No celebrating allowed

September 10, 2008

Let me first say again, that it’s good to “be back” and hopefully I’ll be back on a more consistent basis.

That said, like many I thoroughly enjoyed the Olympics this year. Not since the 96 games in Atlanta, have I been that excited to catch the competition each day and night and keep up with how the US was doing.

It’s undeniable that the face of these Olympics was Michael Phelps. The Baltimore native transcended the games and captured the attention and imagination of even the casual fan. From the world records to the wins by the closest of margins, Phelps’ record-breaking eight gold medal performance was to me, one of the greatest individual sport performances of all time. While he says he’ll swim in 2012 in London, he is set for life and through endorsements and speaking engagements, will never have to step foot in a pool if he doesn’t want to.

But coming in a close second to Phelps for the story of the Olympics was Usain Bolt, the dynamic, charismatic sprinter from Jamaica. Maybe it was just me, but I’d never heard of this guy prior to this summer. Immediately, if nothing else, the guy won the award for greatest name in sports. But Bolt did more than that. In an instant, actually 9.69 seconds, Bolts made everyone take notice. Who was this guy and where did he come from.

Asafa Powell? Whatever. Tyson Gay? Please. He dusted them.

…and then rejoiced.

Bolt let up with about 20 yards to go and was in utter joy because of his win. But, for whatever reason, critics blasted him. Why? I don’t recall the chairman of the IOC giving his opinion when Phelps was screaming and splashing the water after a couple of his wins.

When athletes, particularly minorities, celebrate, it’s often perceived in the media as being cocky, brash and disrespectful to the game and their opponents. And while in many cases that’s true, more often than not, the accusations are completely off base.

We need more Bolt. I just hope he’s clear of steriods. He’s a star in the making and is fun to watch.

The amazing athleticism…and the showmanship


But this isn’t like him…

May 6, 2008

For the record, I’m not a Colts fan. I am, however, a Peyton Manning fan simply because I like the way he plays the game, and to me, his off-the-field ads/endorsements are funny. Plus, the few times I’ve had the opportunity to come in contact with him, he’s seemed genuine. And, I’m a big Tony Dungy fan. Aside from being a Super Bowl winning coach, I believe he’s a man of values and stature who should be a role model for men of all races to aspire to be like.

But that’s where it ends. However, because of their success, I’ve had no other choice but to watch them play because it seems they’re the national game every week during the regular, so I feel like I know the team fairly well.  I know Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne, Jeff Saturday

And Marvin Harrison.

Harrison is arguably one of the top-5 receivers of the past 20 years. His numbers can’t be ignored and he finally added a Super Bowl ring to his resume a couple of years ago. But he doesn’t get the same national attention because he isn’t as “flamboyant” as some of his other wide receiver counterparts — Chad Johnson, T.O., Brandon Marshall, etc. Because he’s “quiet” and “plays the game with respect” he has been lauded by the media. Because he doesn’t celebrate when he scores a touchdown, he’s squeaky clean.

So this week, when allegations surfaced about Harrison being involved in a shooting incident in his native North Philly ‘hood, I was curious to see how people and the media would respond now that something like this has happened to a “Marvin Harrison type of guy”

For the record, count me among the many who didn’t see this coming, but don’t count me as one who was suprised. One of the mistakes fans and media make, particularly when analyzing the black athlete, is thinking we know how a person is based on how they look and what they do for the 2-3 hours they’re about catching a ball.

Assumptions are made and stereotypes are formed. If said player is tatted up, beats his chest and shows any kind of emotions, more than likely, to the outside world at least, there has to be something wrong with him and he’s labeled as troubled and a thug. On the flip side, a player like Harrison, who doesn’t draw attention to himself and is soft-spoken, can’t possibly have any problems because it just doesn’t seem like something he’d do.

Guilt or innocence is besides the point. I hope Harrison makes it through this. Say what you want about T.O. and he perceived selfishness and arrogance, but you never hear about him getting arrested, in trouble etc. But the media potrays him as the bad guy. Maybe we should stop thinking we know people based on what we see once or twice a week when they’re in a uniform.

 


Vogue’n

March 27, 2008

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So last week, LeBron James appeared with Gisele on the cover of the latest edition of Vogue Magazine. Smart move for Bron Bron, who has said numerous times he wants to be a a “global icon” To do that he must, from time to time, go against the grain so to speak and increase his cross over appeal. And by appearing on covers like Vogue and others, it’s a step.

But in the midst of it all, a firestorm was brewing. Some folk were appalled and disturbed at the cover. Not because he was on Vogue, nor because he was with “Tom Brady’s girl” It was the because of they way in which James was portrayed in the image. To many, it was racially insensitive. You know, the big black mandigo coming to the rescue of the blonde white woman. The image of dominance. King Kong grabbing the white woman.

While some didn’t think it was such a big deal and shook their heads and the talk of racist imagery, others couldn’t look past the picture in which they feel Bron Bron was painted. Jemele says “Too often, black athletes are presented as angry, overly aggressive and overly sexual. Or sometimes, they’re just plain emasculated.”Hill suggests while the media is partly to blame, athletes like James need to step up and say “No” to issues that can be controversial, no matter how much they’re getting paid.

The issue is that athletes in today’s age really don’t have a sense of history and how these images in the past were seen as racial. And I really can’t blames them. I’m in my 20s and some of the things older black folk get in an uproar about and it just doesn’t hit home with me as much.

So I found it interesting the differences of opinions on this. I curious to see/hear what others think.


Mike Freeman’s not feeling “Psycho T”

March 14, 2008

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Well, at least not the media slurping of him.

In a recent column, CBSSports.com’s Mike Freeman questions and essentially calls out members of the media for the anointing of  UNC star Tyler Hansbrough as the face of college basketball.

Freeman calls into question some media members — Dick Vitale — who often characterize Hansbrough as the “toughest guy in college basketball” and one who plays “with more desire than any player in the history of college basketball.”

 To his credit, Hansbrough is an outstanding college player. Recently named Sporting News player of the year, the junior is consider not only the best player on the No. 1-ranked team in the country, but along with Michael Beasley, is considered the top player in his country.

Notice the emphasis on “college” While I’ve watched my share of UNC games this season, I think Hansbrough is great in the college game and that’s were it will end. At about 6-8 or so, the things he does in the college game will be null and void in the NBA.

Here’s where I agree with Freeman. To take Hansbrough’s toughness and hustle — all of which he does — and elevate him to the toughest player in college basketball is ridiculous. There are 300-plus Division I basketball programs in the country and I’m sure each and every player plays with “desire” and “passion” just like Hansbrough.

So why the lovefest?  Is it a racial issue? Freeman thinks so.

From the column:

“I thought the media hadn’t gotten beyond the “black guy-talented, white-guy-tough” silliness, but the coverage around Hanbrough demonstrates maybe we haven’t.”

I can’t speak for Freeman, but the issue is not Hansbrough, it’s the constant slurping we see of the white athletes from the media. I agree with the quote above. Not that it never happens, but more often black athletes are characterized as athletic and cocky as opposed to smart and tough.

It’s one of those stereotypes that is not specific to a certain sport. You hear it too often and hope one day it changes.


Baby Daddy Drama

March 6, 2008

Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com had a rather interesting column today concerning star running back Darren McFadden. I usually just skim over Freeman’s stuff from time to time, but this one caught my eye and after reading it, I think he makes some good points and raises a few issues.

Freeman points out that while McFadden may turn out to be the best play in this year’s draft, it would be a mistake for a team to draft him.

Why?

Well, basically McFadden doesn’t know how to strap it up and is about to head into the league in a hole with allegedly two children on the way. It will undoubtedly be an extra hassle for McFadden, but its something that he will be able to overcome.  But like Freeman, I believe that it’s troubling at 21 and about to fall into a bunch of money to be going through this.

 But it happens and as long as he’s responsible.

Here’s where I have a problem. Often times, the media tends to criticize and call out athletes for their infidelity and children out of wedlock. But this criticism isn’t equally distributed. In just the past couple of years, Tom Brady and Matt Leinart both had gone through baby mama drama, but have largely gone untouched in the media — except for Jemele’s column.

To be fair, LeBron, who has a couple of kids with his high school girlfriend has  not suffered any media criticism — that I can remember.

The bottom line is, there are already stereotypes about black athletes that the media pushes. I just hope McFadden and others are careful and don’t give the media fuel to add to the fire.


Breaking News: All black people don’t live in the ‘hood

March 3, 2008

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Growing up, I was involved in almost every “extracurricular” activity imaginable. Band, scouts, basketball, baseball and football.

Admittedly, I like to think I was gifted in everything I tried to do. My parents still have my trophies and certificates to prove it. But as time passed and I got older, I dropped a lot of things from the table and by the time I reached high school, my major activities were band and baseball.

Baseball has been and will continue to be an important part of my life and I enjoy the game and the stories it produces.

There’s one story that continues to surface that really gets to me and in the big picture, I guess it really shouldn’t.  I always find it disturbing when I hear complaints about the lack of blacks in the Major Leagues and the lack of young black boys playing the sport growing up.

It’s not the fact that the issue of blacks not playing baseball, because the statistics back that up. MLB, with its Urban Youth Academy has done a good job addressing this.

My issue, and again, maybe I’m nitpicking, is whenever this is discussed, you always here — “Well, we have to get baseball back in the inner city.” As someone who didn’t grow up in the ‘hood and played baseball with just as many blacks as whites, I find this one sided and somewhat stereotypical.

This past weekend, ESPN aired withe Urban Invitational Tournament in Compton, Calif. that feature to of the top HBCU baseball porgrams –Southern and Bethune-Cookman, which was advertised as an event that would “focus on reviving the majesty of baseball in the African-American community”.

Again, not to overlook the facts of the matter, but to me, to say that baseball is dead in the African American community suggest that “they” feel that only blacks who play baseball are in the inner city. I haven’t yet to see this initiative come to the ‘burbs, where myself and millions of young blacks like me grew up.

Nonetheless I support what MLB is trying to do and think they have made some progress. I just their message is just a tad stereotypical.


Can sports save the ‘hood?

February 28, 2008

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 I’m not exactly sure where I want to go with this post, so bare with me.

Pictured above is an artist rendition of the Washington Nationalsnew stadium in Southeast DC. After a couple of years at RFK, the Nats are scheduled to start play in  their new stadium on opening day 2008. While the jury’s still out on what the team will look like, by all accounts, the stadium is a gem.

But rewind a couple of years ago when owners and city officials were trying to find a permanent home for the Nats. If I recall correctly, a different tune was being sung. Nobody, media included, was keen on building the stadium in “that neighborhood” After all, it was “in Southeast” It bothered me at the time because just a few years earlier the same discussion was held in reference to the MCI Verizon Center. However, one it was finished and that area turned out not to be as bad as presumed, it was the greatest idea in the world.

Today, as the Nats stadium is in its final stages of completion, it’s a totally different story. The area as been cleaned up and with talks of condos, shops, etc., the Anacostia waterfront it said to be experiencing a “Renaissance”

To me, I question has to be asked, why does it take sports to bring attention to, and revamp the ‘hood or low income areas. We’ve seen this in different citites and in all sports. The most recent one that comes to mind is the New Jersey Devils and their new stadium in downtown Newark.  Prior to, it was a disaster, a few months later, ease has set in.

People form opinions based on what they read/see in the media. So, if Joe Sportswriter blasts a team for an arena location, Sally Suburbs is going to believe it, thus forming an opinion about said area. I guess my beef is why it takes sports to bring attention and money to bad neighborhoods. But, on the flipside, maybe we should thank sports, because if it wasn’t for them, these areas may go ignored forever.