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Nothing is sacred anymore

Meredith L. Cohen

I consider myself to be a fairly politically correct chick. I would never call a rustically-inclined person a redneck, a chemically-challenged person an addict or a factually-unencumbered person a moron. However, even I draw the line somewhere.Following his third place finish in last month’s Masters Golf Tournament, Tiger Woods issued an apology for calling himself a “spaz” after a poor putting performance in the final round. A few days after the utterance, Woods’ agent issued a statement on his behalf, saying he “meant nothing derogatory to any person or persons and apologizes for any offense caused.” Apparently the PC police deem “spaz” an inappropriate way of referring to those plagued with physical coordination problems. If that’s truly the case, then most of us should have been sent to the PC prison years ago. Who among us didn’t call klutzy kids spazzes when we were younger? Didn’t everyone place the spaz label squarely on their own shoulders when milk spurted out of their nose while doubled over in a fit of uncontrollable laughter? I’m not 100 percent sure, but I might have dressed as a spaz one year for Halloween when I was a kid. Oops.Nothing is sacred these days. Just a couple of weeks ago, reigning frozen confectionery kings Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield apologized for the offense they may or may not have cast upon international dessert lovers by naming a new ice cream flavor available only in the U.S., “Black and Tan.” Besides being an alcoholic beverage based unscientifically on a pint glass poured with half Guinness Draught, half Harp Lager, it turns out “Black and Tan” was also the nickname of a bloodthirsty British militia group that wreaked havoc during the war of independence in Ireland in the 1920s. A spokesman for the creamery established in Vermont (now owned by the Netherlands-based conglomerate Unilever) begged pardon for unleashing onto the American masses a cream stout ice cream swirled with chocolate ice cream because “any reference to the British Army unit was absolutely unintentional and no ill-will was ever intended.” After all, the company “built on the philosophies of peace and love” vows to show a “a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.” Gag me with a tasting spoon.Another recent PC apology destined to become a classic came from a 78-year-old whose name was splashed on the front page of practically every newspaper worldwide after he accidentally became target practice for Dick Cheney during a quail-hunting expedition. In February, Harry Whittington publicly professed his utter remorse for the trouble faced by the vice president of the United States of America and his family due to Cheney’s poor aim. While Whittington had some troubles of his own – Cheney assailed him with pellets on his face and upper torso (which eventually traveled to a heart muscle, provoking a mild heart attack) – he said he was “deeply sorry” for the VP, who stoically said the day he shot his friend was “one the worst” of his life. Besides, as Whittington explained in a carefully worded statement after being released from the hospital, “accidents happen.”Although most are cringe-worthy, some PC apologies provide pure entertainment. Like when Janet Jackson’s nipple took center stage during Super Bowl XXXVIII. Following the shocking teat display during the half-time show, Jackson begged forgiveness if anyone found the sight of her areola blindingly offensive. MTV, which produced the half-time show broadcast on CBS, absolved itself of any guilt by declaring Jackson’s costume-tearing in the hand of recovering boy-bander Justin Timberlake “unrehearsed, unplanned, completely unintentional and … inconsistent with assurances we had about the content of the performance.” (MTV.com didn’t mind promoting the incident after the fact – the site boasted that “Janet Jackson Got Nasty at the MTV-Produced Super Bowl Halftime Show.”) In a very PC move, CBS “regretted the incident” that surely kept most viewers glued to the channel for longer than the network brass could have hoped considering Jackson’s entirely lip-synched performance with Timberlake. The former ‘N Sync-er issued his own set of sorrys, claiming to have had no idea that grabbing her breast would result in a “wardrobe malfunction,” thereby partially exposing her flesh to 144.4 million viewers worldwide.At least the man famously known as the most trusted one in America has been able to keep a sound perspective in these times of insensitive ice cream names, accidental shootings and differently-abled insulting references. Following Nipplegate at the 2004 Super Bowl, former CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite told the San Francisco Chronicle he was deeply disappointed as a result of the Jackson incident because he was “out making popcorn [when it happened]. I spent a lot of time in the next couple days hoping to see a replay. And then in the replays I didn’t see anything at all of interest.” E-mail questions or comments to meredith_cohen@hotmail.com.


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