Brian Williams, Jackie Robinson West & Life’s Lessons Learned the Hard Way

It’s been quite a week.  First, Brian Williams gets essentially dumped (six months, oh yeah) for embellishing a war story.  Next, the Jackie Robinson West boy’s baseball team, crowned National Champs last summer are dethroned because their team included players who were ineligible based on Little League rules which exclude players living outside of the predefined geographical boundaries established for their Team (and ANY Team for that matter).

So what’s the reaction?  Well, based on his place and status in the media, Williams’ transgression(s) couldn’t be ignored.  When a major Network Anchor jumps a plane to put him/herself into a story, there’s no reasonable rhyme or rational for them to report on anything but the truth of what they’ve experienced.  As much as I like Brian Williams, I have to agree with Jon Stewart’s assessment that professional reporters who become celebrities beyond their field of expertise – which Williams did by his many, many appearances on talk shows, cameos in movies, etc. – can very easily lose their way as they try to switch from ‘report’ to ‘entertain.’

So goodbye and good luck to Brian Williams.  I’m sure he’ll be able to live extraordinarily well during his time off – and for years afterward even if he never worked a day again.

Having said that, I feel like I need to add a perspective from personal experience to the Williams story.

I served in the Vietnam War (’68 – ’69).  During most of that time I worked in an air conditioned office in Danang, RVN, with thousands of other rear echelon troops.  While I was there I became aware of the fact that Danang had a nickname ‘back in the World’ (the U.S.).  It was called ‘Rocket City’ in the media.  At the time I laughed at the name as it made it sound like the U.S. Troops stationed there snuck around in underground bunkers covered with camouflage, in flack jackets, armed to the teeth – all to avoid a torrential rain of enemy 120mm rockets launched at the city.

The truth was that indeed the city underwent fairly regular rocket attacks (several times a month, sometimes more often) but the majority of these were targeting the Danang Airbase, located several miles from where I served.

Admittedly some landed fairly close.  (I can tell you that shrapnel from one of these  sounds like a handful of marbles raining down.  That’s how close some of them came to me.)

On another occasion I was flying in a Huey which developed a mechanical problem just after takeoff, filling the chopper with smoke and resulting in a forced landing from around 50 feet in the air.

There are other stories I could tell you about the times I was really in danger, at least in my opinion, however, the point I want to make about Brian Williams is that he was IN FACT in a dangerous place, wasn’t a trained military man, and certainly was not used to living day to day with that little critter in the back of your mind that reminded you something bad over which you had absolutely no control could occur at any minute.

When his chopper landed in that desert and knowing that an RPG had brought down another bird nearby, Williams no doubt was under a lot of stress if not worse.  And no doubt he bonded with those servicemen surrounding him he considered his protectors.

As for his later embellishment of the event, believe me, I’ve heard far, far worse “Enhanced War Stories” from men who actually served in combat arenas but were no closer to danger than a completely random rocket landing on their head.

It’s these types and those who blatantly engage in the activity called ‘Stolen Valour’ in which complete lies are made up and Combat Medals – up to and including the Medal of Honour – are claimed as earned, that truly deserve censure and  ridicule.

So over time, Williams foolishly embellished his experience.  But I can’t help wonder tho how much the passage of time made the truth fuzzier, the actual danger become more near, and Williams’ recollection morphed into the story as we know it today.  To the point it became his reality.

Now onto the JRW fiasco.  Wow.  Talk about a media failure not to mention a moral failure on the part of the adults involved in this who brought in the ‘ringers’ (as we used to call them when I was playing baseball in my youth in Chicago) to create the kind of talent needed to excel at the National level.

The moral problem speaks for itself.  The Coach and all who had knowledge of the ineligible players should be pilloried for their totally unacceptable behavior.  As a matter of fact, I’m fairly certain some if not most the players involved knew they were going around the rules (i.e., ringers  were playing); however, given their age, it’s difficult to place blame there.  One can only hope they’ve learned a life lesson about the penalties involved with not playing by the rules.  Only time will tell on that one.

Then there’s the accountability of the media.  The firestorm of praise, public appearances, parades, visits to the While House, etc. was the product of a media who blare their own horns to the heavens when they uncover some evil doing somewhere.  Their job is to report the news and as they continually brag, through their own investigative reporting seek out those who do wrong.

So why was it that not one person in the media undertook the simple step of ascertaining the JRW’s team members were legitimate and eligible to play according to the rules?   I’d really like to hear an answer to that one. And why didn’t this occur earlier – like BEFORE the team became National contenders and media stars?

Is it they didn’t want to spoil all the feel good stories filling their air time?  Did they not want to miss the opportunity of standing in front of the mic night after night with crowds of celebrants dancing around in the background?

Who can say?  But I for one want to hear the answer.  I want the media held to account on this one.  And I want that ass hat Pfleger to shut his mouth about how the revelations of foul play are indicative of racism.

What these events have in common is the incompetence and lack of credibility in the crap we’re spoon fed by the media.  They get wars wrong.  And why should that be a surprise?  They can’t even get Little League right.

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