ESPN commentator Tony Kornheiser has been suspended for two weeks for criticizing a fellow employee’s clothing choices, on his radio show. Full story here.
I think your imagined scenario here is just right, Jim, and is the way things would play out in a civilized society. Instead, Storm and ESPN look sad, weak, and cowardly. Of all the parties involved, Kornheiser comes off the best, in my estimation. He was doing his job, mixing it up and having some fun. This was not exactly Howard Stern territory, after all.
My understanding, Sam, is that ESPN has had some “sexual harassment” issues in the past that has (presumably) cost them quite a bit of money. So it would appear they are overreacting to prevent another lawsuit.
But, you are correct: This is reflective of the sad state of affairs in America’s corporate culture, which is almost universally infantilized, senseless, soul-sucking and detestable.
A much better result — for Kornheiser, ESPN and Storm — would have been if she called in to the show and unleashed a fusillade of insults right back at Mr. Tony, who has a face that was made for radio. She could have made about 1,000 bald jokes, ripped him for blowing the Monday Night Football gig because he’s afraid to fly, and added that Korneiser only wishes he could attract the attention of a hot “cougar” such as herself. It would have been GREAT radio — Kornheiser would then joke about what a loser he is for weeks (or even years) — and Storm would have come off as a powerful, confident woman with a sense of humor who is not afraid to mix it up with the boys. Instead, even if it was not her intention, Storm looks weak — like a whiny tattle-tale for whom even Kornheiser’s apology is not enough satisfaction.
That result helps no one look as good as Storm does in those thigh-high black boots she shows off on the morning SportsCenter about once a week.
It’s astonishing how humorless and skittish corporate American is becoming. Kornheiser was obviously just kidding around, chaffing a fellow employee, and he gets suspended for two weeks. As the L. A. Times writer noted:
“But how many of us, in our work place, could get away with publicly calling out our co-workers’ appearance? Think about it. What if Judy in accounting said that Joe in human resources needed to lose the form-fitting shirt that accentuated his overly-prominent breast area? What if John in the mail room suggested Joan the receptionist needed to quit wearing the tube top because, well, she was too old for it. Hey, it might all be true. But you just can’t say it for public consumption, not if the public is only the 20 people in the cubicles down the row and certainly not if the public are thousands of listeners (are we overly optimistic about how many people listen to Kornheiser’s radio show? Maybe).”
That’s just the problem. People today are so sensitive and prone to run to Mommy in Human Resources that nobody can have normal human failings, or even a normal sense of humor, without risking their job. Then that very protection from criticism and humor further insulates people from criticism, enabling them to become even more sensitive, and on and on into greater absurdity.
Sure, the maxim, that you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you, means that you shouldn’t make snarky public comments about other people’s quirks. But it also means you shouldn’t rat them out to the boss, or allow your boss to suspend them on your behalf. People need to toughen up, but the rules are built to weaken them.
This is absurd. Have you seen the way Hannah Storm dresses on SportsCenter? Dude anchors wear suits. She is alone among female anchors who dresses not “professionally,” but as if she just rushed in from a night club. At the age of 47.
She looks spectacular, of course, so I’m not complaining. But Kornheiser was only stating fact. Crudely, perhaps. And unwisely, in retrospect. But it’s fact.