Mike Missanelli seems to have learned the wrong lesson.
Missanelli, of course, is the local sports talk radio host who was suspended last week after Deadspin released emails showing him lobbing homophobic taunts at a listener who’d clearly gotten his goat. He was back on the air Monday, and his jokes about the shortness of the suspension sure seemed to indicate he didn’t use the time to think about what he got wrong.
"My God, that was a really long weekend. It feels like I haven't been on the air since last Monday," Missanelli began.
Missanelli got to tell his side of the story, saying that the still-anonymous emailer, who moved from Atlantic City to Las Vegas during their multiyear exchange, had sent thousands of threatening emails to him over his five years as a drive-time host, including the use of racial epithets, threats against Missanelli's daughter and calling an ex-girlfriend a whore.
Which sounds horrible. Everybody who has spent time in the public eye probably has a story of that one very unpleasant correspondent, somebody who knows how to make your life miserable and pushes all your buttons. There are ways of short-circuiting it: The spam filter is one; a police report (which Missanelli said he has filed) is another.
And then Missanelli identified his mistake.
“My mistake was engaging this crazy emailer in any kind of dialogue at all,” he said. “I let my emotions interfere with my common sense.” And he said he would no longer engage fans on Twitter or via his personal email.
Which seems to miss the point.
Don’t misunderstand: If Missanelli decides he needs to essentially stop communicating with his fans in order to reduce the likelihood he sends them ugly, homophobic insults and then keeps doing it over-and-over again, well, maybe it’s all for the best.
But it seems like Missanelli has skipped over a better, more important option, the lesson that everybody should take away from this: Don’t use ugly, homophobic insults.
If you're a public figure — as Missanelli is — those insults will come back and bite you in the ass. More importantly: It's just a rotten thing to do, period.
On Monday, Missanelli echoed the words of his earlier, written apology. “Anyone who knows me or has ever listened to my show knows that I would NEVER cast aspersions on anyone's culture or lifestyle,” he said. Only that’s not quite true, is it? Because he did it — did it more than once, along a whole trail of emails — and that’s a bit more than never. And because it took place in sustained fashion, Missanelli can’t even really claim to have been reacting in knee-jerk fashion. He made a choice, and made it repeatedly.
Missanelli’s latest decision — to cease communicating with fans entirely instead of just the nasty one or two — suggests he’s fearful he can’t quite handle the standard of simply not using homosexuality as an insult. That’s too bad.
This is not about being “politically correct,” but about demonstrating the simple, human, adult value of showing respect to other people, even if you disagree with them. Even if they don’t show you respect. Michael Sam’s coming out and entry into the NFL means the sporting world is probably going to get a few examples of respect in action during the coming months and years. Too bad Missanelli has offered us such a timely reminder of why they’ll be needed.
Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.