Author Creates International Incident – Begs Forgiveness

Jun 24, 2010 | Writing

BP Tag

First of all, let me begin by stating to those who may be horrified (my wife) and those who might possibly be delighted (my 8 and 10 year old boys) that this is the last blog (I promise) in which I will ever use the word “booger.”

Even though I am now a fully functioning adult, in a way, it all happened because I was trying to make the Perkins boy laugh. That’s how I see it anyway. At heart, I’m still just a simple smart-aleck trying to be funny for my friends. It’s the same thing that used to get me in trouble when I was twelve years old.

Let me take you back to Easter Sunday morning, 1973. The whole church was on its feet singing from the hymnbook. “Up from the grave He arose!” their voices rang, and from the corner of my mouth, as the congregation sang the next line, I sang along. But I changed the words because Kevin Perkins was standing beside me. He was my best friend and always particularly vulnerable to my humor. I took great pride in forcing his loss of composure, as he—mere putty in my hands—would often dissolve into laughter at the most inappropriate of times.

Now the words to the song were: “Up from the grave He arose! With a mighty triumph o’er His foes!” But what I sang, without a smile or warning, in a voice only loud enough for Kevin to hear, was: “Up from the grave He arose with a mighty booger in His nose.”

Now, give me a break here. I know I am supposed to be a serious author and blogs are important platforms which should be used in a responsible manner. What can I say? I was twelve. Anyway, Kevin almost collapsed, which was my intent, really. When he recovered, his parents were shooting “eye daggers” at him from the choir loft. I, of course, with a look of total innocence on my face, had moved a step away and was continuing to sing my Christian heart out in praise of my Lord and savior as if unaware that my friend was leaning over the pew gasping for air.

Roger Luker, on the other side of Kevin, was just as baffled as I was at Kevin’s sudden loss of control. When we finally sat down and the preacher began to speak, Roger persuaded Kevin to tell him what had been so funny. Immediately, as Kevin had been before him, Roger was overcome.

Wade Steed, sitting with Wanda Webster behind us, leaned over to ask Roger what had happened. When he was informed, Wade quickly jerked his head back, catching Wanda, who had also leaned forward to hear, directly on the nose. Bleeding badly, she was helped out of the auditorium by her mother with as much drama as you can imagine.

I was informed later, after much finger pointing, that none of it would have ever happened if I hadn’t been “trying to make the Perkins boy laugh.”

Flash forward now, if you will, to several days ago and my recent appearance on MSNBC. Within an hour of my attempt to bring some perspective to the oil spill currently devastating the Gulf of Mexico—including the beaches in my very own hometown—message boards across the Internet were jammed with outrage about an innocuous comment I tossed off about my region’s lack of interest in World Cup soccer.

Sheesh. I’m sorry.

The indignation ranged from snide comments written by mothers of nine-year-old soccer enthusiasts to long rants about the lack of sophistication displayed by stupid American sports fans in general.

Again … I’m sorry.

Look … I didn’t say that real sports require “hand/eye coordination”. (And they do. Have you ever heard Bob Costas refer to “foot/eye coordination”?) I never said a sport whose games last forever and often end with a score of 1-0 is boring. (It is.) I only said that most of us are not interested. (And we aren’t!) This is not an opinion, my friends. Simply compare the television ratings of any recent Food Network program to the last big soccer match between anybody and anybody. The sad facts are that more people would much rather watch Giada or Paula or Rachel make salad dressing than sit and hope to God in Heaven above that at some point during the next ten hours somebody can “bend it like Beckham.” Once.

Forgive me for speaking the truth.

Here’s how it happened. Arriving at their beach location about an hour before I was to go on the air, I said hello to the folks with MSNBC from New York. Their set was simple and the crew small, consisting of a producer, a couple of runners, a sound technician, and a cameraman with whom I bonded immediately. He was big and burly and now that I think about it, might have reminded me a little bit of my childhood friend, Kevin.

As I was being fitted with an earpiece in order that I might converse with the anchorperson back in New York, the cameraman was loudly teasing the producer about having watched soccer on television the night before. The sound guy jumped on the producer, too, and never one to miss an opportunity for good-natured ridicule, so did I. It was all in good fun of course and soon, we were on the air.

Now, I don’t know if you have ever tried to have a conversation with a voice in your ear, but it is not easy for me. All I knew that morning is that I would be talking to “Chris”, a person whom I would not be able to see, about the oil spill. “Is Chris a male or female?” I asked the cameraman right before we went live on satellite broadcasting to 139 countries around the world.

No one answered. The red light came on. Chris and I talked about something for a moment. I can’t remember exactly what, but I do remember concentrating to determine whether this was a girl’s voice in my ear or a guy’s. A lady Chris, I quickly decided. And I was off, words bubbling in an unbroken stream from my mouth as I strived to convey a message of hope and perspective to my fellow gulf coast residents.

Then she threw me.

What did I think, Chris asked, about BP honcho Tony Hayward having been photographed enjoying himself on a yacht while we waited in misery for his company to cap the well that continued to pump crude into our backyard?

Now as my wife or any of my close friends will tell you, I don’t watch a lot of news. Most of it makes me scared or mad and I don’t do my best parenting, husbanding, writing, speaking, etc. when I am scared or mad. So I don’t watch. Oil is gushing from a hole BP caused? Let me know when it is capped. Most of the information from the media between the beginning and the end of an event like this is repeated waaaay too much to make me sit and watch. (I am oversimplifying this, I know, but you get the point.)

Anyway, though I remained outwardly calm as Chris talked (watch the clip), my brain was sounding alarms you should have been able to hear at home. Who was on a yacht? My mind scrambled for traction. The BP Bozo was on a yacht? You’ve got to be kidding me. While all this mess is still going on?

As I was endeavoring to make sense of what the anchorwoman was asking and the implications of her question, I glanced at the cameraman (I think you can see me do this on the clip) and he chuckled, while rolling his eyes … at the thought of Tony Hayward on a yacht, I thought. And my point here is that I was no longer thinking about Chris and the interview. In any case, another thing my wife and close friends will tell you is that I am easily distracted.

You see, when I focused (no matter how briefly) on the cameraman, the few cerebral synapses I possess began firing in different directions. I still maintained a mental connection to BP and the oil and my neighbors and the situation at hand. Unfortunately, there was still room in my head for the cameraman, whose laugh and sense of humor I had admired only moments ago. And because of the cameraman, soccer also popped into my mind at that moment.

Therefore, what came out of my mouth was a tragic (to some) analogy between BP’s credibility and the Gulf Coast region’s interest level in World Cup soccer. The cameraman (and the sound guy and the producer) snickered out loud which was music to my sarcastic ears and just like that, the words had been spoken, forgotten, and Chris and I were off to another topic.

It was later, driving home, when I received a call from a friend to inform me that “the internet was blowing up and angry soccer hooligans might soon be paying me a late night visit.”

So that, in a nutshell, is my story. With all the remorse I can muster, please allow me to apologize for my unintended disrespect of Albania and Brazil and Nigeria and all the people from all the countries who will never know the thrill of a National Championship in good old American college football. Roll Tide to them.

Please forgive me. Hey, I know we are in the midst of a tragedy and acknowledge that my focus should have been somewhere other than the delivery of a joke for the cameraman. And somewhere in the recesses of my mind, my mother’s spirit is gently prodding me, making me aware, that really, none of it would have happened if I hadn’t been “trying to make the Perkins boy laugh.”


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