I was listening to the radio on Wednesday morning and the DJs were talking about something Nick Saban, the head football coach at the University of Alabama, recently said.
Saban held a weekly press conference on Monday, to discuss his team's 21-14 loss to The University of Louisiana at Monroe, only a few days earlier. He was asked how he would get his team to put the loss in the past and focus on facing in-state rival, Auburn University, this weekend.
Yep, Saban had to go there. He had to stick his foot in his mouth.
Foxsports.com reports Saban's response was, "Changes in history usually occur after some kind of catastrophic event ... It may be 9/11, which sort of changed the spirit of America relative to catastrophic events. Pearl Harbor kind of got us ready for World War II, or whatever, and that was a catastrophic event."
I'm dropping my head, and sighing, as I type this.
The comment later provoked a statement from Alabama's football spokesman, Jeff Purington, also reported by Foxsports.com. It reads: "What Coach Saban said did not correlate losing a football game with tragedy; everyone needs to understand that. He was not equating losing football games to those catastrophic events ... The message was that true spirit and unity become evident in the most difficult of times. Those were two tremendous examples that everyone can identify with."
Have you ever seen a public official stick his or her foot in his or her mouth, only to shove it further in with a subsequent, poorly planned explanation? This is what you're currently seeing at Alabama. Saban should have retracted his comment, and apologized, instead of having a spokesman try to legitimize it.
When I think back on all of the people who have said something insensitive over the years, I'm having a hard time thinking of instances where the public figure followed it up by coming out and saying "You know what, I screwed up. I never should have said that, and I'm sorry." Mel Gibson did, come to think of it, after he insulted Jewish people when he was arrested last year for driving under the influence.
I'm not saying it has never happened. I just can't think of any more instances. Well, none that didn't involve someone dying.
It reminds me of an audio clip of Jon Voight, which made its way to radio stations a couple of years ago. It was just sad. Voight was trying to do a shout-out to his grandson, Maddox, who was adopted by Voight's daughter, Angelina Jolie. It was the child's birthday and grandpa just wanted to wish his grandchild a happy birthday. He tried to add an additional greeting to another of Jolie's adopted children, Zahara.
He got the birthday greeting right, but then he got Zahara's name wrong. He called her Shakira, which he struggled to pronounce. Shakira is a singer from Colombia, whose "hips don't lie," according to one of her songs.
He then made things worse for himself by asking for a do-over.
It's not like he was leaving an outgoing message on his answer machine. You get one shot to say the right thing. You can't screw it up. If you do manage to make a mess of it, just admit you screwed up and apologize.
Then, there are botched apologies. These include people saying "I'm sorry if what I did offended anyone ...," which can be translated into, "I'm not sorry I did what I did. I'm only sorry I did it in public, and my career is now over as a result."
At a certain point, the public figure's apology turns into one giant, smoldering train wreck. You find yourself trying to apologize for saying something offensive, but end up saying something equally as offensive in the apology. It's as if the person is saying, "Hello Foot, meet Mouth," and then stuffs the entire leg in.
I just don't think there is any hope for celebrities.
Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.