It’s become fashionable among college football fans — especially rivals of Florida State — to make fun of the way Jameis Winston may or may not have said the word “strong” in talking to ESPN about the late-game speechifying he did on the sidelines during the 2014 BCS National Championship Game.
With the SEC Network's SEC Nation in Gainesville today ahead of Florida's clash with Kentucky on Saturday night, one such Florida fan made a sign lampooning Winston's word choice, per Nick de la Torre of Gator Country.
And that fan failed miserably.
Let us count the ways...
First: Jameis Winston is not illiterate. Okay? Can we agree on this?
Second: Making fun of illiteracy ought to really be less about making fun of people perceived to dumb than about cracking bitter jokes at the expense of a broken education system — no one in the United States should be illiterate, I hope we can also agree. This is not one of the latter jokes, and thus it isn’t really funny.
Third: Saying a word incorrectly does not make someone illiterate. People can and do speak languages competently or incompetently without having the functional ability to read.
Fourth: To my ear, Winston didn’t even say “scrong” in the first place. Go listen to the interview again.
Fifth: Making fun of the way someone says a word — especially when the word is understood just fine by the listener — is cheap.
Sixth: Making fun of the way a black American says a word, especially when that word may derive from African-American Vernacular English, is almost always racist, because there’s an inherent bigotry in expecting anyone to speak “perfect” English and some more obvious racism in making fun of how black people talk. (I wrote more about this shortly after the BCS title game.)
Seventh: ”Scrong” is in no way a verb, much less whatever the hell an “informal verb” is. It’s an adjective, just like strong is. If you’re gonna make fun of how someone talks, maybe don’t screw up the joke by casting aspersions on how you write?
Eighth: Taking issue with the way Winston motivated his team to win a national title is taking issue with the way Winston motivated his team to win a national title. You’re making fun of a victory speech by reminding everyone there was a victory to speak about, sir. Brilliant.
Ninth: Matter of fact: Why are you spending a second thinking about Jameis Winston? SEC Nation is on your campus, at your team’s game. Why give FSU the satisfaction of taking up that space in your head?
Tenth, and finally: The kicker here is that the sign itself appears to be signed by Tim Tebow. (That’s his signature.) Tebow may or may not have read the sign — I’d guess he did — but he really ought to know better than to feed into this. And as someone who has publicly acknowledged having dyslexia, he looks weird condoning a joke about “struggles” with words, or trouble reading.
Alligator Army readers and detractors alike note and complain about how I see race in things, and in society, that they don't, and that I do too much in condemning it. And they often have salient points to make, in fairness.
But I do, too. And stuff like this frustrates me, and occasions posts like this, because racism does, and because there's more than enough material available for poking fun at Jameis Winston without dipping into the poisoned inkwell of racism.
Make fun of him stealing crab legs and the fact that people make fun of him for stealing crab legs, like this guy did. Make fun of him saying he needed to be "up here" after the ACC Championship Game, then somehow screwing up the process of buying seafood at Publix badly enough to get cited for it, and make national headlines. Make fun, carefully, of the rotten justice system that has resulted in Winston being investigated for a rape three times — once by Tallahassee police and twice now by Florida State officials — without yet being compelled to talk to anyone about it.
Humor depends on surprise, cleverness, and a willingness to punch up rather than down. This sign fails on all three accounts.
And if you want to make fun of the way you think Jameis Winston said a word because you want to punch down and tell the world you're smarter than he is, but proceed to show the world how dumb you are in the process?
Well, with apologies, I'm gonna make fun of you.