Culture

The Jon Gruden Story: Developed

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I was pilloried in the comment section of my latest column, “Cancelled Raider Coach Must Share Part Of The Blame.”

Many of the responses stung, but that’s the way it goes. If you’re going to play the opinion game on politics and other topical issues you are going to get unpleasantry—to put it mildly—dropped in your lap from time to time

I committed two errors in my piece, and I’m not going to foolishly stand behind them in the wake of developments. My first mistake was not allowing the story to play out a few beats. I wanted to get something out quickly about Jon Gruden’s resignation, wanted it to appear on the day after. If I had waited 48 hours, it would have become clear that Jon Gruden was targeted because somebody wanted him removed. His salty language does not represent some isolated incidence of political incorrectness within the NFL.

If you believe that Gruden’s rhetorical style is an anomaly in pro football, you might think that life on Earth is the only intelligent life in the universe. I didn’t ever believe that, but prematurely jumped on the Gruden-has-to-go bandwagon.

Why? That was my second mistake. I allowed my frustration at having the Raider season disrupted to cloud my analysis. The whole thing initially struck me as a major piss-off, a dire complication in the Raider quest for a playoff berth. The second mistake was my worst mistake, as comments logged onto PJ Media showed.

Thoughtcrime central summed up the consensus take after 48 hours had passed:

The NFL targeted Gruden after going through 650,000 emails in the WFT [Washington Football Team] investigation and making a few of his public. We want to see the rest of the emails they’re hiding so we can know who they’re giving a free pass to.

One thing I noticed while following the story: In the immediate wake of Gruden’s resignation, mainstream sports commentator after sports commentator echoed the essential sentiments expressed in my piece. That was an overwhelming indication of where I had gone wrong.

Ga48 helped flesh out the developments:

The real nugget here is calling Goodell out for what he is. When Goodell or his minions discovered the Gruden comments buried in a Redskins AKA WFT investigation, he very likely caused the info to be leaked to the NYT. They put at least the Gruden/DeMaurice Smith quote out there. Goodell then had his minions threaten Mark Davis on multiple occasions to fire Gruden or else.

But Davis did not immediately fire Gruden, but instead let him coach that Sunday’s game against the Bears (they lost, badly.) On Monday the trove of select emails with Gruden’s rough language was released, leading to the Monday night resignation.

LochGates44 succinctly summed up what most now believe actually happened: “Gruden dared insult comrade Goodell.”

Splash Daddy laid it on the line (Note: these are partial excerpts, the full comments accompany the piece):

Ellis – Another squishy GOPe mouthpiece, rushing to the head of the virtue-signal line, being the smart gamma-boy to explain it all. I feel so enlightened by your rationalization.

I bet Ellis was a diligent hall monitor in 6th grade.

We’re in the middle of a civil war for our nation, one the Left has been winning for over two generations. They take another scalp and your response is “explain” how Gruden made mistakes, said bad words that cause bad feelz, so he had to go.

As a committed Trump supporter and one who believes the 2020 election was stolen, I’m hardly a GOPe’er, though I can see how this particular post would make it seem that way. In my haste to publish and my frustration with the Gruden distraction, there’s no getting around it: I came across sounding like a Republican Karen.

There is one aspect of the piece wherein I am at least not hypocritical, which can be highlighted by the following comment by MADMAX: “Hey Mark, release all of your emails for the last 25 years.”

I could do that without a second thought, Max. My journalism classes through high school and college taught me clearly to never put anything that might be remotely incriminating in writing.

I also 100% stand behind the part of my article where I urge the Raiders to make a determined effort to not let the Gruden ouster derail their season. We’ll see how that develops this Sunday when they visit Mile High Stadium to face a hungry Denver Bronco team coming off two straight losses.

But my histrionic bull about Gruden’s language was rightfully called out, and the comment excerpts here are among the least pejorative. The always-thoughtful Sam Weiss cut to the chase, earning 18 upvotes:

Notwithstanding what I believe is your sincere desire not to condone crude speech, you must share part of the blame for letting another person be Cancelled.
Not to mention the portion of the blame when the Cancellers come for you.

Out of 65 comments (who knows how many “hits?) only one comment, by Keris13, got anywhere close to agreeing with what I had written, albeit with a solid disclaimer that I wish I had written:

This is going to attract flames in this group, but here goes: I bow to no one in despising cancel culture, wokeness, compelled speech, virtue signaling, and all the other things that are rotting our society.

That said, if he worked for me 10 years ago and wrote those emails, I would have fired his a** right then and there. That language and the attitude that leads one to believe that it is sensible to use it, let alone write it down, may have been common in the 1980s-2000s, but it was never appropriate or acceptable, especially from a person in a position of influence or leadership. It was at the best crude and crass, and at the worst damaging to credibility in carrying out the job.

So no sympathy for him at all given the body of offensive language and clearly underlying attitudes – probably not racist, but certainly lacking the filter of professional communication.

One of the hardest comments to absorb came from Kathleen: “Mark Ellis has convinced me to support Coach Gruden with more certainty.”

Ouch.

Based on how the story developed, Gruden should be supported by conservatives, not castigated.

I should have let the story develop for at least 48 hours because in those hours I watched commentary after commentary about the situation. While the mainstream sports media was talking the same panties-in-a-bunch talk that I’d talked about Gruden’s language, riveting details about the situation were also surfacing, details that made clear that Jon Gruden is a cancel-culture sacrificial lamb, and aside from some “offensive language” did nothing wrong. If he deserves to be canceled, then how many others in the NFL who’ve done the same and worse also deserve the scythe wielded by the woke left.

We’re probably never going to find out.

I should not have let my disgruntlement about the story’s impact on the Raider season cause me to sit down, start typing, miss the big picture, and get it wrong.