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OPINION: Fresh prints on Chris Rock’s face
David Carroll
David Carroll is a news anchor for WRCB in Chattanooga, Tenn.

On a recent Sunday night, my wife Cindy and I were among the 13 Americans actually watching the Academy Awards. Of course, a few hundred million have now seen Will Smith spring from his front row seat, charging toward Chris Rock to avenge a tacky joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith.

The incident has been replayed, posted and shared to everyone not living in a remote jungle. Every major network has dissected the footage, some in slow motion. I fully expect the Golf Channel to do a re-enactment, offering recommendations on which club Smith should use if he goes on the attack again.

We all have questions. Should Rock have poked fun at Ms. Pinkett Smith’s bald head, the result of the skin disease Alopecia? Should Smith, who laughed at the joke until his wife showed her disapproval, have settled the issue with words instead? Should Smith have been arrested for assaulting Rock during the live broadcast, as anyone else would have been?

My wife and I were halfway paying attention, as those of us with cellphones tend to do. As soon as ABC silenced the audio and put a generic photo on screen, we knew something had gone wrong. Eventually they restored the video, and Smith was shown shouting at Rock. I’m not the best lip reader, but it was something like, “Sir, I take umbrage at your uncouth comments about my lady!” (Actually, I’ve been looking for a reason to use the word “umbrage” in my column, and this might be my only shot.)

It was right out of a Jerry Springer show. Come to think of it, the past few years in America have been Springer-ized. Everybody is screaming, cursing, and acting out. From the executive branch, to the legislative, and now even the wife of a Supreme Court justice, so I suppose the circle is complete.

From studying the replays, it was confirmed that Will Smith slapped Chris Rock. Yes, this large, strapping man who had played Muhammad Ali in a movie, slapped an older, smaller man. (Best line I’ve seen so far: What did police find when they dusted Chris Rock’s face? Fresh prints. I so wish I could take credit for that).

While some have expressed admiration for Smith’s apparent chivalry, I’m still trying to figure out the slap. I have seen every episode of “Bonanza,” many of which featured Hoss Cartwright defending a woman’s honor by exacting vengeance on some scruffy lowlife who dared insult a lady. Never once did Hoss utilize an open-hand slap. Nope, the big cowboy charged up, much like Will Smith, but with fists a’ flying. If Hoss had slapped an outlaw, he would have been laughed off the Ponderosa.

Cindy reminded me of the one time I was in a similar situation, and forever became her hero. Early in our marriage, I emceed a charity event called the Kudzu Ball, which was a parody of a high-society gala known as the Cotton Ball. There was a costume contest, and Cindy, dressed as “Kudzilla” was among the winners.

After the show, some drunk confronted her and complained that she won because of her relation to me. Her integrity was being questioned! I leapt into action, getting in the guy’s face, ready to go toe-to-toe. Now keep in mind that I am not a fighter. Physically, I’m as intimidating as Don Knotts in his Sunday go to meeting clothes. Surprisingly, the guy backed away and apologized, while I strutted around like Foghorn Leghorn. To be honest, I don’t know what I would have done had the situation escalated, but there would have been no slapping.

By the time you read this, I’m sure Will Smith’s public relations team will have apologized to Chris Rock’s team (and vice versa), and they will soon star in a movie together to cash in on the notoriety.

And, the next time the far more acerbic comedian Ricky Gervais hosts an awards show, he will be surrounded by armed guards.

For the past two years, we have craved normalcy, looking forward to the day when we could talk about anything besides COVID-19. In a weird sort of way, we got our wish.

David Carroll is a Chattanooga TV news anchor. You may contact him at