By Dean Close
It only lasted a couple of seconds, and a decade or two ago, it would have never gotten the attention of anyone who was not involved.
Maybe you heard about it: An unnamed employ of the New York Mets baseball team, one of the people who puts on the baseball-headed costume of the team’s mascot, Mr. Met, was leaving the stadium when a fan apparently said or did something to provoke him. The mascot turned around and gave the fan a one-finger wave that means “I am not particularly fond of you at this moment.”
Unfortunately for Mr. Met, the person he flipped off was recording him on a smart phone. That fan posted the video on Twitter, and soon everyone who cares had seen that video and the Mets were apologizing for that employee’s action and announcing that this particular Mr. Met costume-wearer would no longer be dressing as Mr. Met.
A Mets fan who witnessed the event told the New York Post that the fans had been heckling Mr. Met with cuss words and insults of his mother before his infamous gesture.
But still, if you dress as a MLB mascot, you have to refuse the temptation to answer folly with folly. Not just because as a representative of a baseball team (and an entire city) it’s the smart, mature thing to do — but also because if you don’t, you can be sure your folly will be made quite public.
If you attended a graduation ceremony this past month, it’s quite possible that you heard somebody say, “Dance like nobody is watching.”
Sometimes, that inspirational cliche turns out to be very, very bad advice, because in this age of technology, someone is almost always watching.
Especially if you are a sports team mascot.
“You’re inside an over-sized costume built to grab the attention of every fan in the stadium — especially children. You need to assume all eyes are on you from the moment you emerge from your dressing room until you shut the door behind you again,” wrote AJ Mass in a hilarious, but very wise column for ESPN, entitled “It ain’t easy being a mascot.”
AJ Mass’s advice is also pertinent to politicians. Remember: No matter whom you are addressing, your audience will include people who are not in your fan club.
Remember Bruce Braley? Endorsed by the Des Moines Register and way ahead in the polls against an upstart state senator, Braley was speaking to some friends, and supporters, encouraging them to vote for him (and other Democrats). He referred to Senator Charles Grassley as “a farmer who never went to law school, and never practiced law,” and warned that if Democrats lose the Senate, Grassley would become the chair of the Judiciary Committee. (Braley also bragged about fighting tort reform for 30 years, but discussing the impact of lawyers on legislation impacting lawsuits and the health care is for another day.)
Someone who was not a member of the Braley Fan Club secretly taped the comment, which became the most-played clip in Iowa in 2014. Braley quickly went from “Heir Apparent to Tom Harkin” to “rookie senatorial candidate getting chewed out by Harry Reid.” And as any Iowan paying attention to politics knows, Grassley is now the non-law school attending farmer in charge of the Judiciary Committee.
And it’s not just politicians. Many have lost jobs after saying something stupid on social media — most recently, a sports writer who said on Twitter that he was “uncomfortable” with a Japanese driver winning the Indy 500. He is now an ex-sports writer.
Someone is always watching. And listening. And recording.
And with the inexplicable exception of President Donald J. Trump (and that is another column for another date), almost everyone who says or does something not-so-smart in this social media era ends up paying for it.
So, be careful what you say, and to whom. Always. Watch your words, and your gestures. King David once prayed, “Set a squad of armed soldiers to guard the words coming out of my mouth.”
If David had lived in our age, he may have prayed: Lord help me remember that everyone is armed with a smart phone with a recording device.