We can't see it sometimes. But there still is dignity and decency and accountability in this world, still a rising-above the absurdity and tumult. There is, if we choose to look for it, a place where accommodation and the instinct to seek common ground is not viewed as weakness but for what it actually is, which is wisdom and foresight.
Never was that made more stark than by two people who landed on your sports pages yesterday, for very different reasons. That they have nothing in common with one another is self-evident -- and not just because one is a basketball player whose next stop is the Hall of Fame, and one is the wife of an NFL cornerback who needs to just shut up now, because that hole she's working on is only getting deeper.
The first, of course, is Tim Duncan, who announced his retirement yesterday as a rarity in today's free-market world: A civic treasure. He played two decades in the NBA, and all of it was in one city. And all of it was for one coach, Gregg Popovich.
The first makes Tim Duncan an anomaly. The second makes him almost utterly singular, given that coaches tend to move around as much as players these days.
But it's been Timmy and Pops from Day The First, and if that created a relationship perhaps not seen since Red Auerbach and Bill Russell were joined at the hip, it also created a sense of stability that was the foundation for five NBA titles. No less a factor in that was Duncan himself, the NBA's signature Quiet Man who led not with words but actions, and who made the San Antonio Way flesh.
He also rose far above the mindless noise we've all become accustomed to in America -- noise no better exemplified than by a woman named Miko Grimes, whose only value here is to provide an example of everything Tim Duncan isn't, and why he is of such value.
Grimes is the wife of Tampa Bay cornerback Brent Grimes, who used to play for Miami. And so yesterday she took to Twitter to blast Miami owner Steve Ross and president Mike Tannenbaum, snidely congratulating Ross on keeping his "Jew buddies" employed.
Then, doubling down, she did what almost all bigots do: She acted the wounded party.
"Think I'm gonna tweet racist remarks in an attempt to offend TWO PEOPLE? Lmao!! Why would I? Why would I want to offend 'Jewish' ppl?" she tweeted.
Not satisfied with that bit of nonsense, she spewed more in a statement to ESPN.
"When I wrote 'jew buddies' I was speaking about how a lot of communities (Jewish, Christian, gay, sometimes fraternities and sororities) will hire their 'own people' for jobs before others," she wrote. "That's a fact! Why people find facts offensive is strange to me. And now im a racist? Lmao! How?"
Oh, I don't know. Maybe because you went out of your way to point out the fact they were Jewish? If you're really not a bigot, why did you go there? Why, if you weren't trying to make an obviously anti-Semitic point, did you not just say "buddies" instead of "Jew buddies"?
Please, lady. Please.
Look, we all know what this is. It's self-justification, and it's all the rage in America, especially when people get caught with their prejudices hanging out. Miko Grimes in Florida; that guy down in Sheridan who claimed he was no racist after he decorated his Fourth of July "parade float" with a caricature of President Obama in a toilet above a sign that said "Lying African."
"He's African, isn't he?" the guy said.
Well, no. He's an American, a simple reality too many damn fools still refuse to acknowledge. And we all know what "African", in this instance, was code for. But aside from that obvious point, once again it's the same weasel words, the same child's logic, the same lack of accountability. The same unwillingness - call it moral cowardice, because that's what it is -- to own your words and your actions and your attitudes.
Tim Duncan never failed to do that. Miko Grimes, whose husband's paychecks are signed by Jewish owners who lost family members in the Holocaust, could take a lesson from the Quiet Man.
Lesson No. 1: Silence really is golden sometimes. So exercise some.