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April 27, 2010

Big Ben and Disrespecting the Bing

One of the best examples of symbiosis that I'm aware of is the entertainment industry and American culture. The entertainers start off describing culture, and often end up contributing to and defining it. For instance, from The Soprano's we get the phrase "Disrespecting the Bing".

Without restating the entire oeuvre of pathology, in the TV show a mobster is obligated to apologize for egregious behavior (beating to death a woman pregnant with his child, and leaving the body for others to dispose of) but cannot bring himself to broach the toxic topic. Instead he apologizes for a shallow wisp of an irrelevant slight: he has disrespected the implicit protocol of the bar (The Bada-Bing) that they hang around in. He killed the girl, but he apologizes for "disrespecting the Bing".
Bada Bing Ben Roethlisberger

From Slate's Timothy Noah:
... when you say you disrespected the Bing, you are pleading guilty to the lesser offense. ... Whereas {a} pseudoapology is served up to avoid giving in to an unreasonable demand, the "I disrespected the Bing" gambit is served up to avoid pleading guilty to committing a much larger and very real moral transgression.

If I borrow your car and then total it, I disrespect the Bing if all I say afterwards is that I'm sorry I didn't get it back to you as quickly as I'd promised. If I spray-paint an obscenity on the wall of a public school, I disrespect the Bing if I apologize for misspelling it. And so on.

As you can see, the phrase is much subtler than The Godfather's signature mob phrase, "give him an offer he can't refuse." It is also more nihilistic. It suggests that we live in a world where you can get away with a big wrong if you remember to apologize for all the trivial ones.

Let's look at Ben's statement, from the P-G:
"The commissioner's decision to suspend me speaks clearly that more is expected of me," the statement said. "I am accountable for the consequences of my actions. Though I have committed no crime, I regret that I have fallen short of the values instilled in me by my family. I will not appeal the suspension and will comply with what is asked of me -- and more.

"Missing games will be devastating for me. I am sorry to let down my teammates and the entire Steelers fan base. I am disappointed that I have reached this point and will not put myself in this situation again.

"I appreciate the opportunities that I have been given in my life and will make the necessary improvements."
Let's look, again, at what Ben said he was sorry for:
I am sorry to let down my teammates and the entire Steelers fan base.

Wow. Ben didn't do anything terrible; he just let down the fans. That could happen.

Buried in the eighth paragraph are the tawdry details:
Mr. Roethlisberger, 28, was accused by a 20-year-old college student of sexually assaulting her in the bathroom of a nightclub while he was bar-hopping last month in Milledgeville, Ga. The district attorney there, however, announced he would not press charges because there was not enough evidence to prove that a crime was committed.

Accused "by a 20-year-old college student of sexually assaulting her"
Apologized for "letting down the fan base".
First art imitates life, and then life imitates art.

Also: a respectful shoutout to Infinonymous, who writes one heck of a blog.


Bram Reichbaum said...

If I remember correctly, it was Tony who was upset that Ralphie beat to death a sweet innocent exotic dancer -- but realizing that motivation wouldn't hold up with Paulie and the rest of the gang it was HE who trumped up the charge of disrespecting the Bing. Ralphie was unrepentant all the way, yet eventually apologized over the Bing because that's what Tony insisted upon -- even though Silvio, proprietor of the Bing itself, told Tony during a private moment that in the end it wasn't a big deal because "she was a who-ore."

Also: a respectful shoutout to Infinonymous, who writes one heck of a blog.

Doesn't he / she / it though!

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