Let's take this opportunity to clear up a few minor misunderstandings.
When Minnesota Vikings tight end John Davis was arrested at 4:16 a.m. on a recent Monday while—in the words of police—"asleep or unconscious" at the wheel of his idling vehicle "in the middle of the roadway" in a suburb of Minneapolis, well, as you might imagine, it was all a crazy misunderstanding.
As his agent, Marc Alexander Balic, patiently explained to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Davis "was not inebriated.... He was out a little late and on his way home.... He was too tired to drive so he decided to take a little nap. He only expected to be there a few minutes, but he was apparently there a little longer." The incident, Balic told the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, was something "we all probably have done."
Indeed, who among us hasn't been there: In the middle of a drive, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the street, napping? Still police charged Davis with driving while intoxicated, failure to submit to chemical testing and careless driving. For breaking curfew, he was suspended for one game by the Vikings and is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 18.
Sadly for Davis, men of uncommon vision are seldom understood in their own time. Though Ohio State basketball coach Jim O'Brien has lost 19 consecutive games to Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun—19 consecutive games!—he has called it a "misunderstood record," one that will no doubt be better appreciated by future generations privy to a new mathematics.
"He is the most misunderstood player we have in this game," major league pitcher Mark Guthrie once said of a former LSU teammate. "People are shocked when I say Albert Belle is a nice guy, but it's the truth."
Albert Belle, Albert Einstein, Albert Schweitzer: Greatness shouldn't have to explain itself. If small minds cannot comprehend the profound wisdom of a 19-game losing streak or of being asleep or unconscious at the wheel or of threatening trick-or-treaters in your Ford Explorer (as Belle did)—well, it took them centuries to comprehend Copernicus too. "To be great," wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is to be misunderstood." Emerson, meet Iverson. Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson says he wants only one word on his tombstone: MISUNDERSTOOD.
Athletes and coaches should wear that word on a sash, such as the one on Miss Universe. It would save us all time and trouble, as with that goofy mix-up last winter, when John Rocker called a black Atlanta Braves teammate "a fat monkey." A month passed before former Brave Ryan Klesko could counsel us, as the San Diego Union-Tribune paraphrased, "that some of the pitcher's remarks were misunderstood by people not familiar with clubhouse humor." The nuances of clubhouse humor—the snap of wet towel on bare butt cheek, the shaving cream pie in the face, the welder's-torch flame of a fart set on fire—cannot be explained, any more than one can explain the peculiar genius of Charlie Chaplin.
Detroit Tigers manager Phil Garner, reports the Detroit Free Press, "thinks fans have been hard on [Juan] Gonzalez partly because he's often misunderstood." Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher on receiver Carl Pickens: "I think he's been misunderstood." Ferdie Pacheco on WBO featherweight champ Prince Naseem Hamed: "He's a misunderstood figure." The Associated Press on Colin Montgomerie: "Refreshingly honest and constantly misunderstood."
These men may mystify us now. But real visionaries—Galileo and Roger Clemens—will be truly understood only by people a century 01 two removed from their own. It will take a more highly evolved society than ours to comprehend what was clear to Clemens during the World Series: that the Yankees' righthander fielded a broken bat because he thought it was a baseball, and endeavored to clear the dangerous item from the field by throwing it at Mike Piazza, you know, lest somebody get hurt, or, you know...something.