Looking out over the past week’s ample harvest of celebrity embarrassments, I’m reminded of a line from a former teacher, who would tell us “When the well is empty, there’s nothing to drink. When it is wet, there is. Water, I mean.”
I suppose it goes without saying, English was not his native tongue.
Sure, it lacks the sort of poetry and allegory great, or even good lines muster, but there is a benefit to obviousness — the listener can turn it to mean whatever he darn well likes. To me, it’s a riff on the old “When it rains it pours” motif. What my Russian prof was saying, in his own, ineloquent way, was that when good things are happening, they seem to come in abundance. Bad times feel as though they last forever.
And as a columnist paid to commentate on the faults and folly of people who are generally better and more likable than me, this has been a seriously wet-well week.
First up, we get Lance Armstrong, a national hero of sorts, who took time away from his busy schedule of assuring people he has never taken performance-enhancing drugs to tell Oprah Winfrey and the approximately three other people on the planet who believed him that he had, in fact, taken performance-enhancing drugs and that, as advertised, they did appear to enhance his performance, at least as far as bike riding goes. Anyone who saw the interview will tell you, they did not appear to provide much assistance in terms of his performance as an honest, earnest or in anyway likable human being. Then again, we don’t hand out medals or million dollar endorsement deals for any of that.
Just in time to take some of the heat off Armstrong, we had the Manti Te’o story. The Notre Dame standout who is, by most accounts, actually likable by top athlete standards, helped elevate the term Catfished to transitive verb Valhalla when it was unveiled that he may or may not have been tricked into believing the late, hot girlfriend he had only met online was neither. In the process, the entire over-35 population learned that, among the young and pretty of today, not only is it possible to maintain a serious relationship without ever having met, spoken or seen more than a few Instagram shots of one another, it is happening to a degree that MTV is programmed exclusively with shows dedicated to the trend.
We also discovered MTV is still on the air, and it still has nothing to do with music.
Finally, we polished off the week with Beonce, the one-named singer/celebrity who absolutely nailed the National Anthem during Monday’s Presidential Inauguration Ceremony. A day later, we discovered that she had actually nailed the songs a few days earlier in a recording studio and the performance she gave during the actual event was not-altogether believable act.
Given all that ammunition, you think I’d be happier. After all, the celebs have offered by a series of softballs, and softball is the fat white guy’s sport of choice.
Alas, for the most part it’s all too easy, or tragic, to be considered sport.
The Armstrong story is an obvious cautionary tale about hubris and the Icarian need to soar to dangerous heights. That’s to heavy for this column. The Te’o story is sort of sad and a bit too bewildering for me to tackle with any substance. That leaves Beonce’s lip-syncing story and I’m not sure I can bring myself to make fun of her for it.
As a guy who’s done some singing, I can tell you that performing outside sucks. Outside when it’s cold is even worse. And having to perform the National Anthem in front of a few million people in that cold, that’s a recipe for disaster.
Beonce is a singer blessed with a wonderful instrument and, obviously, a good deal of common sense. Had she gone out there and butchered the Anthem, she would have been beaten up by every pundit and wannabe that ever made the fourth grade chorus. Instead, she showed a genuine respect for the song and what it means, as well as respect for the moment and the audience, and taped a really wonderful version. I not only don’t fault her for doing it, I applaud her. Most singers I know would have let their egos drive the bus and bulled through. She knew better.
So there you have it, three stories with perfect setups for the professional snark, and I can’t bring myself to take my swings.
As my old teacher might have said, a wet well might as well wet not be, if it you cannot drink. Water, I mean.