Mr. Tony! Say it ain’t so!
I thought it was a second-rate, hick-town fan reaction.”Tony Kornheiser, speaking on Pardon the Interruption on August 26th of the fans booing Andrew Luck.
…with this small-town hick mentality…”– Tony Kornheiser, PTI, AUGUST 27TH
I love Mr. Tony’s podcast/radio show, and he’s incredibly well-credentialed, and we are all better for having him and co-host Michael Wilbon on ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption for nearly 20 years. I’ve watched from the very beginning.
But Kornheiser—the same guy who grins and wryly utters “here we go again” when the chorus-boy-bloated bleachers bring the boos back to Philly… or New York… or New Jersey… or even (and maybe especially of late) Kornheiser’s longtime hometown teams of DC—had such a spittle of contempt in his tone when referring to the Indianapolis fans’ boos as a “second-rate hick-town fan reaction” on Monday that it hurt my heart.
I thought about it all night, in fact, and well into the following day until he not only reiterated his point but buried it deeper into the hearts of midwesterners when he dismissively disclaimed the boos as not just hick mentality, but “small-town hick mentality.”
I was at a loss! Really?!? Us?!?!
Don’t you remember Letterman’s mom???
We’re pretty much all like Dorothy!
I do not excuse the booing of Andrew Luck, Mr. Tony. It was classless, but it was no less classless than you pejoratively pronouncing these booing boobs as, by default, small town hicks in your so easily ignored flyover country… even though, it must be noted, you don’t like flying.
The meaning of “flyover country” is obvious. Its origin is a bit more mysterious.
Sure, our outliers don’t always make us proud any more—or less—than yours do you, and the countless think pieces which attempt to justify midwestern marginalization would make your twitter account overflow with snark, faux wit, and more look-how-smart-I-am words like “faux.”
As a general rule, the midwest is filled with kindhearted, self-sufficient, simple folks.
If kindheartedness is a crime, we plead no contest.
If self-sufficiency’s a slight, we take no offense.
And if simplicity’s a snub, we suggest you head back to twitter and your echoic cleverati.
If the folks up I-95 in Philly had done it, Mr. Tony, wouldn’t you have grinned and Wilbon and said quietly, “I’m mean, ya knew they were gonna boo him” with a bit of “those crazy kids” pride?
Visit my town or any of the countless other bright dots from the sky as you fly over them (if you flew), and sure, you’ll find Rednecks, Rubes, and Roughhousers, Heathens, Hicks, and Country Chicks, the Uncultured, Unsophisticated, and Unwelcome in Columbia Country Club there in Chevy Chase (we liked his earlier stuff better, btw). Some of these crazy kids are idiots.
You have those in Maryland and Connecticut and Long Island, too, don’t you? But most… most of these folks are my friends, and you’ve never met—well—any of them.
“…small-town hick mentality…”
You basically hissed the words on Monday and Tuesday, Mr. Tony. In honor of Jaws, I’ll wait while you go check the tape to self-score your FoCR (Flyover Contempt Rating).
Hi. I’m Tim. I grew up in a small town in the Midwest (Gifford, Illinois, to be exact).
There wasn’t anything tony about my public schools or my state university, but I’m not ashamed of them. In fact, I’m proud my teachers and neighbors taught me to believe a few things that are sure to seem quaint to you.
I’m a small-town hick, Mr. Tony, and this is my mentality:
We believe—whether it’s parades, yards, or cars—passion breeds care, not irony.
Foolish and naive, right? Almost cute and quaint if not a little treacly. Drive through our towns and you’ll see lawns meticulously cut and hanging street signs honoring our active duty military or our high school football or volleyball teams. We wash our own cars and trim our own hedges. How simple, right?
We believe in measuring success a little bit differently.
Part of the reason I was so stunned by your obvious contempt, Mr. Tony, is because the Midwest is filled with people who admire you for your iconoclastic worldview.
You’ve always marched to the beat of your own drummer. So do we! We really do relish the little things made cliche by unoriginal country music hit factories, but that’s where most people stop.
Listen to the work and words of John Prine, Margo Price, Jason Isbell, and June Carter Cash. We find peace and joy in life’s little things that don’t translate simply to the twitterverse.
To us, sometimes happiness is our friends, a bug candle, chairs in bags, washers, and a 30 pack of Busch Light.
To you, those are punchlines.
Who are you to imply our joys are somehow less than your own? Whose worldview is any more or less myopic than the other’s?
We believe in the effort.
What broke my heart most there watching and listening to those boos bounce around Lucas Oil Stadium were, in point of fact, how uniquely un-midwestern they were. Early on, we were taught to admire the effort. Results are often out of our control (given our strong belief in teams, God, and the fact that your opponent is matching your effort with his or her own).
I believe out east, you call ‘em lunch bucket types… here, we call them neighbors.
Talent is God-given and always a thing to behold, but effort? You can choose to work harder. Greatness isn’t reserved for a chosen few here in the middle of the middle west. We’re all capable of it.
We all respect you in this sense, Mr. Tony. You walked the beat. You covered the locker rooms. You’ve done the work. You’ve also, as people who do the work do more than anyone, struck out a few times. Like this time.
We believe in manners.
Listen, I get it, and I even love it in small doses. You’ve made a wonderful living and life for yourself by being professionally and eloquently unmannerly (apologies to you and Stephen King for all the adverbs).
Here, we don’t say “please” and “thank you,” because it’s trendy or because it’s muscle memory. We say such things and hold doors and continue waiting for one of your east coast folks to look us in the eye as you walk by because it’s the right thing to do.
We’re all on this big blue ball together, and just because you were well-privately-schooled in which fork to use and we sometimes just think using our fingers is easier, it doesn’t mean you have any inherent right to sneer, jeer, or otherwise dismiss our area code.
We believe in treating everyone the way you’d wish to be treated.
I wonder, Mr. Tony, when you’re not out with members of the media or folks you’re trying to impress how kind you are to servers and bartenders and club attendants. My Dad (the late Richard O. Miles, Vice Archduke of Midwestern Kindness for 80+ years) used to say you learned a lot more about a person by how they treated the person at the front desk than how they treated the person in the President’s office.
That’s not just how I grew up under Vice Archduke Miles, Mr. Tony. That’s how we all grew up.
We believe in deflecting the spotlight from ourselves and shining it on others.
I don’t think it’s any secret, Mr. Tony, that you yourself would easily accept the moniker of “preening schmoe” if shout outs got you a better table at The Palm. Drawing attention to yourself doesn’t necessarily suck for you.
It’s just not what we do. Walter always handed the ball back to the official. So did Barry. It’s what we expected them to do. It’s what they expected of themselves.
We don’t take kindly to “look at me” folks. For so many years as a journalist, Mr. Tony, your work stood out. You didn’t want to be the story. We have such respect for that. And I believe, if given even the slightest chance, you’d find most of us have more in common with you than you think.
We believe in forgiveness and giving folks the benefit of the doubt.
Sorry, Mr. Tony, for being so critical of a person who’s given me so much joy and relief from a busy life through the years. I’m sure live TV can’t be easy and your repeated snarls against small towns and the Midwest were made out of either quick-thinking wrongheadedness or ignorance. To lump us all together like that is no different than us assuming you and those other folks who fly over—or RV through—us to get somewhere that matters are smug, self-centered, small-minded, echo-chambered, incestuous lemmings. We don’t believe these things to be true about you folks, of course, having been touched by the better angels of our nature.
Like I said, thankfully, we don’t feel that way about y’all and would love to meet you and listen and learn as much as say our own peace. Which leads me to…
We believe in looking out for our neighbors… and neighbors can be a long way away in these parts…
Most of us in these necks and woods believe we shouldn’t sit around and wait for the government to fix us. Sure, they serve their purpose, but it’s us—looking out for each other—that’s going to keep this country we all love so much together and growing gracefully. It’s an idea that’s risen and set with the sun day after day after day for almost 250 years.
Please don’t dismiss us because we’re from small towns.
Please don’t believe we are somehow less than because we’re rednecks, hicks, and like bowling alley beer.
Please, Mr. Tony, please: Don’t ever snarl about small towns again without spending more time than it takes to use the john at the convenience store… and to complain about the lack of hand towel stewards.
Sometimes, we dry ours on our jeans. Ain’t none of us died from it yet.
You’ve long been one of my heroes, Mr. Tony, and I’ve laughed-as-intended countless times at Wilbon’s accusations of your east coast bias. This wasn’t that. It was more… or less, I guess.
This one week… this one time… the fans booing Luck weren’t the only ones who were second rate.
Come visit, Mr. Tony, on your next bus ride out to the west coast. I’ll show you not only kindness but wit, wonder, and exceptionalism at every turn. We might be too generally optimistic for you, but before long, hopefully you’ll learn to love us and say “here they go again.”