We didn't want to post about LeBron James(notes) calling a reporter's question "retarded" Sunday, because I wasn't about to let loose on a major website railing at him for something we thought he said. And now that it's Monday, and James has put his foot in his mouth again by all but confirming his use of the word on a nationally televised press conference (shown on two cable channels live), we can now safely rail at James for acting like a dummy, here.
Here's James' "defense" of using the word, one that we all could have guessed at a day before he actually went on record:
"I didn't understand the question," James said. "It is definitely blown out of proportion. I don't think Dwyane is a dirty player. It's the same as … I don't think that is a great question. I think that's a stupid question. I don't know why someone would even ask that question."
We know you thought it was a stupid question. It probably was a stupid question. But why not use a word like "stupid," to describe it, instead of a word that a large segment of the population (to put it at its absolute mildest) doesn't care for?
It's as simple as this, LeBron James, and everyone else who clings to using that word like it actually means something to them -- people who have developmental disabilities have kindly asked that we stop saying the word, so let's stop saying the word. What's so hard about that?
If your buddy Glen asked you to stop bringing up the mall out by the frontage road, because that's where he met the girlfriend that just dumped him, or if he begged you to not bring up the Red Sox until pitchers and catchers report because he's sick of the way they went out against the Angels in October, you'd do right by Glen. Those two subjects wouldn't come up every day, but they would come up every so often, and you'd make a point not to use those words. Because you're not a jerk.
Well, the people who have developmental disabilities are asking us not to use the word. And as someone who spent two-thirds of his life using the word liberally to describe everything from the song "Counting Blue Cars" by Dishwalla to the trade that sent Sedale Threatt to Seattle for Sam Vincent, shockingly I've managed to stop using the word. And if a dolt like me can, what's everyone else's excuse?
"Idiotic," "moronic," "dense," "stupid," "obtuse," "puerile," "thick," "lame," "daft;" they all work, there, LeBron. To your end, so does the word "retarded." And the word "retarded," unlike other epithets, actually does have a dictionary description that goes along the lines of the words listed above. It's kind of the right word for specific situations, although certainly not the one you used it for.
The difference here is the people who were once legally termed "mentally retarded" really would prefer that you not paint them in a broad stroke that also is used to describe what you think of when Red Lobster tells you that they're behind and it's going to be about 20 minutes before the next batch of cheesy biscuits is finished.
You have about three dozen words that would work in that situation, LeBron. Why pick the one that hurts people?