Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Weighing in on McMackin

Hawaii second-year football coach Greg McMackin made national news for all the wrong reasons last week at WAC Media Days when he used a gay slur to describe a cheer done by Notre Dame.

Fresno Bee columnist Matt James ripped the coach in this column, writing:

"... he used a word that is meant to humiliate gay people, to put them in their
place, to let them know they aren't as valuable to the human race as straight
If a gay person died, they wouldn't deserve as much sympathy as
someone else. That's what that word means."
Fair enough. The word McMackin used was a hateful one -- one used to put someone down or hurt someone's feelings. I can only hope he truly realizes why he shouldn't have said what he said.

But it was the use of the word "humiliate" in the column that really got my attention.

As an avid reader of sports stories and columns over the years, and a student of journalism, I've come across far too many stories where hurtful words and phrases have been used to describe people's looks. Is there a double standard to address here?

Take this story as an example. It's another from the Matt James collection (which overall I really enjoy might I add). But this one uses the term "fat" to describe Fresno State baseballer Steve Detwiler as a child:

"Detwiler grew up a fat kid, no other way to say it, short and 40 pounds past
plump. He took a verbal beating every day. Years passed, and the kids at Sun
Valley Elementary in San Rafael never let up.
The couple friends Detwiler did
have picked on him, too. His little sister, Samantha, called him "Bubble Butt"
and, compared to the other names, it was almost cute."
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there another way to say it? While it might not be as colorful to say "overweight," it might be less hurtful than "...a fat kid, no other way to say it, 40 pounds past plump." Reading the story, it sounds obvious Detwiler was affected by the name-calling. Maybe it still hurts him?

Going back to James' column on McMackin, couldn't it be said that "fat" is a term used to humiliate overweight people, put them in their place and let them know they aren't as valuable to the human race as normal weight people?

If so, then why is that terminology acceptable when other terminology is chastised?

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