Work of Art — Just a harmless butt-pat

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Do men give other men friendly butt pats? Of course they do, especially when on the field. Somehow, the baseball field seems to be the most popular butt-patting venue, but you see it on and in football fields, basketball courts and baseball stadiums, whether in or out.

But not in a courtroom.

Of course, I’m referring to the hand-to-posterior action of Chad Johnson, a former professional football player who thought he did the right thing in swatting his defense attorney’s behind. Johnson, who refers to himself as Ochocinco (Spanish for the numerals 8 and 5 that appear on his football jersey), was in court, on a charge of domestic violence.

Judge Kathleen McHugh was about to recite the terms of an agreement — no jail time, probation and community service — when she reminded Ochocinco of the help his attorney had provided. Surely, as a way of affirming the judge’s judgment, Ochocinco swatted the lawyer’s behind. Whacko!

That brought laughter — not order — in the court, and the judge changed her tune. Now, Señor 85 faces a month in jail. After a lecture about not having taken the verdict, or the entire court proceedings seriously, the judge revoked the previous terms and ordered bailiffs to escort Ochocinco out of the courtroom, in handcuffs.

True, the judge was offended. But she also needs to lighten up. Now I’m not an advocate of riotous behavior in our nation’s courtrooms, but the once-vaunted solemnity in the halls of justice has given way to commercialized audience-participation-type hearings featuring celebrity jurists like Judge Judy, Judge Alex and Judge Greg Mathis.

They encourage spectator reactions, applause, laughter, and some even ask for a show of hands based on whom they think will win. Some of these afternoon programs have served up jurisimpudence instead.

Even in the ‘60s, the actor who played the judge in “Anatomy of a Murder,” warned counsel, “Leave the sarcasm and the humor to me.”

But that’s a topic for another column.

Was Ochocinco’s offense really offensive? He’s a former professional football star whose several years on the turf have accustomed him, and thousands of other footballers to butt slapping that’s on the par with a fist-bump or a high-five.

A class I used to teach at Highlands, Introduction to Mass Communication, centered on a simple principle: Who says what to whom, through what channel, with what effect. We applied that paradigm when a student happened to ask, in class, why men slap one another’s butts.

Some of my students, Christina Landavazo, Rita Jaramillo, Isaac Apodaca, Henry Gonzales, Harry Phillips and Terry Sutherland, and others, asked that question of members of our physical education faculty, which included people like Casey Martinez, John Donnelly, Mary Emerson and Jim Marshall.

Their response? It’s a perfectly natural way of saying “nice going!” Martinez said he surmised that butt-slap, far from being sexual, was preferred among athletes. Here’s why: Imagine a player running all the way from first base to home place on an outfield hit. Or picture a punt-returner who’s scampered 90 yards for a touchdown.

In their zeal to congratulate the runner, teammates might pat the now-exhausted runner on the back. Then he collapses. The derriere, by virtue of having more padding, is a safer spot of the anatomy for swatting.

The PE faculty’s explanation satisfied me, as a longtime observer of the butt-slap. It’s a way of praising someone.

Perhaps Ochocinco should have bowed or even curtsied instead of being so physically demonstrative toward his attorney, who even tried unsuccessfully to reassure the judge that the gesture was not intended to offend or embarrass.
And to this, I say, “Lighten up, Your Honor.”

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Patrons of the county transfer stations, their cars and pickups packed with trash, needed to stop at the locked gates one afternoon last week to read a sign that due to a “mandatory meeting” the dumps would be closed for the afternoon. The tax-payer-funded transfer stations, which operate like a utility, forced some of the patrons to drive back home, unload the pounds of trash, or seek other places to drop off the load.

I realize “mandatory meetings” are often necessary, to set policy and to ensure the smooth operation of the facility, but I wonder why these “mandatory meetings” can’t be scheduled on Mondays, when the transfer stations are closed anyway.

A closed facility, when people expect it to be open, creates hardships. I shudder to think of how much trouble we’d undergo if, for example, utilities such as water, gas and electric service were suspended for an afternoon due to a “mandatory meeting.”

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Jim Terr’s Facebook page contains an item that hits close to home for many. It deals with the Theory of National Geographic Continental Drift. The theory is that the North American continent might slide into the ocean due to the accumulated weight of all the National Geographic magazines that people have not thrown away.

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Alas! Those wretched early deadlines of tri-weekly newspapers can wreak havoc. The item on Ochocinco was written two days ago, and Judge McHugh has since modified the terms of the sentence.

Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to art@rezio.net or atrujillo@lasvegasoptic.com.