Life is full of labels, both of the good, positive variety that people tend to embrace and even wear like a crown, and the bad, which, conventional wisdom would indicate, people prefer to avoid or rid themselves of.
Which brings us to Troy Aikman.
I like him. I wish he wouldn’t have won three Super Bowls as the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys – largely due to the highway robbery so-called “America’s Team” pulled on Vikings then-general manager Mike Lynn with the infamous Herschel Walker trade – but Aikman seems like a nice guy, he’s a solid NFL broadcast analyst, and I wish I looked like him.
But I can’t help but think slightly less of Aikman every time he shares an NFL broadcast booth with FOX play-by-play man Joe Buck. At the opening of every single broadcast they do together, when the camera fixes on Aikman and Buck in the booth, Buck welcomes viewers, introduces himself, and then introduces “Hall of Famer Troy Aikman.” Invariably, after halftime when it’s time to start the third quarter, Buck offers a quick game recap as he reintroduces himself to viewers, and his “Hall of Fame partner” Troy Aikman.
I don’t think I’m being entirely out of line when I say that if Aikman was a slightly better human being, the moment the game went to its first commercial break after the very first time Buck introduced Aikman, previously enshrined in the National Football League Hall of Fame, as “Hall of Famer Troy Aikman, he would have looked Buck straight in the eye and requested as matter-of-factly as possible, “Please, never again, introduce me as Hall of Famer Troy Aikman. Just call me Troy Aikman.”
And if Aikman was an even better person, if Buck would have subsequently forgot or otherwise disregarded or ignored Aikman’s request, Aikman would proceed to put him in the hospital. “Welcome back everyone, I’m regular dude Troy Aikman and he’s…he’s… wait a minute...where did Joe go? Oh, yeah, Joe Buck’s not here. He’s in intensive care.” (Of course I don’t really mean that, but so many football and baseball fans who watch their favorite sports on television have such an illogical, obsessive hatred for Buck that I thought they might enjoy, as part of their twisted vitriol, a vision of him hospitalized.)
We love to toss around labels, to attach them to just about everyone. We probably don’t apply many labels to ourselves, but we can rest assured that plenty of the people who occupy the world around us and cross our path enough times to generate an impression of us have a label or two reserved just for us. Some might be flattering, of course, and we certainly hope that’s the case, but we can bet many of the labels applied to us would make us feel sad, mad, hurt, or any combination of those three emotions.
If you let yourself think about it for a minute, you’d probably lose your appetite. Or maybe it’s just me, since I work in a profession that makes it unavoidable for me at some point to anger, offend, disappoint or alienate just about everyone, foe or friend. But, no matter who you are or what you do, just think about what the masses who know a thing or two about you, or at least are under the impression that they do, think of first when your name comes up in any random fashion.
“Oh, Mike Christopherson? What a…”
See what I mean? Now I not only lost my appetite, I’m queasy and uncomfortably sweaty.
I know, I’m getting beyond the scope of labels and labeling people and embracing those labels or shunning them. I’ve ventured into opinion territory...what we think of other people, what they think of us, and how those judgments become actual labels. But in Aikman’s case, it’s not like he’s been knighted by the queen; it’s not like he’s Sir Troy Aikman. It’s not like he’s a brain surgeon...Dr. Troy Aikman. “Hall of Famer” is not an official title.
I used to contend that there were only two kinds of people in the world: Those who are terrible at telling stories and those who are amazing story-tellers, like me. But I would never allow anyone to call me an amazing storyteller every time I enter the lexicon of someone’s scene, even though I happen to believe that the ability to spin a good yarn is at least as important as the ability throw a football far and accurately.
Maybe the only two types of people in the world are people who would allow themselves to be called a Hall of Famer every time they’re introduced, and those who would make it clear from the get-go that such an introduction is not acceptable, or at least not necessary.
But when it comes to labels, we’re going to be stuck with at least some of them, good or bad, whether we want to be or not, so we might as well learn to live with them.
“Oh, there’s good husband and dad Mike Christopherson...what a...”
Not only can I live with that, I embrace it.