Monday, November 7, 2011
SORRY, MR. SMITH. PERCEPTION IS NOT REALITY
Perception is reality. I must admit, I never heard of that saying until
I was 36 years old. One of my former bosses in television uttered
those three words in a conversation we were having about a show.
I know that I looked at him like he had two heads, three eyes, and
an alien coming out of his mouth. I really thought it was the dumbest
thing I had ever heard. I grew up in a world where reality is reality,
I'm a firm believer in what Bill Parcells often said, "You are what
your record says you are". You might play hard, lose some games
you should've won, but if your record is 6-10, then you stink.
In society today, we get so caught up in perception and style, we
become blind to substance, reality, and the facts. Perception is
reality? Oh, really? Didn't we perceive Tiger Woods to be a loving
father, devoted husband, and a person of strong moral fiber and
integrity? That's what he had us believe, didn't he? Remember those
pictures Tiger sent out of he and his family as if they were the
chosen ones, a portrait of perfection in every area of their lives?
How'd that turn out? As soon as the photographer said, "We're
done", Tiger was making a b-line to Perkins to have a Grand
Slam breakfast and a side order of waitress. Family guy? Devoted
husband? That perception was shattered like glass beneath a
sledgehammer. The reality is, Tiger is a philandering dirt bag,
who couldn't keep his driver in the fairway.
For years, the media had us believing that Joe Paterno and Penn
State embodied the spirit of college athletics. They supposedly
did everything the "right way". Their slogan was "Success with
Honor". After a despicable sex scandal and a cover-up by the
athletic director, the Penn State way of doing things doesn't
look so squeaky clean now, does it? Paterno spent more than
30 years coaching side-by-side with Jerry Sandusky, his former
defenisive coordinator at the center of a scandal that has turned
the smiles in Happy Valley upside down. And Paterno knew
nothing just like Ronald Reagan went dumb on the Iran-Contra
affair and Ruth Madoff was oblivious to her husband raping
the world out of their savings and hard earned money. Yeah, right.
The perception is that Paterno is the right hand man of Jesus Christ.
What's the reality?
Who is responsible for the gulf between perception and reality?
That's easy. The media and the people they choose to deify.
Journalists, broadcasters, and analysts see a guy like Jim Tressel,
formerly of Ohio State, who carefully cultivated his image
and had a scent of "I'm holier than thou" cologne and they'd
tell us he was a man with great character and integrity who
won "the right way." Turns out Tressel was a liar who did
so to try to save the image that he created it.
The media made Rick Pitino out to be a basketball messiah.
Pitino had everybody believing that he won "the right way"
and told us that he was a devout Catholic who went to church
every week. Turns out Pitino wasn't the man we thought he
was. He meets a woman not his wife in a Louisville restaurant,
takes her down to the low post and allegedly gets her pregnant
and pays for her abortion. Nice, Rick, you had us all fooled.
Somehow, Pitino kept his job. I'm not so sure Paterno is going
to be so lucky. Like Pitino, Tressel, and so many others in
the sleazy world of college athletics, Paterno cultivated his
own image. He was perceived to be a man of integrity who frowned
upon other coaches and programs who cheated to get ahead.
He was generous, donating millions to the school to build
a library. He said he cared about all his players. We all bought
into it. But when he saw his former coach turn into a sexual
predator, Paterno looked the other way. Joe Pa knew what
he saw and heard wasn't good. It wasn't good for his image,
his reputation, and his legacy, so he tried to wash his hands
of it. However, this scandal is reality, and the perception
of Paterno has been napalmed for good.