MacBeth on Manhood

Some of the Year 1 boys are studying “MacBeth” this term, and if you’ve read the play, you may recall a particularly interesting and revealing line, when the protagonist urges his colleagues to “quickly put on manly readiness.”

MacBeth suggests that masculinity is like a wardrobe or costume, something essentially exterior that is worn for special occasions. While I don’t buy his thesis, notions of masculinity, manhood, and male identity are some of the most important issues we can grapple with, especially in a boys’ school. After all the implicit and complicated question in every boys’ school is this: What does it mean to be a man?

No one can answer the manhood question for any of us. We can, though, learn a lot by looking at and thinking about the examples that are all around us.

This week two high profile coaches made public mistakes, mistakes that caused them and others a great deal of hardship. I don’t believe that those drawn to coaching are more foolish or less moral than the rest of us, but their foibles are often more visible. This morning I hope we can draw some lessons from them.

First, when the Miami Marlins hired Ozzie Guillen last winter, some thought that the volatile manager, who had worn out his welcome in the Windy City after winning a World Series with the Chicago White Sox in 2005, was brought down to Miami for one simple reason: to help the struggling Marlins sell tickets. After all, the Marlins had just invested in a new stadium and a new name, and it was hoped that Guillen, who is Hispanic and lives in Miami, might be a great ambassador to the Latino and Cuban communities of South Florida.

If you know baseball, you know that Ozzie has a reputation for being somewhat flip with the media, but during an interview last week, he went beyond his normally glib self when he said, “I love Fidel Castro…I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that (expletive) is still there.” (Ok. Nobody ever accused Ozzie of having a poetic bent.)

Now I certainly believe in free speech, and I know that in different parts of the world, there are a variety of opinions on the Cuban Revolution. But I also know that precious and few are the Cuban Americans who see Fidel in a favorable light. Many Cuban Americans were refugees or the children or grandchildren of refugees; some lost everything they had, and others literally risked their lives trying to escape from their native island. During the height of last week’s emotional reaction to Guillen’s gaffe, one Cuban American went so far as to say that in the Cuban community, “Castro is our Hitler.”

Ozzie has since apologized for his remarks, and the Marlins have suspended him for 5 games. There are those who believe that, if fans mount a protest or boycott Marlins’ games, there is a chance that his off hand remark could eventually cost Ozzie his job. While there is free speech, there is also a free market, and it will be interesting to see if Ozzie’s apology works. In the meantime, keep your eyes on Marlin attendance figures. That may be the deciding factor in all of this.

So what does Ozzie teach us? Think before you speak, of course, and consider the sensitivities of your audience. You can say you love Castro in Toledo, in Times Square, and in Toronto. Because almost nobody cares. But if you don’t buy the Wikipedia report that Kim Jong-il shot several holes in one every time he played golf, don’t express that skepticism in Pyongyang. If you thought it was clever that Osama Bin Laden was able to elude authorities for a decade, you might not want to express your admiration in Manhattan. Remember your kindergarten teacher’s advice. “There are things we think and things we say.” As Ozzie now knows, there can be a profound difference between the two.

If you thought Ozzie was foolish, he looks like a member of Mensa compared to Bobby Petrino, who was, up until last week, the remarkably successful coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks. Go, Hogs!

A little background on Mr. Petrino: almost everyone in the know agrees that he is a fabulous coach and something less than a fabulous human being. For example, he signed a lucrative long-term deal with the University of Louisville to coach their football team, and then he turned right around and broke that contract before coaching so much as a single game. He then skipped town to coach the Atlanta Falcons, but when Michael Vick was, as they delicately say, “unavailable to play” in the NFL, Bobby bolted in the middle of the season. He informed his players and coaching staff, by the way, by leaving something like a “Gone fishing” note in the Falcons’ locker room, before sneaking off to Arkansas.

Last week Bobby, who is a 51-year-old father of four, had a serious motorcycle accident. Part of what made it so serious was that riding with him on that bike was 25 year-old Jessica Dorrell. It is as bad as it sounds because Bobby evidently ripped this page right out of the John Edwards’ playbook. Not only was Petrino having an “inappropriate” relationship with a woman 26 year his junior, but he had also hired her as the “development coordinator for the football program,” while lying about all of this to his family and to his boss, before and after the accident.

Not surprisingly, Petrino was fired last week and in the process lost not only his contract but also the 18 million dollar buyout clause that was a part of it. Reports out of Arkansas indicate that Mrs. Petrino, who is the real victim in all of this, has put their house up for sale.

There are almost too many lessons to be learned from this sad, sad case, but the broad theme here is that smart, successful men, especially men in positions of authority, can sometimes do incredibly stupid and immoral things. The root of the issue in Petrino’s case is his profound lack of integrity.

(By the way, sex outside of marriage tends to be a much more divisive political issue in the USA, in part because of our Puritan heritage, and also because many believe that, if someone can cheat on his wife, he can also cheat on just about everyone else. If you are the kind of guy who can cut deals with your conscience, you’ll eventually end up cut up and cut off from everything and everyone who is important to you.)

Last week, when Bobby Petrino was smashed up in that ditch on the side of an Arkansas road, with his motorcycle on one side of him and his mistress on the other, all of this must have instantly become quite clear to him. For just a moment, he might have thought he was in one of those zany “Want to get away” Southwest ads.

I don’t want to bash Bobby or Ozzie. I hope they can recover and heal relationships with their families and communities. And while there is a world of difference between Ozzie’s misspeaking and Bobby’s immorality, together they provide us with 3 takeaways. Before you next “put on manly readiness,” I hope you’ll remember:

One, we need to think before we speak.

Two, we need to know our audience and remember their sensitivities.

Three, we need to honour the promises we make because integrity counts for just about everything. Heraclitus summed this all up 2,500 years ago in 3 words, “Character is destiny.”

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2 Responses to “MacBeth on Manhood”

  1. Jim Power Says:

    Thanks for the note!

    I used my google machine to find information about “The Four Agreements.”

    agreement 1

    Be impeccable with your word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

    agreement 2

    Don’t take anything personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

    agreement 3

    Don’t make assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

    agreement 4

    Always do your best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

  2. UCC Dad Says:

    Great post Jim! The purists may not agree but I love how you relate Shakespeare’s MacBeth to coaches from MLB, NCAA (and NFL) football and throw in a little Fidel Castro to spice it up (I guess it’s Ozzie that added the spice).
    Regarding your message, I remember a book that my mother had in our house. It was about the size of an iPhone and the title was something like ‘The Four Agreements’. I was young and already knew everything so I didn’t read it, but I did open the Table of Contents and the first two chapters/agreements have stayed with me: 1. Be Impeccable with your Word and 2. Don’t take Anything Personally. The latter obviously evolved from the fact that many are unable to practise the former. Most would agree that those two ‘rules’ are indeed great advice that can often be difficult to execute completely and consistently, but well worth the effort.
    It certainly doesn’t seem that integrity is a prerequisite for most politicians these days but hopefully through messages like yours, future leaders will include integrity and carefully chosen words in their ‘wardrobe’ and if we are really fortunate, they will not have to “put on manly readiness” because it is already,always on.

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