as you might imagine, the past week's events in the NFL and the NBA have my little sports sociology brain kicked into overdrive. between all of this and the vibe awards, i think that it's safe to say that the black male image has taken quite a hit this past week. also safe to say, every single sports columnists is weighing in on what happened last weekend in detroit. i'm just going to free write here so i'm not sure what i'm about to say.
you can probably guess that i have been pondering what role race has to play in all of this stuff. i've already made known how i think race might be involved with the T.O. thing. it's interesting to see peter king's reaction to tony dungy's comments in this week's monday morning quarterback column. he writes:
Good job, Tony Dungy. I'm not sure this is very much a racial story, but I applaud that while the vast majority of NFL people sit on their hands about this one, you have the conscience and guts to tell ABC to fry ice.it's a curious quote. on the one hand, he's praising dungy for standing up to the league, but on the other hand, king, in a very oblique back-handed way is accusing dungy of playing the race card. what makes this transparent ploy even worse is that earlier in the column, he praises eli manning's first start of his NFL career
Third quarter. Manning had just thrown his first NFL touchdown pass, a six-yarder to Jeremy Shockey. But the rookie didn't run into the end zone and leap into Shockey's arms, or act overly excited. Manning simply jogged back to the bench and accepted congratulations from his teammates. Meanwhile Shockey spiked the ball in the end zone, and it bounded toward the end line. Ike Hilliard went and got the ball. Near the sideline, Hilliard gave it to Shockey, who presented it to Manning. With that odd, sort of sour look on his face -- first impressions are that he's just so flatline that nothing fazes him -- Manning took the pigskin like it was a practice ball in a May mini-camp drill.what's interesting here is how manning performs on the field makes up for his sorriness off the field. it's as if he's somehow forgotten about the whole draft fiasco (manning basically refused to play for the team that was going to draft him and forced the chargers to trade him to the giants), which if you think about it, is sort of a textbook me-first-spoiled-athlete archetype that sports writers are so quick to criticize. but when a black athlete does something, no one remembers that T.O. has been playing like a real man this year (13TDs, 908 yds though 10 games). so while T.O. has been doing nothing but helping his team win, which is the uber-goal of sports, they get on him for dancing in the end zone, and then filming a promo which his white management let him do. don't get me wrong here, king criticizes eagles management for letting T.O. even get involved with this, and i actually think that king is usually ok at spotting when race is a factor. however, it should be noted that he's quick to hand out praise to this white player who has done squat in the league and from my point of view, comes from a long lineage of sorriness (peyton and archie), and whose most notable press thus far is his crybabying his way out of san diego. i guess my point is that how race figures into the discourse is somewhat complicated. sometimes it's more obvious than others, but just because it's not there in every instance doesn't mean it's an important part of structuing the discourse around sports and the black athlete, which leads us to...
"I saw that," said Mora, "and I just thought how impressive it was. It was like, 'There's more to do.'"
ron artest getting fired for the season. tons of great print out there for this. marc stein of espn.com says that the suspensions are a result of nba commish david stern asserting his authority. bill conlin of the philadelphia daily news writes that the brawl was a reflection on the moral degradation of society, and jason whitlock of the kansas city star writes that black players need to watch themselves (don't forget, for logins to the registration required sites go to bugmenot.com). it's all so crazy to see unfold. anyways, on to the good quotes.
bill conlin ends his column with this:
And us? What about us?what makes this good is what he wrote earlier in the column
America in general and American sports in particular is in the same state of pampered, luxury-sated decadence as the Roman Empire in its final days of "Look At Us" grandeur. The barbarians at Rome's gates were the Visigoths, the Huns and the other lean and hungry subjects of the Empire.
We have 9/11, bin Laden and the al Qaeda. Our Visigoths and Huns are millions of Islamic fundamentalists and millions more around the rest of the world who hate our wealth and arrogance just a little less than the mullahs of Iraq.
The NBA brawl is just the latest boil to erupt, a big, festering flashpoint that will distract our attention from a much bigger and uglier picture of ourselves.
So, yeah, the media blingmeisters offered, NBA players really have to put up with intolerable circumstances to make a living, the incredible heaviness of being. It's so bad, a man can't even pull into a handicapped parking spot in his stretch Hummer and treat his posse to Cristal shooters and Beluga Caviar without some fool getting in his face.again, the method of message communication is oblique, but the message basically is, the decline of society is somehow linked to the NBA culture going hip-hop, which i hope that we all know by know is code for black culture = bad. seriously, he's comparing the NBA to the roman empire and black culture to the huns and the visigoths! god bless old white sports writers.
whitlock is much more direct with his take on how race plays into all of this:
American sports fans, particularly those who consistently shell out the hundreds of dollars it takes to attend a professional game, are fed up with black professional basketball players in particular and black professional athletes to a lesser degree.which again, is made all the more interesting by what he writes elsewhere in the same column
What the players must come to grips with is that just because race is an element in the backlash, that doesn't mean the backlash is fueled by racism.
We're witnessing a clash of cultures. A predominately white fan base is rejecting a predominately black style of play and sportsmanship.
Who is on the right side of this argument? The group that is always right in a capitalistic society. The customer. That's why Stern, endorsed by his owners, came down hard on the players. He stated that the NBA would take steps to ensure that its fans improved their behavior. But Stern knows the real solutions are in the hands of his players. A good businessman caters to his audience. They don't play country music at my dad's inner-city bar for a reason.
We, black people, begged for integration. We demanded the right to play in the major leagues, the NBA, the NFL, the NHL. These leagues accommodate a white audience. As long as the customer base is white, the standard for appropriate sportsmanship, style of play and appearance should be set by white people.dammit, isn't sports great? it's so filled with contradiction and complex power dynamics. which is why i have chosen it to be my field of study within sociology. anyways, so what whitlock is saying is that sports is inherently racist, so to survive, black players need to dance for whitey! all this coming from a black writer!
This is fair, particularly when the athletes/employees earn millions of dollars and have the freedom to do whatever — and I mean whatever — they want when they're not playing or practicing.
If African-American players are unwilling to accept this reality, NBA owners will speed up the internationalization of their team's rosters. Many African-American players with NBA-quality skill will soon find themselves circling the country playing basketball with Hot Sauce and the And 1 Tour while Yao Nowitzki collects a $10 million NBA check.
The black players will have no one to blame but themselves.
good lord this is a lot of rambling. anyways, here's the point. the actual events of sports may or may not have anything to do with race. sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. with these two incidents, it's hard to say. it's very conceivable that the abc producers very much wanted to use a big black guy to add extra sexuality to the desperate housewives promo, but it's also entirely possible that they wanted to pick the player with the most personality to do the promo, and T.O. is overwhelmingly the obvious choice. maybe those white fans threw the cup at artest because in their heads they feel that sports is a place where they can do whatever they want if black people don't fulfill their expectations. but it's also possible that ron artest was a timebomb waiting to click and some super drunk fans picked the wrong time to be jackasses.
what is clear is that the interpretation by fans and the media always have something to do with race. it's one of the fundamental axes on which sports is built (masculinity is the other big one). both owens and artest are at the center of events which break one sports code or the other, but all of the criticism has been framed in a "step n fetch" way. why can't these black athletes which we pay so much money just do exactly as they're told and not remind us that we're racists? and as my synonomic brother, the angry asian man says, that's racist sucka!
lastly, i'm still formulating my full opinion on whether or not the sanctions that the league dished out to artest and company are "fair" (as if such a thing could ever really be determined), but right now i'm landing on the side of too harsh. the actions are clearly very bad and unprecedented and fines and suspensions should be handed out, but artest is clearly being used to set an example and as a scapegoat. detroit security is just as responsible. should they all be fired? i mean we can always go back to "artest shouldn't have, but the fan shouldn't have", and all that stuff, but my roommate's reaction of "he should be suspended for the rest of his life" is ludicrous. should we ban the detroit pistons for making basketball so unwatchable then? that's done more to hurt the game then what artest did. international spectacle? f the rest of the world. we don't care what they do with soccer hooligans, so they can go f themselves. he also entertains some logic of "he has a history". well people in the middle east have a history of cutting people's heads off when they're provoked, should we ban them for the rest of their lives?