Defining moments

I like words. Words are fun. Words have definitions. Definitions are helpful.

If you have access to a dictionary, or even just a handy mobile device, thousands of definitions of words are at your fingertips. Here's one, from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary (www.merriam-webster.com):

Flaunt: (transitive verb) 1: to display or obtrude oneself to public notice; 2. to wave or flutter showily; (intransitive verb) 1: to display ostentatiously or impudently; 2. to treat contemptuously.

Some would argue that definitions are open to interpretation. So I'll give you a circumstance: Someone, upon receiving monumental, life-changing news, shares the joy of the moment with a loved one - let's say by kissing said loved one. Interpretation? This person is really pumped, and how nice he or she has someone with whom to share that emotion.

Circumstance: The aforementioned someone is a man, a football player, and he's gay. The loved one is his boyfriend. The kiss is captured by television cameras recording the moment the someone, a defensive end and the reigning SEC defensive player of the year out of Missouri named Michael Sam, learned he had been drafted by the St. Louis Rams. 

Interpretation? Well. Let's go back to that definition again. 

"To display or obtrude oneself." I believe the TV cameras were in Sam's house, so he was not doing the obtruding. As for "display," I would hesitate to get too touchy about that word when talking about a league that turns the draft into a three-day wanna-be extravaganza, over-hyping and analyzing every detail leading up to it and forbidding any advance reporting or tweeting of any information uncovered before the head honcho officially starts the dog-and-pony proceedings. 

"To wave or flutter showily." It was a pretty simple kiss, not much fluttering involved (especially since the people involved were, after all, GAY. Wink, wink). "To display ostentatiously or impudently." More definitions are in order: Ostentatiously: Characterized by or given to pretentious or conspicuous show in an attempt to impress others (dictionary.com). The kiss, spontaneous and joyful, was far from pretentious. It was conspicuous because of the presence of the TV cameras, and its motivation is unclear to anyone not involved in it, but impressing others would, in my humble opinion, be far down the list of a young man who had just waited until the seventh round of an interminable process to hear his name called.

"Impudent, or not showing due respect for another person; impertinent?" I think we'll give a young man who just had a Ilifelong dream realized a pass on not pausing to carefully consider whether his actions would offend anyone, or whether he cared one whit.

Which leaves us with "to treat contemptuously." I'm pretty sure a sizable portion of the social media- and twitterverse has a good grasp of that one.

Biased! I hear the cries in response to my definition breakdown, and I'll concede the point. As objective as I and good ole Webster have tried to be, I must confess that I do not think the kiss was Sam "flaunting" his homosexuality, anymore than my posting my wedding pictures on my anniversary was flaunting my heterosexuality. TV cameras have long sought out the pretty, blond profiles of players' significant others (or their hot mothers) in the stands (and, once and most uncomfortably, a famous commentator drooled over one). Cadets at Texas A&M engage in a long-held tradition of PDA when the Aggies score a touchdown. The heroes of huge upsets, after helping their team beat a BCS power in a bowl game, sometimes drop to one knee to propose to their cheerleader girlfriends.

How disgusting! 

What? You don't think so? All those things are more conspicuous than someone kissing his boyfriend in his own home, much showier, in some cases much more pretentious (unless every single one of those cadets have true, mad feelings for the ladies in their clutches). 

See, us heteros get to do that sort of thing all the time. We get to tell Facebook how much we love our husbands or post lovey-dovey pictures or kiss our boyfriends in public so often, with so little notice, that we take that right for granted. 

The whole Kissgate brouhaha reminds me of hearing someone, upset about February being designated black history month, ask when whites get their history month.

Uh, that would be the rest of the calendar, Sherlock.

Back for a minute to those definitions, so readily available on Google. You can Google just about anything, in case you want to double-check your facts, or maybe be sure you have some in the first place. You can, for instance, Google "First Amendment," and the marvelous series of tubes that comprise the Internet will produce the following: "Congress shall makes no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievance."

A lot of fancy words, and a lot of accompanying points. Let's focus on this phrase: "abridging the freedom of speech." Basically, within fire-in-a-theater-reason, you can say what you want. You won't have the secret police come to your house in the middle of the night, threaten your family, and haul you off to jail.

Notice, though, what all those fancy words don't say. In essence: "You can say whatever your inbred, redneck, backwoods, mouth-breathing brain conjures up, and you will not be fired from your job at your privately run company, or face any public repercussions, or have segments of the population get mad at you and refuse to buy your product/patronize your establishment/turn on your stupid TV show."

In other words, freedom of speech is not freedom of consequence from speech.

I'm on record here as saying I do not think Donald Sterling should have been fined for the vile, racist things that crawled from his rancid mouth. But did the NBA, a privately owned and administrated business with which Sterling entered into a contractual agreement granting it express powers governing conduct, have the right to fine him, and to force him to sell the L.A. Clippers? Without question, which Sterling will find out if he carries through with his blustery threats to sue. 

If I, while employed at any of the newspapers I once worked for, wrote about how refreshing it was to see some white players on the basketball court, or rated the bodies of the dance team members, or took to Facebook to declare what a fool my boss was, I would have been fired, and the only right that would have been violated was my right not to be an ass in public.

The connection here is words, and their meanings. Definitions may be open to interpretation (or not), but interpretation cannot bend reality. Opinions are fine, but they are not fact. Arguing that Michael Sam is flaunting his gay relationship, or that Sterling's freedom of speech rights were violated, is an option open to you - if you want to sound like a blithering idiot. 

Which is both my opinion, and a fact.