Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Profiles in Hubris

Pride goes before a fall...

Wikipedia (still reliable no matter what anyone says) defines hubris as "exaggerated self pride or self-confidence (overbearing pride), often resulting in fatal retribution." In other words, it's when someone gets a little too big for his or her britches, and his or her pants fall down.

Hubris has always been something that has fascinated me. There is nothing that gives me more guilty pleasure (or schadenfreude) than watching someone get just a little too cocky and falling flat on his or her face. Adam Sandler has basically made a cottage industry of movies where some bully ends up getting humiliated at the end of his movies. If it's good enough a device for Homer, I suppose enough it's good for Little Nicky.

The most obvious example of hubris is that of Icarus, the Greek Mythological character who died when he foolishly flew too close to the sun and fell when the wax from his wings melted. He was warned not to fly that high, but did anyway and ended up drowning in the Icarian Sea. (Coincidence alert!)

I was thinking about hubris after seeing a wonderfully enraging documentary the other night. But more on that in a second. For now, let's get on to some of the better known examples of hubris.

  • One of my favorite examples is Leon Lett, the former defensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys. In Super Bowl XXVII, the Cowboys were clinging to a slim 52-17 lead. The Bills fumbled (of course), and Lett picked it up at his own 36 yard line. Lett's meaty frame went ba BOOM ba ba BOOM down the field for what appeared to be an apparent touchdown.

    But as he approached the goal line (I have tried to find a clip of this, but I can't), Lett got cocky and started goose-stepping into the end zone, holding both his hands out to the sides, leaving the ball unprotected. Unbeknownst to Lett, Bills li'l shit speed receiver Don Beebe was streaking right behind Lett, caught up to him and knocked the ball out of his hands.
    Oh Yeah!

    Uh Oh...

    Oh Shit...

    If the Cowpokes hadn't won by eight touchdowns, that play would have surely lived in sports infamy.

  • Enron was one of the great rising companies in the late 1990s/early 2000s. That was until three bastardly men -- Ken Lay, Andy Fastow and Jeff Skilling -- got waaaaay too greedy and decided they wanted more than the millions they already had.

    Through bullying, falsifying earnings reports and just overall assholishness (including having a major hand in the California energy crisis several years ago), Enron eventually was discovered and ended up having to go defunct. If they had just played by the rules and not gotten so greedy, Skilling and Fastow would never have gone to jail, or been disgraced, and, well, Ken Lay would probably still be dead from a heart attack but who knows? (Note: the list of people who did the same thing is quite long, but Enron is the best known.)

  • A fun example of hubris is Leo Gorcey. Unless you were born in the late 1800s, that name is probably not familiar to you. He was a young actor who starred in the Bowery Boys (as well as Dead End Kids and East Side Kids) movies of the second quarter of the century. He died at the ripe old age of 51.

    One interesting bit of trivia about ol' Leo, though, is that he was selected to be portrayed on the album cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The band had made a cardboard cutout of his image and were ready to take the picture of the now-iconic album cover. But Gorcey demanded that the Beatles pay him $400 for the use of his image. So the Beatles removed his image, and Gorcey was left off the album cover.

  • I could say George W. Bush and go on for another fifteen pages, but this ain't that kinda post.

  • And ahhhh the pièce de résistance...

    I saw a movie this weekend called Overnight, and I thought it was one of the greatest things I've ever seen. The movie is about Troy Duffy, a Los Angeles bartender who basically won the lottery, when a script he wrote was picked up by Miramax to be filmed with a pretty decent budget for an indie film.

    The name of the script was The Boondock Saints.

    Duffy is the poster child for how to press your luck, bite the hand that feeds you, dig yourself into a hole, or whatever other cliche you want to use. His descent from up and coming filmmaker to Hollywood pariah is breathtaking.

    Duffy is the kind of guy who thinks he is a genius. Every other word out of his mouth is "fuck." He bullies EVERYONE around him: friends, brothers, mom, dad, bigshot movie producers, agents, and the members of his band.

    Oh I forgot, his band.

    Back in 1998-99, when he was still in the middle of getting Boondock Saints made, he had a band called The Brood. (You can tell how famous they have become because it's now 2007 and you have never heard of them.) He basically ruined the promising music career of The Brood by pissing off every record executive in town. Troy's brother Taylor, by many accounts, was a gifted musician with a bright future in music, but Troy made himself and everyone in the band persona non grata, and ended up ruining the music careers of all involved.

    Just how repulsive a human being Troy Duffy is cannot be explained in words. He is simply a miserable bully. Anyone -- ANYONE -- who dares object to anything he says is promptly treated to a torrent of f-bombs and belittling. I have never seen anyone so arrogant, and so mean, and with so little reason. He tries to bully Harvey Weinstein, of all people. (And if you don't know, Weinstein might be the most powerful person in Hollywood.) And does all of this before he had produced a single frame of film and before producing a single note of music on an album. I mean come on: Boondocks Saints is a kind of interesting, quirky movie, it was hardly the work of a Darren Aronofsky or a Richard Kelly or a Todd Field.

    He goes from simply arrogant and rough-around-the-edges to maniacal and sociopathic. He lives in his own little dream world where he is God and everyone else has no idea what the FUCK they're talking about!!!!!!!

    The upshot is that, even though there are a lot of assholes in the entertainment industry, there are still some who just push too far. He ends up having to make the movie for half the budget, ends up blowing all the money he made on it, ruining just about any shot he ever had to make another movie and losing the bar that he bought with the money for the film.

    I really encourage you to go out there and rent Overnight. It will make you appreciate your friends -- even the most assholish of them -- so much more.

The lesson, I suppose, is that sometimes it's hard to be humble (especially when you are me), but even if you have to just pretend you have humility, it's better to make people think that you are nice, and feel sorry for you when your pants fall down, than to have them hate you and laugh at it.


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Trish said...

Bill - where the hell do you get this stuff??