Burt Prelutsky

Until recently, Don Imus was little more than a name to me. Only once had I ever even heard his voice, and that only happened because I was driving in the hinterlands of California and kept fiddling with my radio dial searching for something other than static. I only listened to his show for a few minutes before moving on to a country and western music station. I don't even recall what he was talking about, but I quickly wearied of his stooges carrying on as if Mr. Imus was the funniest man they'd ever heard. If I don't care for canned laughter on TV, why would I like it any better on the radio? In any case, while Imus seemed amiable enough, I prefer deciding for myself if someone is amusing, and not having guys on his payroll making the decision for me.

Frankly, I was shocked at his remark about the women on the Rutgers basketball team. It just struck me as so gratuitous, so completely off the wall. My immediate reaction was to wonder if he was drunk when he said it. But who, besides maybe Ted Kennedy, drinks at that hour of the morning? Then I wondered if he'd dropped a ton of money betting against the team. But who, besides maybe Ted Kennedy, bets on women's basketball?

Finally I decided Imus had simply said something rude and stupid because he has to fill so many hours every week with his chatter that eventually, and inevitably, he turns off his brain. Only on this occasion he forgot to get the message to his mouth in time.

What I hadn't counted on, in spite of the outrage sparked by Michael Richard's comedy club tirade, was that so many people would invite themselves to join the lynch mob. I mean, Imus is not the pope. He's just a shock jock. He's supposed to spout the sort of nonsense nice people don't say in public. That's what he's paid to do. You might as well complain that Eddie Murphy acts silly in the movies.

Assuming he's saved his money, Mr. Imus will survive very nicely even if his radio sponsors don't come crawling back when the heat's died down. But what gets me about this entire episode is the amount of hypocritical condemnation that's been coming in from all quarters.

People who have spent the past six years calling President Bush another Hitler want Imus to be tarred and feathered in spite of the fact that people who actually follow women's basketball insist that the trash the ladies talk during a game makes Imus's remark sound like a pleasantry.