The uproar over Britt McHenry's verbal assault on a tow truck company employee is a statement of a lot of flaws in people. I don't have time for all of them but I do want to focus on one in particular.
Having been a television sportscaster for about twenty years, I can tell you that there is a constant need for one message to people in the media. It is the reminder that you are not that big of a deal. I learned that I wasn't. Hopefully, Ms. McHenry will learn the same thing.
Two things should drive this point home. The first is that I watch ESPN pretty much every day and I had no idea who Britt McHenry was until this story broke. In fact, when I started to write this piece I had to go back to Google to check to see if that is indeed her name. Every person who asked me if I saw the story called her, "That girl on ESPN." Not one actually called her by name.
The other thing that may be difficult for someone who actually plays the "I'm on TV" card is that no one is going to notice she is gone. What's her name again? Britt? I wanted to call her McMurphy, but that was Jack Nicholson's character in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
Again, the behavior was awful and no one should talk to another human being like that. The class that the woman at the tow truck company showed is amazing. Sadly, I made the mistake of looking at the "Comments" section under the story about the incident and suddenly there was a debate on how unattractive this woman must be. That is another blog altogether.
Most of my socializing during my years in television involved hanging out with co-workers. Few others have that schedule so you are kind of thrown together. There are the same percentage of cool people and jerks in the industry as in the "real world" I can say that there were multiple people at every stop in my career who shared the "I'm inTV so I'm a big deal" attitude that Ms., what is it, "Mc D-L-T?" has.
Wait. I looked it up again. It's McHenry.
Anyway, I can tell you that I have seen it in action. Years ago, several of us went out to Applebee's one night (See, it is a glamorous business!) When we noticed that our order of appetizers was not correct, we got the waitress' attention. Before I could mention that our order was missing the fried mushrooms, one of our reporters tore into the waitress and, of course, mentioned she was on TV, (mentioning the station call letters so anyone in the restaurant could think everyone at the station is behaviorally challenged.)
Rather than showing the big star this reporter thought she was, she let the 45 or so people at Applebee's see what we already knew. No one would be hanging out with her if she had not overheard us talking about it at the end of the work day.
One of the keys is being aware that those thoughts of your "Big Deal-ness" are coming into your head. It is a nice perk of the job to have someone come up and tell you that a story you did hit home. The problem comes when you start to expect to get treatment that is usually reserved for people named Bono, Bieber, or Beyoncé. (I had to go for the alliteration.)
It is amazing that the message that "I'm on TV" sends is so lost on these people. One night between newscasts, I went with a reporter to pick up dinner. When she ordered, she actually shouted into the Drive Thru Microphone, "This is (Name Redacted) from News Channel 19." She believed that would get her better service and possibly free stuff.
Of course, I imagined that the employee was incredibly tempted to add some "Secret Loogie Sauce" to her order.
To me, it is in the world of Sports where I made my living where I never have understood becoming full of yourself. Yes, I was happy when a viewer voiced appreciation for something I had done. Luckily, for me all it took was standing next to an actual athlete to realize that there is always someone who gets people's attention more than you do.
In my single days, I went out to a club and I was talking to a couple of young ladies who knew I was on television. It seemed to be my way in to the conversation. The lesson came when a couple of my friends who played for the Huntsville Channel Cats pro hockey team (Yes, THOSE Huntsville Channel Cats!) showed up and seemingly every woman in the place formed a semi-circle around the players with their backs to me. I was literally on the outside looking in. On the plus side, I did get home at a reasonable hour.
Some would be hurt by that moment. I actually saw it as a nice reminder.
It went to a new level when I worked in Milwaukee and Packers, Bucks, Brewers and Badgers all could make me realize that my worth as a person better not be tied to whatever celebrity status you imagine for yourself.
In one market, our station softball team had a bit of a controversial play happen and of course one of the on-air types threatened to call out the umpire and the other team on the air. Seriously.
We lost a friggin' softball game and you get to be known as "That idiot from the TV station."
Realizing that you are not a big deal probably is the first lesson and it needs to be emphasized again and again. I remember being at a New Year's Eve party with my wife and some friends. Oddly, a woman came up to me and wanted to engage me in a conversation about how tough life in the public eye was. I guess someone had mentioned to her that I was a local sportscaster and I was the closest thing to a celebrity at the party.
She needed to talk about the trials and tribulation of being a star simply because she needed people to overhear and then realize that they were in the presence of greatness.
The fact that I had to excuse myself and ask someone who the heck she was kind of flew in the face of her notion that everyone was gawking at her. Someone had to tell me that the woman in question had been a contestant on "The Bachelor" a couple of years before. (I mean, it's not like she was a true star, like someone on "The Real Housewives of Orange County. That's a thing, right?)
Use those reminders. I spent a lot of time covering big games and working extra hours and part of my thinking was, "Well, if I don't cover it, who will?" Well, I covered Nick Saban's first championship at Alabama. Then, a few months later, I got the boot from the TV station where I worked and, you know what?
They played more games the next year without me. No big deal.
So, please remember that Ms. Mc.....I want to say Mc-Beevy...no that was an episode of The Andy Griffith Show. Sadly, Britt McHenry probably will never be more famous than she is now. Even more sadly, after her contract is up, you probably will see her on the open to a show on Bravo.
Then, you can really see the delusional celebrity kick in!