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Detroit, City Of Short Fuses

Since the National Basketball Association and its unwatchable playoffs only exist in a theoretical world to me, the first I heard about Jimmy Kimmel's Detroit controversy was yesterday when I had on the local sports talk radio station as I was driving home from getting soaked by the local auto-repair shop. (On a related note, if you have any odd jobs that need doing -- repairs around the house, assorted errands about town, people that you need killed -- I'm available for a fair price.) The radio station played the clip of Kimmel mocking Detroit. ("They're going to burn the city of Detroit down if the Pistons win, and it's not worth it.")

Me being the media-savvy guy I am, I figured that this would be one of those stories that gets the locals all-hyped up -- the meaningless kind of trash talk that takes place between cities involved in athletic contests that gets all blown out of proportion and then quickly dies down once cooler heads prevail. You know, like Mayor Bloomberg declaring that Pedro Martinez should have been arrested for assault for throwing at Jorge Posada during last year's baseball playoffs. Has that arrest warrant been issued yet? Didn't think so.

Getting back to this Kimmel thing, at least I was right about the blown out of proportion part.

The radio station then played clips from Detroit news reports about Kimmel's comments, complete with vox populi commentary. And if you were to base your knowledge of this entire incident solely on these man-on-the-street interviews, you would have concluded that Kimmel A) poisoned the water supply; B) sabotaged Detroit's infrastructure; C) undermined the local economy: or D) called for the systematic slaughter of Detroit's civic leaders and most of their constituents, instead of making an ill-advised wisecrack.

Here's an actual quote from Andrea Parquet-Taylor, who is the news director of the ABC affiliate and not, as you might suspect after reading what she has to say, some sort of lunatic:

âWe are pretty livid about the entire situation. [Station manager] Grace [Gilchrist] gave them an earful. We think that there is a lot of discussion about how Jimmy Kimmel has jeopardized his right to have clearance in this community. Totally out of line. We have got probably one of the strongest audience bases in the country for him. An apology is not going to cut it at all. We're not going to accept that from him. He owes this community much more.â

Oh, clearly. After all, Kimmel didn't just do something trivial like rob a bank or destroy a national monument or kill a guy. He told a joke that insulted Detroit residents! Clearly, no apology should can make up for that. He should be driven from the airwaves and barred from ever earning a decent living again and set on fire!

Er. Scratch that last one.

Increasingly, I have come to believe that we live in a nation of pantywaists and mollycoddles, and incidents like this are just more evidence for the file. It used to be that lightweight, not-terribly-original slights like Kimmel's were either laughed off, met with an eye-roll or -- best of all -- utterly ignored by their intended target. These days, every insult, real or perceived, must be met with cries of outrage and calls for vengeance. If we're ever going to advance as a people, we're going to have to start making a serious effort to learn when to let shit go.


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