I'm not trying to justify what I wrote, and I'm not trying to defend it. All I can do is offer up a heartfelt apology.
After I finished my column, my wife, Amy, sat down and proofread it. When she was done, she said, "Your column's funny, but I wouldn't submit it."
"Why not?" I asked.
"Because it's going to make a lot of people mad."
"What difference does it make?" I said. "Nobody reads my stuff anyway."
"OK," Amy said, “it's your neck."
I shrugged and sent the column on its way.
"You submitted it, didn't you?" Amy asked.
"Yes. It's meant to be funny," I said. "People will get it."
Amy said, "They're not going to get it."
They didn't get it.
Once again, I am not trying to justify or defend what I wrote, and I'm not trying to blame the reader for not understanding my form of humor. I admit that the column was in poor taste, disrespectful and unmerited. For that, I am sorry.
Also, I would like everyone to know that the Tribune editors did not prompt me to write this. My column laid an egg, and I take full responsibility for its failure. This is just a true, sincere apology. I assure you, I didn't intend to offend anyone; I just wanted to get a laugh. I overindulged myself without considering the repercussions of my writing.
I won't repeat any of the names I was called by concerned citizens responding to my column, I'll just say that I'm really not that bad of a guy. If you don't believe me, you can ask my wife. In fact, she's right in the next room — I'll ask her for you.
"Hey, Aim, am I disrespectful to women?"
"Hey, Aim, am I supportive of our kids?"
"Hey, Aim, am I a great lover?"
"Hey, Aim, can you hear me in there?"
See, I told you I wasn't such a bad guy. With that out of the way, I'd like to share what I learned from this experience.
First, I should always listen to my wife. Amy is the voice of reason in our household and she loves to say, "I told you so." The other day, we were playing a board game with my father-in-law. I made a move that blocked her next move. "Jackass!" she said. "That's what they call you in the paper. If you had listened to me, they wouldn't be calling you that."
Believe me, I'm never going to hear the end of this.
Secondly, I learned that people really do read my stuff. In the 13-odd years of writing for the Tribune, I've only received five letters in the op/ed section of the paper condemning or praising my column. That amounts to 0.38 per year. Last month, I received four comments, which almost matches the total from the previous 156 columns.
Thirdly, I learned that some subject matter is never funny no matter how it's packaged. I was wrong to lump all girls, all sports, at all levels into the same category. I know there are some strong, competitive, dedicated and hard-working young women in every sport. Certainly, there are some sports that are more exciting from a spectator perspective than others, but the sport is no less challenging, and the participants are no less skilled than any more spectator-friendly sport.
In addition, I know that as young athletes practice, compete and mature, they become more competitive, and the games become more intense and interesting to watch. Nobody, not even myself, can expect an eighth-grade volleyball game to be as exciting as an Olympic finals match.
Fourthly, I learned that when you make a mistake, admit it and move on. The TV sitcom "Seinfeld" was based on the opposite premise. Jerry Seinfeld and his cronies were always making mistakes, then they would engross themselves in complex scenarios to either conceal the misstep, undo it, or pass blame onto someone else. All of the backtracking the Seinfeld crew did just made them look foolish, which was the point of the show, and was the very thing that gave it its humor.
Whenever I watched "Seinfeld,” I would think, "Why don't they just fess up? It would be so much easier." I guess that would have made for a boring TV show. Nonetheless, I'm fessing up to my lapse in judgment even if it makes for a boring column.
I'd like to apologize to all the female athletes that try out for sports, practice hard, play hard and are genuinely trying to improve their game. There is nothing boring about that.
I'd also like to apologize to all the parents that make sure their daughters get to practices, travel great distances and give up their time to ferociously support their child's athletic pursuits.
Most of all, I apologize to the coaches of young athletes who teach, train, encourage and support our community’s fledgling athletes. I know sometimes this can be a frustrating and unrewarding task. However, I can assure you that you are making a difference by teaching our kids discipline, teamwork, sportsmanship, the thrill of success, the disappointment of failure, and the ability to handle both winning and losing with dignity.
I'd also like to say I'm sorry to the Tribune editors who have entrusted me with the freedom and flexibility to write about whatever I want. I hope I didn't break that trust. I've always enjoyed being a community columnist, and I consider it a privilege to write for the Grand Haven area and I hope to continue for a long time to come.
In my column, I've never tried to portray myself as anything more than what I am — a semi-educated butcher with a lower-middle-class upbringing. I don't do any research except when I want to correctly spell Shemp, Zeppo or Bluto. I don't follow any strict rules of journalism. In fact, until a few weeks ago, I didn't even know there were strict rules of journalism. In fact, until a few weeks ago, I didn't even know I was a journalist.
I've always striven to give an upbeat, lighthearted and somewhat unique perspective on domestic life. I've shied away from controversial and negative topics because I think there's too much negativity spewing into our lives already. I know it may sound corny, but through my column I've always tried to spread a little sunshine, put a smile on someone's face, and make someone forget about all that negativity, even if it's just for a few minutes.
I'm disappointed in myself that I wrote a column that elicited anger, hostility and negativism. I have no excuse.
I'd like to end this month's column with a sports analogy. In the 1987 AFC Championship game between the Denver Broncos and the Cleveland Browns, the Broncos were leading 38-31 with only a minute remaining.
Near the Broncos end zone, Earnest Byner, running back for the Browns, took a handoff from quarterback Bernie Kosar and charged toward the goal line for what looked like a certain game-tying touchdown. On the 3-yard line, Broncos defender Jeremiah Castille stripped the ball from Byner and the Broncos pounced on it, sending the Broncos to Super Bowl XXI.
The play is now simply known as "The Fumble.” Byner had a stellar 14-year NFL career with four different teams. He amassed 13,442 all-purpose yards and scored 72 times. Byner was selected to two Pro Bowls, and helped the Washington Redskins win Super Bowl XXVI. But all anybody ever remembers about Earnest Byner is "The Fumble.”
I hope I'm not remembered for "The Column.” I want to be remembered for making people smile, laugh and for spreading a little positive in a world surrounded by negative. I want to be remembered for the times I scored and helped my team win. Please don't remember me by "The Fumble.”
— By Grant Berry, a humbled Tribune community columnist