of a reputation for self-righteousness, and goodness knows me and my tribe have been blamed for a ton of that, not without cause; but righteousness is no crime.
I say hooray for that mythical Pella synchronized swimming coach. What's more, I bet fielded a great team, dang it.
Oops. Shouldn't have said that.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:33 AM