There was a little kerfuffle recently over “the g-word.” Somebody described an activity as “geeky” in public, and people took offense, which led to an apology, along with an explanation that the word was meant in the “modern, positive meaning.” This drama, hitting close to home, got me to thinking about the G-word. Here’s the story:
The NBC Nightly News did a feature about the rising popularity of archery in the wake of The Hunger Games (the shots of students taking archery lessons were filmed at my home range, but I’m not in the clips; I was busy running the children’s class on the other side of the hill), and USA Archery CEO Denise Parker remarked that archery “if we’re brutally honest, is a bit geeky; it’s a geek sport.”
US Olympic hopeful Jake Kaminski retorted:
Is anyone else in the archery world as offended by this as me? I for one take this sport very seriously. I try to represent my family and support it and myself through archery. I try to represent my sponsors and exceed their expectations in every facet of the sport.
I would prefer to see this sport grow in a non joking manner. I do not like how we are always made a mockery of. Are track and field athletes called ‘geeks’? Didn’t think so.
Apparently a number of my fellow archers were offended, because USA Archery and Ms. Parker heard from enough of them to warrant a response. The USA Archery facebook page posted this message shortly thereafter:
The following statement can be attributed to USA Archery CEO Denise Parker:
On Friday, May 11, NBC Nightly News aired a feature story on the growth of interest in the sport of archery. The story focused on the recent film “The Hunger Games” and emphasized that the sport, once considered an old-fashioned pursuit, is gaining newfound popularity.
During the interview, I was asked questions about people’s unique fervor for archery, and responded that it is “a bit of a geek sport,” referring to the word’s more modern definition: “A person who has chosen concentration rather than conformity; one who passionately pursues skill (especially technical skill) and imagination, not mainstream social acceptance.” To me, it was meant to describe the sport as being not-mainstream and unique, which I find very cool about our sport.
I understand and appreciate why some have been offended by the phrase “geek sport,” which can have other connotations, and just want to apologize to any people I have offended with the statement. It was a poor choice of words, and I am sorry. I absolutely love this sport and I have the highest regard for all that participate in it.
My intent was to celebrate the uniqueness of archery and the passion of archers, but never to belittle or lessen the tremendous accomplishments of all of the USA Archery members and Team USA athletes who devote themselves to the discipline of great shooting every day.
Thank you to all who took the time to provide feedback about your feelings on this subject.
I’m a geek. I write for a geek blog. “Geek” is right there in the name: GeekDad. If I didn’t consider myself a geek, I wouldn’t be here. I was the guy who inspired Brandon Hanvey’s Geek Pride t-shirt, seen to the left. I certainly understood what Parker meant, and took no offense at her remarks; my reaction was “dang right!”
What Kaminski and others failed to recognize is that we are in a time of “geek chic” where geeks are considered cool, a time I for one never really thought would come. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are demi-gods; geeks rule the world. We dominate entertainment; the comic book that your geeky friend used to read has been turned into a movie that grossed a billion dollars in under two weeks. One of the most popular shows on TV, The Big Bang Theory, is unabashedly geeky; there is some argument as to whether it celebrates the geeky characters or denigrates them. (I myself refused to watch it for a long time, labeling it “geekface,” the geek equivalent of blackface; I felt that Leonard, Sheldon and company were the 21st century version of Amos & Andy, a nerd minstrel show. I’ve since begun watching it, and while it is geekface, it’s also funny, largely due to the performances. The cast is great.)
Geeks are hot now. We’re the people that get called when our jock brothers can’t figure out how to configure their email or set up their wireless router. They need us, and they are starting to appreciate us. At the end of Avengers, the non-geeky portion of the audience turned as one to their geek friends and relatives and asked “who is that?” and we told them, explaining the back-story of those obscure (to the non-geeks) characters in tediously pedantic detail. We win on Jeopardy.
This is our time, and we have in large part reappropriated the word that defines us, redefining it the way that Ms. Parker describes in her later comments. Clearly we still have work to do.
The question remains: we may have reclaimed and rehabilitated “the G-word,” but are we the only ones allowed to use it? Is it still considered inflammatory and offensive when used by non-geeks, or only when applied to non-geeks? Discuss.
Join the conversation at the GeekDad Community page and tell me how wrong I am.