Roy Exum: Me & Death Threats

Thursday, October 26, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I was sorry to see Florida football coach Jim McElwain come out the other day with the fact he and some of his Gators had gotten death threats. In my view the minute you complain or whine about it “the bad guy” get some kind of perverted joy over the discomfort he caused. I’ve gotten more anonymous threats than anyone I know but that’s part of writing opinions.

What is troubling to me is I got most of mine back in the day when America was kind -- today’s hatred and rancor has a lot of the experts rightfully concerned.  The FBI calls “a mass shooting” one where at least four person are shot in the same incident. Gun Violence Archives tells us that there were 58,790 mass shootings in 2016, up from 51,881 from just two years earlier. It is a disturbing trend.

My first threats started some 40 years ago when I predicted football games in the Friday newspaper. Pick against Tennessee on any weekend and you’d get a cussing from some faceless coward – this long before caller ID – and I was pretty awful returning their guff.

A CALLER: “Listen you Pat-Dye loving (deleted), the whipping the Big Orange is going to give Auburn tomorrow ain’t nothing to what your bloody face is going to look like in the gutter. I know you are in your office and, when you come out of there, I’ll be waiting with a baseball bat!”

ME: “You can try but I carry a knife and I’ve got mean brothers … and, say, can you get here in under an hour? I’ve got a high school game tonight and I can’t wait around on some ‘fraidy. You best bring your wife because a dime will get you a dollar that she can whip your (mule,) too!”

Death threats? I’ve gotten death threats for years. When I started writing about the criminals in the Tennessee Walking Horse arenas, I got a new bunch and some are absolutely comical. I’d get anonymous letters that included pictures of my children, copies of street directions to my house. I also got a handgun carry permit because some threats were every bit as vile as some psychopath’s nightmare. But look what has happened – public scorn is killing the “Dirty Lick.”

The most effective thing before caller ID was an unlisted telephone number and an answering machine lets you delete some crank call before the rube can say 10 words. The big thing is you never let a loser get under your skin. Totally ignore ugly people and soon they’ll leave you alone. There is an age-old saying, “Never let a shark smell your blood.”

I remember once an angry Georgia fan called my house and told my wife to get out of the house by sundown. He and his slime threatened to burn us out. “Have you ever seen a child after a fire?” What a loser! She called the police and they kept an eye peeled on our house that night but, just as I assured everybody, a coward will never show up.

I love civil discourse with those who disagree with me because I am always intrigued by their views. Today they are my best teachers and I have learned so much (about myself) by listening to what they say and picturing myself in their shoes. It doesn’t bother me at all to change my mind – that’s healthy. And when two people “agree to disagree,” that’s society at its best.

The biggest lesson a kid can ever learn at recess or on the playground is that a bully absolutely hates the sight of his own blood. Unchecked, these are the people who grow into making threats with anyone who doesn’t share their misery. Bill Curry calls them “The Legion of the Miserable” and, man, if there is anything that makes you so mad you threaten another person, the best gift you can give yourself is a new hobby.

I’ve had a problem with depression for 25 years and one way I treat myself is to never read articles that might depress me. I avoid depressing people. It depresses me when NFL owners and players disrespect the United States so I don’t watch Sunday football. I don’t wish ill will on any player and not a one is worth me taking part of my life to threaten him or stoop to his level.

As a matter of fact, I can think of nothing on earth that would make me protest anywhere other than at the ballot box. I’ve been threatened enough to know personally that it never works. Satchel Paige, the great baseball player, admonished us to “avoid anything that riles your blood” and it’s obvious your life will be happier if you avoid conflict. Let it always be a choice you make. No one can make you inferior unless you allow it.

The only mistake you can make if you are ever threatened is to acknowledge it. Don’t you dare give “The Legion of the Miserable” a reason to be.

* * *

“Never get in a fight with a pig – you’ll both get dirty and the pig likes it.”

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