A few weeks ago, I ran into a work acquaintance at a bocce game.
The conversation quickly turned to our kids because that’s what middle-aged people do at high school sporting events.
“There she is,” I said while pointing at my daughter as she rolled her brown bocce ball toward the little yellow pallino (Italian for bullet).
For those unfamiliar with bocce, the goal is to get your ball as close to the pallino as possible.
“Oh, she’s beautiful,” my friend complimented. “Better get your shotgun ready!”
Now I’ve never been a fan of the phrase “Get your shotgun ready.”
Not just because I dislike guns. Never owned one, never want to own one.
While in the Army, going to the range stunk worse than PRO mask PT.
My problem is the phrase is a lame cliche´. But like all lame cliche´s, it’s also really effective because everyone gets it.
My guess is “Better get your spear” is etched in a cave somewhere because Cro-Magnon Chad was worried about Cro-Magnon Joe getting his paws on his Cro-Magnon daughter, and somebody made a joke about it.
Of course, people have evolved since Cro-Magnon (at least a little), even if human nature hasn’t.
So, now, dads get their guns, and up until last week, the world seemed OK with it.
That is until former NFL place kicker Jay Feely decided to encapsulate the phrase with a picture of him holding a pistol while standing between his daughter and her prom date.
He tweeted the photo with the caption “Wishing my beautiful daughter and her date a great time at prom #BadBoys” and now a lot of people have lost their mind.
Feely certainly wasn’t the first dad to post such a picture. Just Google “Dad holding gun for prom” and you’ll get a ton of images.
Feely, however, seems to be the most famous person to strike that pose, and that seemed to open the flood gates.
“There’s nothing funny about threatening to shoot a high school student” was a popular sentiment among detractors.
Comment threads also included words like “irresponsible” and “out of touch.”
I’d argue the only people “out of touch” are those who are offended. Regardless, the backlash was strong enough that Feely felt compelled to tweet the following apology:
“The prom picture I posted was obviously intended to be a joke. My Daughter has dated her boyfriend for over a year and they knew I was joking.
“I take gun safety seriously (the gun was not loaded and had no clip in) and I did not intend to be insensitive to that important issue.”
When I first heard about the story and apology, I couldn’t help but think how some people stunk worse than a trip to the rifle range.
But then I saw a majority of the comments in the thread agreed with me and my faith in humanity was restored.
Sure, the photo may not have been socially savvy, but at some point people have to stop finding the negative in everything, or everything will become negative.
And it’s not like the backlash will change anything. Dads will still be overprotective, and people will still joke about getting the shotgun.
Unfortunately, now, instead of just being lame, the joke will somehow be construed as offensive, and someone will look at the joke teller like the dad looks at a grimy boy.
Then, to be polite, they’ll probably feel compelled to apologize for a joke that doesn’t need any apology.
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