Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Memo To The Bruthas, Memo To Myself, Memo For A Reality Check

Well, just as I was feeling bad about my last post and contemplating writing a follow-up, the good folks over at the Airing of Grievances posted the original and my good man Jackie Chiles took exception to it. So now I have no choice but to quickly cover my tracks, save face, and explain why I'm possibly (and probably) an idiot.

A few points:

1) I never meant to imply that Jermaine O'Neal was a "whiny, little bitch" - only that he was acting like a "whiny, little bitch." Terrell Owens? Definitely a bitch. Lavar Arrington? Without doubt. O'Neal, however, has always carried himself with class, unless you consider that haymaker he landed on that Detroit fan to be a bad thing. But then, when is embarrassing a Detroit fan ever a bad thing?

However, I do still have a problem with O'Neal playing the race card. Why?

Once upon a time in this wicked and wonderful country of ours, blacks were not counted as entire individuals. They were slaves. They couldn't vote. They couldn't own land. They were beaten and ridiculed and considered inferior.

They were subjected to extreme racism.

Now, in 2005, O'Neal cries racism because some 18-year old kid with hops - a kid who has probably already been pampered for several years and who is looking at a free ride to college – just might have to wait until he's 21 to become a millionaire and appear on TV and buy a mansion and choose daily from a fleet of exotic cars and hang out in the country's wildest strip clubs and sleep with countless willing women upon the silk sheets of the finest hotels.

Goodgawd, the nerve of any man to suggest he shouldn’t be given all this at 18!

Yes, yes, the bigoted old white owners of the NBA have practically enslaved these poor black players and made their lives living hell.

I jest, of course.

Is this O'Neal's definition of racism? I only ask because if it is, then the definition seems to have become warped over time. Or some people have lost perspective. Or perhaps, worst of all, the term is abused and tossed about as soon as someone might be dissatisfied with, well, anything.

Let me put it this way: Fans of the NBA have become disenchanted with the antics of NBA players. TV ratings are down. Attendance is down. Now there is a large population of people, fans and media and most probably NBA ownership alike, who feel that allowing virtual kids into the league has certainly not helped. And it probably hasn’t. I would certainly agree.

So the NBA decides to do something about it. Perhaps an age limit will help. The NFL has an age limit and the NFL is, by far, the most powerful sports league in America. Baseball and hockey draft high schoolers, but these kids, almost to a head, spend several years in the minor leagues. So the NBA starts a developmental league a few years ago and has recently vowed to improve it.

In other words, the NBA seems to be doing what it thinks it must to improve itself. This is not only smart, but it’s the NBA’s right.

Yet O'Neal cried racism. Why? Did he think it all through and come to a logical conclusion? I doubt it.

I'm guessing he was just swinging wildly for the fences and uttering a buzz word sure to strike a chord for little reason other than he’s heard it done so many times before.

Perhaps this is why he spent yesterday backpedaling.

2) Generalizations.

I knew I was possibly (and probably) generalizing as I wrote the original. I also took into consideration the possibility that the ludicrous statements and actions of black athletes might seem more prevalent simply due to sheer numbers.

Do I have a defense here? To be honest, I'm not so sure. I suppose, ultimately, I have no better excuse for possibly generalizing other than to say it just feels like black athletes lead the way in whining about preposterous things.

I mean, look at yesterday’s news. O’Neal. Owens. Arrington. It gets old.

And, yes, I've actually caught myself thinking, "Damn, it seems like the athletes I'm most critical of seem to be mostly black."

I've wondered why this is. Is there something about myself that I don’t see or am not admitting to?

Then I look at my personal list of most despised athletes: Barry Bonds, Terrell Owens, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Randy Moss.

Nope, not me. These guys definitely deserve to be on the list, any list. Total. Clowns.

Jackie mentions non-black American athletes who have acted like bitches: Jason Williams, Ryan Leaf, J.D. Drew, Lleyton Hewitt, Eli Manning, Roger Clemens, Jeff George, Pedro Martinez, Eric Lindros and the entire NHL.

Yes, there are definitely some bitches on that list. No doubt. Jackie also says that a few bad apples shouldn’t cast a bad light on an entire race. Well, yeah. No doubt. For any group of people, there will always be the assholes and there will always be the vast majority that is just fine. This goes without saying.

But like I said, it just feels like the black American athlete has taken bitching to new levels. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m an ass. I wouldn’t doubt it. But I can’t help the feeling that there has been a growing sentiment among the black American athlete that says, “I want mine now, then I want more, and if I don’t get satisfaction immediately I’m going to bitch and cry foul.”

Again, it gets old. So, so old.

We hear Bonds say he’s disliked because he’s black as he conveniently forgets that he treats the rest of the human race like dirt.

We hear Latrell Sprewell say his kids are starving on the $14 million he made this year.

We hear Carter and Tracey McGrady admit to dogging it during games for no other reason than they felt like it.

We hear that the NFL doesn't have enough black coaches, yet every year there are more.

We hear that the NBA is racist yet black coaches and general managers are all over the league.

We hear that there is no black ownership in baseball, but, shit, black Americans barely even play the game. Just look at the dearth of black major leaguers. And how many black fans actually attend major league games?

My point is this: Don't continually cry and whine and bring up the dreaded race card when shit is going pretty damn good already and improving all the while. And it is going pretty damn good. And it is improving.

Though I'm not black, I somehow suspect that the black forefathers of this country would be laughing hysterically (or shaking their heads) at some of the nonsense their ancestors find to be racist.

3) And this is the most important point:

Outside the world of sport, I’m almost unequivocally behind any charge of racism. Whether it be hiring practices, or lack of money for inner city schools, or any number of things. When I hear someone charge racism in the “real” world, I usually sympathize and agree that there is a point to be made. Looking upon the history of this country, how could I not? How could anyone not?

However, the world of sports is, without doubt, the closest thing on this planet to racial harmony. It really is. There is nothing in this world that brings people together like sports. Sure, it still has its warts, but nothing is perfect, except Evangeline Lilly.

As for black Americans, nothing has leveled the playing field for them like sports. At least up until this point in time. Think of all the lives that have been improved. Not just the athletes themselves, but their families as well.

The NBA is the best thing that ever happened to Jermaine O’Neal. And it's the best thing that ever happened to his momma and his kids and his dog. He’s a very lucky man. And the NBA will be the best thing that ever happens to some kid off the streets with talent, even if that kid has to wait 2-3 years until he gets his, even he isn’t able to just remove his graduation gown and have it all handed to him on a silver platter, whatever “it” is.

We’re all working for “it.” I’m working for “it.” You’re working for “it.” Everyone is working for “it.”

And hardly any of have been given “it” like O’Neal has been given “it.”

He might try to recall this next time he feels like “it” is not enough.

And he might try to recall what true racism is because I think he’s lost the plot.

Ah, screw it. I’m tired of talking about this boring shite. Let’s just drop it and laugh at Chinese people.


Blogger howard in nyc said...

i agree with you 100%. about evangeline lilly. everything else, well...not so much.

seriously, i find the dichotomy you draw between sports and the real world to be very interesting, and that helps me understand your point of view much more than i did yesterday.

i have never wanted to fall into the trap of thinking that since life as a black american was so much safer and easier for me than for my father or grandfather, that excused whatever racism remained for me to passively tolerate. (this was a big theme in frederick douglass' writings).

but in the worlds of sports and entertainment, it is different. the rewards are so outsized, yeah i see your point, be grateful, and tolerate the minor indignities. i don't think i agree with you, but you make sense.

i consider some of the minor and not so minor indignities that hispanic professional athletes face, (which i am far from an expert, but i do hear things), and this is yet another perspective. but this is veering away from oneal's arguement.

on another topic, i admit while i am with the sentiment of your memo to bruthas (quit whining, shut up and play), i am uneasy with your characterization of this behavior as a black thing. i am not sure why. maybe because i think the characterization is racist. maybe because i think it is not racist, but simply that it is true. i really am not sure exactly what i feel, much less exactly why.

as we discussed elsewhere, the meaning and usage of 'racist' and 'racism' has definitely changed with time. this also complicates our discussion.

anyway, good stuff. i was afraid the source of your rants was simply bitterness over north carolina's victory, and your comments towards me misdirected anger as i rode the tar heel wave to victory in our little pool. but i guess the source or your views is some serious thought, insight and consideration. who knew.



8:27 PM  
Blogger Jackie Chiles said...

Solid work on the update, UC. The one major problem I have with it is the tone that because blacks have made progress they should just take what's given to them and never complain. That somehow crying racism today is an affront to the old-timers who faced more insidious forms. To me, that really does not make any sense. By the same logic, blacks who were forced to drink at inferior "black only" water fountains should not have complained because at least they weren't enslaved and were allowed to learn to read. I do understand that my analogy loses force when you consider that O'Neal is a multi-millionaire hooper, but still, the notion that he can't share his view that something may be racially motivated because he's so well off is pretty much absurd.

You have every right to disagree with him, but what he said is really not that crazy. I'm still waiting to hear a solid answer as to why such an idea has not be entertained in any of the other major not-as-black sports. Seems to me that Lebron James, Tracy MCgrady, Kobe Bryant, Rashard Lewis, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal, Sebastien Telfair, Dwight Howard are doing just quite alright. Why now all of a sudden should they be prohibited from making millions in their place of work until they are 20? And why again, do we never hear this argument in other sports? To suggest race is playing a factor (even if it's more subtle in the manner in which TPP sets forth above) is completely acceptable if you ask me.

Couple of direct points of response:

"Yet O'Neal cried racism. Why? Did he think it all through and come to a logical conclusion? I doubt it."

Did he really "cry racism" or did he suggest race was a factor? Also sounds to me that by mentioning the other sports there was some logic in the man's point. Why do you doubt that there was?

"I knew I was possibly (and probably) generalizing as I wrote the original. I also took into consideration the possibility that the ludicrous statements and actions of black athletes might seem more prevalent simply due to sheer numbers."

That's an excellent point. And you really need to give it further consideration. Go down a list of NBA roster and NFL rosters and see how many hundreds and maybe thousands of brothers you have who no one has had any whiny little bitches problems with whatsoever. Yes, there are a few total assclows (Bonds, Moss, Owens to name a few), but to characterize their behavior as representative of the whole is ridiculous. And it also shouldn't be ignored that rather than ignoring the repeated unsurprising buffoonery from these clowns (as nappy 40 suggests) the media simply can't get enough and plays it up to no end. Don't you think that could have something to do with the perpetuation of the negative stereotypes?

"But like I said, it just feels like the black American athlete has taken bitching to new levels."

See previous response. This really is just way to over generalized. A few assclowns who the media can't get enough of? Yes. The "black-American athlete"? Don't see it.

"We hear that there is no black ownership in baseball, but, shit, black Americans barely even play the game. Just look at the dearth of black major leaguers. And how many black fans actually attend major league games."

By that logic, there shouldn't be any white owners in the NBA. Unless, of course, we stick with the "blacks should-be-happy-they've-made-it-this-far-and-stop-complaining" logic, rather than blacks should be shooting for an equally level playing field everywhere. One more thing, how many blacks fans actually attend NBA games?

How was the Chinese take out?

8:31 PM  
Blogger UnknownColumn said...

Howard, Jackie, excellent points. The truth is, I agree with what you guys have said as much as with anything I have said. If not more.

The original post was a knee-jerk reaction to the one-day news of ONeal, Owens, and Arrington.

And then I rode it out. I knew there were things I said that would be disagreeable, even to myself. At the same time, I figured there might be some truth in there as well, as ugly as it might be.

Similar story:

A few weeks ago I was with some friends and we were watching "60 Minutes" after college basketball ended. There was a story about Van Gogh's relative, the Dutch filmmaker who was murdered in the streets of Amsterdam by Muslims who were offended by a movie he made. Sickening.

One of my friends said, "You know, if it wasn't for Muslims there would be world peace."

At first, it seemed like a ridiculous thing to say because, of course, there is violence in all corners of the world. And I knew he was generalizing. He did too.

But as I thought about it, he had a point, in an offhand way. The Middle East has been a hell zone for centuries and Muslims are currently causing terror on all continents. (I will avoid the U.S. equation here for argument's sake.) You could make the ARGUMENT or OBSERVATION that Muslims are prone to anger-management issues and extreme violence and that they are at the center of a lot of today's shittiest happenings.

Of course, you would be sweeping a large group of people together with a broad generalization. But there might also be some truth in there.

Again, just look at the news.

And that is the vein the "memos" were written. It was simply the result of reading the sport section or watching SportCenter and hearing guys bitch about ridiculous things.

Of course I don't believe that sheds a light on all black people.

12:59 AM  
Blogger howard in nyc said...

instead of in cyberspace, we should have had this discussion in real space, over beers.

4:36 AM  
Blogger UnknownColumn said...

Well, I'm about to crack open a beer right now.

Oh, wait, it's only 6:45 in the morning.

I'll wait until seven.

4:46 AM  

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