Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why do only minority athletes have to save the world?

Not the end of their careers
Not going to apologize about this: I'm a Keith Olbermann fan. Don't mind his politics (well, obviously), love his writing, enjoyed him back in the day when ESPN was giving us all the fleeting hope that you could be smart and have a sports network, didn't take it personally when he tried to make ESPN2 work way back when, and was geeked enough about him coming back to The Deuce that I made sure to set a reminder and watch.

KO did not disappoint. His highlights made me laugh out loud and I suspect he's going to be a routine part of my evenings again, even if most of what he's doing is just giving air and context to stuff I already knew about from working in Blogfrica. "The sun would be an issue, as it has been since the age of the dinosaurs," over footage of Kansas City Royals players losing pop ups in the glare... well, I just like it. Probably always will.

But in the opening segment, after taking down the clay pigeons that are the New York media and Rex Ryan on the Sanchez Affair, he had on Jason Whitlock.... oh, hold on for a tic there. If Keith is really going to fill the show with guys who are supposed to never work for the World Wide Lemur again, I am completely all-in for this show. Will we have Jim Rome for a point-counterpoint with Jim Everett, Hugh Douglas to snarl at black co-workers, Harold Reynolds to hug it out, Sean Salisbury to... OK, maybe it wouldn't be that great. Back to the point.

Whitlock made the fairly canonical argument that sports is ahead of society in eradicating racism (Good On You, Sports!) because it's a meritocracy and all that... but that the superstar minority athletes are more involved in getting theirs, rather than helping those that come later. And wouldn't Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., if he were only alive today and somehow still able to speak truth to power despite being jaw-droppingly old, be disappointed.

And, well, sure. Michael Jordan paved the way for generations of gimme gimme by polishing the public image to the point where everyone became the safe Corporation Of Me, and the fact that Charles Barkley is having the last laugh by having the much more beloved second half of his life doesn't really matter, since MJ's got the rings. Tiger Woods was well on the same route until his waitress regimen was revealed, and LeBron James took a detour to screw/leave Cleveland, but will be back to the long boring ride to cashout. None of these guys are going to stick their necks out to talk about, say, inequitable financing of public education, the availability of fresh produce as part of an anti-obesity campaign in urban areas, a raising of the minimum wage, yada yada yada yada. In the immortal words of Jordan Inc., Republicans buy shoes, too.

And all of this is true, easy and sounds so much better when someone of the same skin pigmentation says it... but, um, Jason? Why is it that only minority stars get this noise? Why isn't anyone taking Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Mike Ditka, Joe Namath, Joe Theismann, Tony Siragusa, Joe Montana, Joe Mauer, Cal Ripken and a million other white athletes who make a lot of advertising bank from, well, not pushing for the same issues?

The plain and simple of it is that athletes, like every walk of life and more, are predominantly self-involved people, most of whom will not overwhelm you with their charitable impulses. Expecting any of them to do for others and future generations is naive at best, and a double standard at worst.

I would also argue, perpetually, that athletes should be seen and not heard, and would gladly sign off on a minor infringement on our First Amendment rights by prohibiting athletes from being interviewed off the field or used in commercials. Think how much better our world would be. Anyway, I digress.

True equality is, well, equality: everyone gets to live down to the lowest common denominator and greed out with equal shamelessness. No one feels like they have to upheld their demographic or heritage, because we see all of these things as inherently equal and meaningless. (Oh, and we'd get to have monumentally more interesting television and movies, since you'd get to have heroes and antagonists of every demographic class, without apologizing back stories or third act softening or mitigation to explain it all away.)

Either chastise everyone for being a greedbucket, or no one. And welcome back, Keith.

1 comment:

CMJDad said...

Don't like his politics (I know, big shock), but I do like him on ESPN. Smart and funny.

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