There's a story of an educator, a dedicated man who saw it as his duty to make sure the students under his care went on to lead successful lives. One of the students in his care, is bright, clearly gifted, but prone to truancy. One day the student is again absent from classes. He faces the possibility not only of punishment, but of expulsion, his bright future ruined. The educator sets out to find the student, to prevent him from destoying his life with the willfullness of his immature self-indulgence. He puts aside all his considerable responsibilities and searches for the student. His time is spent being lied to by co-conspirators of the boy, being berated by his gullible parents who are too busy and careless to meet their duties to raising the boy, and attacked by a trained martial atrist. Finally, he is mauled by a vicious guard dog, his career possibly sabotaged, he stands beaten and tattered, broken by the thoughtless actions of a child who cared only for his own momentary pleasure.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. That's a very American sort of axiom. It's a cornerstone of any truly free society. The tricky part, in the age of instantaneous communication, is to remember this one important caveat:
Not everyone's opinion deserves to be given the same weight on every subject.
That's a fact we sometimes tend to overlook, especially when we're reacting to events in real time. You always have to remember that, even as you're watching events unfold, you're subject to the perspective of person holding the camera, or the keyboard, or the microphone. If you want to understand the reality of what you're watching, the narrator is, more often than not, an obstacle to that goal. The prejudices of the storyteller always directs your sympathies. And it's our responsibilty to decide how much of our faith the teller merits.
If you haven't already guessed, the story at the top is from Ferris Bueller's Day Off , as told from the perspective of the principal. As everyone who has ever seen that movie knows, the principal isn't a 'dedicated educator', and he doesn't care about 'saving' Ferris. In the movie we know and love, he's a pompous, glorified clerk, all too willing to abuse his power to force Ferris Bueller to knuckle under. He's threatened by the idea that Bueller can reject the system that he's has empowered him, and still thrive. If Ferris Bueller succeeds, operating outside the principal's sphere of power, then the principal is marginalized, his self-importance and his influence are damaged.
If you haven't already guessed, I'm making an analogy about the media and Jay Cutler, more specifically: the story of Jay Cutler and how he's been portrayed in the press, and how willing we are to embrace that negativity. That's an object lesson, at least in my eyes.
To keep the Hollywood analogy alive, I ask you to consider another story. I think it would make a good picture, or at least a TV 'movie of the week':
It's the story of a young man from a small town. In an age of economic uncertainty, he studies hard and trains harder, and wins a football scholarship to a prestigious university. He's a quarterback, a leader. The university is small, and better known for its academics than its athletic programs. The young man excels, even though his teammates and coaches are not on par with the larger schools they compete against. He breaks records, defying all odds.
He is drafted into the NFL, and he continues to impress. His career looks set, until he's embroiled in a dispute with a new head coach, who is a young man eager to make a name for himself and wants to be perceived as the leader of the team. The new coach pushes him out of town, vilifying the quarterback in the process.
The quarterback joins a team that has not had a great player at the position for decades. Two years later, the quarterback has led his team to a conference championship game, overcoming such hardships as a poor offensive line, that has led him to be sacked more than any other quarterback in the league, learning his third offense in as many years, and throwing to receivers who are all still learning their positions.
While he's making all these inroads, his old coach has been exposed as a failure. His decisions and performance with the personnel he chose have led him to be dismissed.
And did I mention the young man has a blood disease that he has to monitor at all times, even while he's playing? The physical nature of the game makes it dangerous to the young man. He could literally die, but it doesn't prevent him from playing and succeeding in the game he loves.
What do you think? Sounds like a classic American tale of heroism, overcoming the odds, fighting and winning against a physical handicap, and incredible odds, right.
What if I told you that the quarterback refused millions of dollars in easy money, refusing to cynically endorse products he didn't care about? It's a standard practice, a perk of the position he's achieved. But he turns his back on it, preferring to use his time to improve his job performance.
Those are only the facts about Jay Cutler. With a little spin, he could sound like Rocky or Dirty Harry or a thousand other movie 'rebels' who disdain authority and accepted behavior, getting the job done on his own terms, and not answering to anyone. And everyone would love him
So how can Jay Cutler be so disliked? Because the 'authority' he refuses to answer to are the people who wrote his story for the viewing public. The pompous, glorified clerks of the media, who saw that Jay Cutler was succeeding without their stamp of approval, decided to tell you he's the bad guy.
Jay Cutler doesn't like the media. That's pretty obvious. He's never hidden his disdain for answering simplified questions, so the media can produce simplified reports on what he does for a living. He genuinely seems to dislike the attention.
No wonder Deion Sanders can't relate to him.
But maybe it's just as true to say, no wonder so few of us can relate to Jay Cutler. Our society seems to labor under the notion, that if a camera is pointing at you, or a microphone is thrust at you, that you are obligated to respond.
Television and the internet are overrun with people who will perform acts that are embarrassing, or grotesque, or just plain stupid, just because someone leveled a camera at them. We're bombarded with images of girls going wild, of children skateboarding off the roofs of buildings, of overweight people being ridiculed by trainers, of people with self-esteem so damaged that they'll agree to have their bodies surgically altered on camera, as entertainment.
We have people with little or no education, boldly offering their opinions on the financial future of 330 million people. As a society we no longer seem to understand that you don't have to perform for the camera. Have cameras become so ubiquitous in our lives, that someone who doesn't want to smile, or speak, or do tricks for the general public seems wrong, or bad somehow?
The truth is not that Jay Cutler is is pouty, or a bad person. He's also not Rudy, or Rambo. The truth is somewhere in between, and almost certainly not as interesting. But if you look objectively at his accomplishments, you can't in good conscience call Jay Cutler a poor leader, or quarterback. The facts prove that he is gifted at his work.
And unless you have a job where you're hit as often as Cutler has been in the last two years and you still don't flinch, then you can't call him soft either.
Everyone has the right to say whatever he or she feels. But each individual also has the right to not say anything at all. You have a responsibility to yourself to decide what's true.