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The Suburbanite
  • Foul language is not necessary to make point

  • Saying the s-word was no big deal, so we — one of us, anyway — said it when something happened that we didn’t like.

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  • All these years later, it’s still not clear who said it. Was it the older guys on one end of the bench — Dave Kennard, the Kinzel boys, Tom and Tim, or Dave Harvey? Or was it the younger kids at the other end of the bench? If it had been one of the Kinzels, it would have been hard to tell which one, since they were identical twins.
    But this much we know: It was said. You can bet on that.
    There we were, a bunch of 15- and 16-year-olds playing summer baseball back in the days of Nixon’s first term, way before Watergate, when there was still a real innocence to the world, or so we thought. We were full of ourselves. We thought we were cool. We thought we knew everything.
    But we were too young, immature and stupid to realize we were young, immature and stupid.
    So we didn’t think anything about being sloppy with our language. Saying the s-word was no big deal, so we — one of us, anyway — said it when something happened that we didn’t like.
    Our manager, Joe Pisani, spun on his heels and did a 180, his eyes quickly surveying the faces on the bench to see if he could spot the culprit. A former great player back in the day, Pisani was a fiery Italian, and he also was a devout Christian. His faith was as strong as his biceps, so to him, the s-word was indeed a big deal. He wasn’t afraid to confront anyone who dared to say it.
    He stood right in front of us, close enough for him to reach out, grab us by our throats and shake us. But he didn’t do that. Instead, he did something worse.
    He shook up our minds.
    “You know, you guys are all in the National Honor Society. Most of you, anyway,” he said, looking at one of us in particular. “I thought you were smart.
    “But you’re not. You’re stupid. You’re all really stupid — every one of you.”
    Wow. We’re foul-mouthed and stupid? Bad combination. We’ve got no chance when we grow up.
    “Of all the words in the English language you could have used to express yourself, you picked that one,” Pisani said.
    Then he stared even harder at us.
    “Yeah, you’re really stupid,” he said, shaking his head in disgust as he walked away.
    Yeah, stupid, and feeling very small, very ashamed, very embarrassed and very caught. Words mean things, especially the s-word, and especially to Joe Pisani.
    Look, we all say words sometimes we shouldn’t when we’re with friends and family. A local man of the cloth used to tell the story that he said the d-word regularly when he missed a putt while golfing – and he laughed when he said it.
    Page 2 of 2 - But we should all be more careful with our mouths.
    Pisani is no longer with us, but if he were, he’d be pulling his hair out. Actually, he wouldn’t even be doing that, because he had no hair.
    He would actually be beside himself if he heard not the way people have loose lips in their private conversations, but with the way they do so while speaking publicly. It’s no big deal anymore to hear poor language on radio and TV or see it in written material. It’s so common anymore that we’re almost numb to it.
    An NFL head coach started his postgame press conference recently by pointing out, “I wanted to say I’m ticked off by the way we played today. But I’m not going to say that, because actually, I’m (p-word) off.”
    That was on national TV.
    I’m not trying to be a prude here, but what’s the purpose of airing that — without the word bleeped out? Was it cool? No. I agree with Coach Pisani.
    The TV people used to bleep it out, but not so much anymore.
    I was part of a press conference two decades ago when Cleveland Browns head coach Bill Belichick, upset at a line of questioning, used the granddaddy of all bad words — the big, bad one I don’t dare mention here — to display his disgust.
    It was aired that night on ESPN — with the word bleeped out. It may have been the first time “The Worldwide Leader” pushed the envelope that far.
    Now the envelope has been pushed so far past it so many times that you need binoculars to see back to the point of no return from the old days.
    And if you’re offended by seeing that envelope pushed to today’s limits, you’re some old-fashioned nerd who ought to be watching programming on TV Land.
    Really? No, it’s just that Coach Joe made a lasting impression.
    Now, move out of the way, please. You’re blocking my view of Donna Reed.

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