For eight years, Ed Rendell was governor of Pennsylvania. The eight years before that, he was mayor of Philadelphia. In all that time, he never got the national attention he’s received in his last two weeks as governor, since unburdening himself about what he called “the wussification of America.”
He was upset that the NFL postponed the Dec. 26 game between his beloved Philadelphia Eagles and the visiting Minnesota Vikings because of a forecast for 12 inches of snow. The game was played two evenings later. Making things worse for Rendell, the Eagles lost.
“My biggest beef is that this is part of what’s happened in this country,” Rendell said in a radio interview in Philly. “I think we’ve become wussies. ... We’ve become a nation of wusses. The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything. If this was in China do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? People would have been marching down to the stadium, they would have walked and they would have been doing calculus on the way down.”
Rendell, a liberal Democrat, even touched a chord with Rush Limbaugh, who returned to his radio show last week after a vacation in Hawaii. Rush raised Rendell’s “wussification of America” to “chickification of the culture,” and talked about how the Donner Party didn’t complain about the weather even when they were trapped by snow in the High Sierras and wound up eating each other.
Reading Rendell and Limbaugh’s remarks called to mind Monty Python’s “Four Yorkshiremen” skit, where four guys are trying to out-do each other on how hard they had it as kids.
“I was happier then and I had nothin’. We used to live in this tiny old house with great big holes in the roof.”
“House! You were lucky to live in a house! We used to live in one room, all 26 of us, no furniture, ‘alf the floor was missing, and we were all ‘uddled together in one corner for fear of falling.”
“Eh, you were lucky to have a room! We used to have to live in t’ corridor!”
“Oh, we used to dream of livin’ in a corridor! Would ha’ been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We got woke up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us! House? Huh.”
Wussiness usually is selective. Someone who schleps through the snow to his end-zone seat might assign wussie points to a governor who gets delivered to the stadium in a four-wheel drive SUV driven by a state trooper, or a radio host on vacation in Hawaii who was disappointed that the television didn’t show him a football game played in a foot of snow before he returned to his home in Florida.
Some things, however, are objectively wussie. Here I’m thinking of those plastic-wrapped packages of firewood that they sell outside of convenience stores for five bucks. “All-night fire,” the label reads, and there are like six small sticks of wood.
You’d better hope your central heat works, wuss. Get a chainsaw and an ax, or scrounge some tree limbs up around the neighborhood. You think the Donner Party bought firewood at a convenience store?
Also objectively wussie: Situational relief pitchers, T-shirt slingshots and quarterbacks who complete three-fourths of their passes for 10 yards or less. Man up and throw the ball downfield. Odds are your receivers won’t catch it anyway.
Also, not that I’m thinking of anyone in particular, people who win a $5 bet with a colleague on a U.S. Senate race and run down the street to a buy a latte with it. You think the Donner Party drank lattes?
Also for wusses: cell phones and GPS navigation systems. America was built by pioneers who used phones with cords that got tangled and maps that got ripped, and they didn’t care! Pioneers could untangle cords and use Scotch tape.
And don’t forget automatic transmissions. Real men drive stick, and, in the summertime we don’t use the air conditioning because (a) it doesn’t work and (b) women like the way we smell when we’re all sweaty. Come to think of it, real men ride horses. Cars are for wusses.
Also, I’m thinking this whole Internet thing might be for wusses, too. Did the Greatest Generation have the Internet? No, if they needed to know, say, the year Ed Rendell was elected governor of Pennsylvania, they looked it up in a big, heavy reference book that it took a real man to lift, plus ― if they’d used up all their ammo ― they could kill a Nazi by hitting him over the head with it.
To quote Monty Python: You try to tell the young people today that, and they won’t believe you.
By Kevin Horrigan
Kevin Horrigan is a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. ― Ed.