The ancients considered crucifixion the most brutal of all their capital punishments, worse than being burned alive or even beheaded. Imagine, if you will, being beaten to within an inch of your life, skin flailed open, wounds severe and fresh, victim of a whip that often had small metal balls attached to it, as if a mere whip were not enough.
That was called the scourge, and it was just the beginning.
Next was the walk of shame. Your newly whipped back wasn't given time to heal. Instead, you were given a 75-pound crossbeam (at upward of 300 pounds, carrying the entire cross would have been impossible; see Son, Joe) and forced to carry it on your own raw back, all while wearing a sign describing your horrendous crime.
Like pirates who forced their victims to dig their own graves before murdering them, it was adding insult to injury. "We'll kill you," the message seemed to be. "But we'd like you to do all the heavy lifting, please."
All this was just a prelude for the main event—after being given a drink for the pain, the criminal would be nailed to the cross and left to die. The Roman general Crassus had six thousand slaves crucified on the Appian Way, punishment for a slave rebellion. Even Jesus, the Son of God in Christian theology, went to his death with two thieves as his companions.
Not so for UFC star Jon Jones. He shoulders his burdens alone.
The embattled UFC light heavyweight champion has come under massive fire from all corners of the MMA universe for his decision not to fight Chael Sonnen for his title at the now canceled UFC 151.
With just eight days' notice, Jones and his team didn't feel it would be prudent to face a new opponent, one with a very different style than top contender Dan Henderson, who tore the MCL in his right knee and was forced to withdraw from the bout at the last minute.
Fans were in an uproar after the announcement that the UFC would cancel an event for the first time. Some would be stuck with expensive plane tickets and hotel reservations. Others were angry for the sake of being angry. UFC president Dana White felt betrayed by Jones' decision to turn down the title fight.
But the champion, clearly, didn't see himself as White's Judas. He had another biblical figure in mind.
Carrying the cross for my company's decision. If someone has to take the blame, I will accept full responsibility for the way UFC 151— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) August 25, 2012
was canceled. I want to sincerely apologize to all the other athletes/fans who's time and money was waisted.— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) August 25, 2012
I feel terrible about the way that was handled.— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) August 25, 2012
It takes a certain level of hubris to compare yourself to Jesus Christ—and that level is best described as "massive." At worst, that's exactly what Jones did. In the best-case scenario he's simply bemoaning how aggrieved he is, offering a mea culpa that is anything but sincere.
It's clear from his comments here that Jones' apology is not an apology at all. He and his people have made it obvious they don't actually believe he is responsible for the event's cancellation. In his mind, he's the victim, a martyr forced to pay a heavy price for the sins of others. Christ, if you are a believer, died to save the souls of all men. Jones, it seems, went to his public relations doom for the soul of mixed martial arts.
When most Christians mention "carrying the cross," they aren't positioning themselves as the hero in their own morality play, the way Jones does here. The Reverend Billy Graham explains:
In Jesus' day, a cross wasn't just a symbol of pain and suffering; it was mainly a symbol of death. What Jesus was telling them is that they needed to put to death their own plans and desires, and then turn their lives over to Him and do His will every day.
You see, Jesus doesn't simply call us to believe that He existed, or even to believe that He can save us. He calls on us to commit our whole lives to Him—to trust Him alone for our salvation, and then to follow Him as His disciples.
When a Christian carries the cross, it's typically a humbling experience, turning your life over to your savior. Only a narcissist of extreme proportions would take that amazing submission to God's will and turn it into his own martyr parable. Even if you, charitably, believe the evangelical Jones didn't mean his comments to have any religious connotations, he's still singing the blues and making himself, and not the fighters out a paycheck and the fans out a show, out to be the victim.
Last week I wondered why Jon Jones was so awful at public relations. I, clearly, wasn't the only one wondering. The next day his public relations spokesman John Fuller quit, announcing in an email to MMA media, "From this moment forward, I will no longer act as the publicist for Jon 'Bones' Jones. If you have any questions, requests or comments, you may reach out to his agent/manager, Malki Kawa."
And that was before Jones announced he wouldn't fight Sonnen and made the bizarre Jesus comparison on Twitter. Fuller, it seems, got out in the nick of time.
The folks at Nike have to be wondering about whether they made the right decision to partner with Jones. In the months since they started negotiations, Jones has been arrested for a DUI, announced his mercenary intentions to the world and now been cast as MMA's ultimate villain by the popular president of the UFC.
And he's compared himself to Jesus.
All this leaves me with the same question that plagued me last week too. Why is Jon Jones so bad at public relations? And why is he, seemingly, getting worse at it?