As I wrote about yesterday, Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz kind of recalibrated the acceptability scale for the F-word on Saturday when he dropped it in the middle of his brief speech welcoming Bostonians back to baseball in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. Hell, even the FCC wasn't going to deny Big Papi his right to F-bomb freely out of raw emotion.
But context is everything, and just because one man says "fucking" on the air in defiance of terrorism doesn't mean that another man can say "fucking" on the air out of the frustration of mispronouncing a name.
A.J. Clemente found this out the hard way yesterday.
Who the hell is A.J. Clemente? Fair question.
Aside from being a fantastic name in the new game we like to play on my radio show ("Astro or Random Human Being?"), Clemente is an aspiring newscaster with KFYR, the NBC television affiliate in Bismarck, North Dakota, and up until yesterday he was an employed aspiring newscaster.
Billed as "North Dakota's News Leader," and honestly I'm not sure if that slogan is the station's being truthful or if there's even more than one station in Bismarck, KFYR decided that A.J. had toiled long enough behind the scenes at the station and that on Saturday it was time to unleash him on the air, giving him a shot on the Saturday evening news alongside something called a Van Tieu.
How did it go for him? Not well. I can summarize it for you in a couple sentences, or I can Zapruder the video for all of you. Which do you want?
Yeah, I thought so. Let's roll tape....
0:05 -- Before we even get to the actual newscast, we get the tease of the top stories in Bismarck. That bubbly voice you hear promoting the headlines is that of Clemente, and the stories are downright Bismarckian. A headline about a charitable organization for the disabled called "Dreams In Motion" conducting an uplifting event followed by a headline about an avalanche (or as North Dakotans call it, a "terrorist act of snow") killing a bunch of people in Colorado, each promoted with the same exact voice inflection from Clemente. Needless to say, I'm intrigued...
0:15 -- "YOUR NEWS LEADER IN HIGH DEFINITION".....while "high definition" is sort of a given in most parts of the country, apparently it is still a promotable thing in North Dakota.
0:16.13 -- It sounds like someone saying, "GAY...FUCKING....SHIT..."
0:16.87 -- It IS someone saying, "GAY...FUCKING....SHIT..."!!!
0:17 -- Panning to the main studio shot, we see Tieu and Clemente; one is ready to go for the broadcast, the other one is still studying his notes and dog cussing up a storm. Now, as Van tries to recover from the tailspin that Clemente's one-two combo of "fucking" and "shit" sent her into (and not recovering very well, I might add), Clemente is clearly still trying to decipher something on the sheet in front of him, even going through one final "in the brain" rehearsal. Ummmm....A.J., THE SHOW HAS STARTED!!
0:18 -- Come to find out it wasn't "GAY....FUCKING...SHIT...." that A.J. was saying, which is good. Piling a homophobic slur onto this steaming pile of broadcasting dung would have been a horrible thing. Turns out they gave A.J. a story on the London Marathon to report and the winner's name looks like a Kenyan eye chart, so Clemente was frustratedly trying to get it down:
I just want to say that I did not say the word gay, I was trying to pronounce the London Marathon winners name Tsegaye Kebede.
— A.J. Clemente (@ClementeAJ) April 22, 2013
0:28 -- Tieu, just as Clemente is realizing "FUCKING SHIT...THE CAMERAS ARE ON!!" introduces Clemente and implores him to tell the audience a little bit about himself. Clemente then humble brags his way through this decorated masterpiece of a résumé:
"Ummm....thanks, Van....I'm very excited. I graduated from West Virginia University, and I'm used to, um, you know, from being from, in, East Coast..."
See, now, I'm from the East Coast, and I know that sometimes we East Coasters have a reputation for aloofness, if not out-and-out arrogance. A.J. isn't helping dispel that stereotype at all, what with him just walking into backwoods North Dakota and plunking his East Coast heritage and ONLY his East Coast heritage down on the proverbial table as if to say, "Suck on THIS, Bismarck!!"
Thanks for nothing, A.J.!!!
Seriously, in sales, they talk about always having the "elevator sales pitch" in your mental pocket, the sales pitch you'd have if you were alone with a decision maker in an elevator for 30 seconds and you had to sell him or her on your product. Or, if you're looking for work, sell them on yourself, perhaps! Well, I think A.J. just set the bar for "worst elevator sales pitch ever," if for no other reason than that by the time he finished, he and the CEO would still have to travel about 25 or 30 floors to get to the top of the building, and the awkward silence after Clemente's 12-car pileup of a sales pitch would destroy any chances of his closing the deal.
1:00 -- Clemente's story on the London Marathon where he refers to "the bombings" without referring to Boston is the shit frosting on top of this cow pie of a telecast.
So what happened after this? Well, first came the apology. In a Clemente-less newscast later that night, Tieu was once again put out there on the front line, trying to put a coat of touch-up paint on Clemente's mess:
Well, the reference to Clemente not by proper name but by the moniker "one of our employees" was probably a foreshadowing of where this was all going, and come Monday "one of their employees" was no longer an applicable label, as Clemente was cut loose:
Unfortunately KFYRTV has decided to let me go. Thank you to them and everyone in ND for the opportunity and everyone for the support.
— A.J. Clemente (@ClementeAJ) April 22, 2013
To be completely fair and exit "snark mode" for a moment, I do have great admiration for how the kid is handling it. He's got a much better attitude than most (myself included) would have:
Rookie mistake. I'm a free agent.Cant help but laugh at myself and stay positive.Wish i didnt trip over my "Freaking Shoes" out of the gate. -- 8:42 AM April 22 on Twitter
Keep that outlook, A.J. Radio and television (and, yes, bloggers) will try to wring it out of you.
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In the movie Field of Dreams, there's a character named Moonlight Graham who grows up dreaming of becoming a big-league ball player. He gets called up to the majors in 1905, gets put in right field in the eighth inning of a game, makes it to the on deck circle in the ninth but never bats. And that was it for Moonlight Graham; he never appeared in another Major League game after that.
Let's hope that "FUCKING SHIT" isn't A.J. Clemente's one inning, because everyone deserves a second chance.
Also, I'm pretty sure, unlike Moonlight Graham, there's no career in medicine waiting for A.J. Clemente on the other side.