“De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7″ might be the most ingenious reality series ever produced. Imagine When We Were Kings in real time and with more twists and turns, a high-stakes version of The Contender, and a Shakespearean drama with equal elements of tragedy, history and comedy all rolled into one. The stakes couldn’t be higher or more historically significant. The stars couldn’t have been better cast for their roles. They are a true study in contrasts in everything from fighting to lifestyle. De La Hoya is the very quintessence of mainstream enterprise, American values, and the brighter side of the American dream. From his good looks to his polished mannerisms to his stable home life, De La Hoya sparkles as a perfect 21st Century stand-in for the Great White Hope. Meanwhile, his opponent, Mayweather, comes off as the latest in the long line of irascible, unpredictable balls of contradiction that have defined great black fighters dating back to Jack Johnson. He is a disciplined fighter with unmatched work ethic, and yet he is also a grotesquely puerile, vain, and gaudy young man. You genuinely want to root for him because he is a great fighter with a good heart, but then you can’t help but think his overblown ego could use a check. Even then, though, once you see where he came from, who raised him and how much of his childhood was taken from him for this thing called boxing, you see him as a child reliving the youth he never had, and you find yourself sympathizing with him all over again. Add into this already confusing mix, the father-son-uncle drama swirling around the Mayweather camp, and you start to ask yourself, is this for real? Am I really watching this insanity unfold before my eyes? It is, though, and you are.
Archive for April, 2007
“I’m 28 now. I shouldn’t miss a free throw down the stretch, but it happens. We’re all human. If we were all machines, it would be boring. Emotions play a factor in a big game like that.”
“I think anyone who says they don’t get tense is lying,” Nowitzki said. “In big games, you’ve just got to find ways to stay loose and relaxed. I’ve been doing a decent job of not letting the pressure get to me and still enjoying the moment.
“I love to have the ball at the end of games. That’s what it’s all about, that your teammates trust you and you have confidence in yourself that you can get it done. It’s a great situation to be in.”
“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.”
– Michael Jordan
The Sixth Man: SML will on occasion sub-in for one of the starting five, give them a quick breather.
The big sports story today is the NFL draft. This is good fortune for MLB, as the story here in New York is that a former Mets employee, one Kirk “Murdoch” Radomski, pleaded guilty to distributing steroids to former (and maybe current?) major leaguers. Radomski didn’t have a big role with the team – he worked his way up from batboy to laundry guy – but he may become the center of the biggest story in baseball this season. Or he may just fade away, since he apparently has no connection to Barry Bonds….
From the released court documents:
Beginning in approximately 1995 and continuing through until December 14, 2005 when a search warrant was executed at my residence, I distributed anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, including Human Growth Hormone and Clenbuterol, asas well as amphetamines, to dozens of current and former Major League Baseball players (on teams spread throughout Major League Baseball) and associates. I deposited the payments for those anabolic steroids into my personal bank account and I then used the proceeds to finance my residence, which was the base of operation, warehouse, and communication center for my anabolic steroid-dealing business.
I don’t want to speculate on who he might have been distributing steroids to, but one name that instantly popped into my mind that I’ve always suspected of steroid use is Lenny Dykstra. I could continue to speculate, but the larger point is this: Will the press put the effort into finding the names, doing the leg work, and attempting to incriminate athletes like they did with Barry Bonds? Who is going to go Games of Shadows on this story? Or is it not worth the effort when Barry Bonds is not involved?…
I’ve done many interviews and not many have touched me emotionally like this one has. I honestly could feel myself welling up as Patrick described what he’s been going through with the recent death of his brother Detris. I thought deeply about this interview long after because Patrick and I connected through our similar experiences. I shared with him how the death of my mother has affected me over the years to try to give him some perspective on what life is truly like when you lose someone dear. Detris himself was a great 218 pound linebacker prospect who lost his life when his body cramped up while swimming in a local quarry. Patrick is a great kid. He’s a smart kid. He’s a humble kid that has been through it all and is much more wise as a result. Don’t get it twisted, he will be one of the best. He’s set his sights early on the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is deeply focused. Patrick is a ferocious hitter that will terrorize offensive schemes for years to come. Here’s an interview from earlier in the college football season.
PW: I’m silent. I don’t go out there and talk trash. I let my play do the talking. My range is really what gives me the edge over a lot of players.
MT: What drives you?
PW: I really couldn’t say one thing. There are so many things in my life that have shaped who I am. If I just thought of one thing, I’d be leaving out so much.
MT: I heard that. Honest answer. Try to focus on one.
PW: I want to be the best. I will never settle for average or one of the best. To be the best, you have to do anything and everything to become the best. I will be the best.
I confess I am intrigued by sockgate. On it’s own, it’s a non-story. I find it implausible that Schilling would deliberatly put paint on his sock, as if the drama of his pitching at all in Game Six in 2004 couldn’t stand on its own. Of course, we live in a media culture that has been thoroughly pro-wrestlingified: from introductory graphics, to constant background music, to staged attitude, it seems as though media organizations simply do not trust that the story itself is ever enough to hold the audience’s attention: that everything, no matter how inherently dramatic or compelling, must be produced, stage-managed. As in all else, so too in sports coverage hyped and over-dramatization are the rule, not the exception. It’s in that environment that one could actually entertain the possibility that Schilling’s dramatic Game six performance against the Yankees in 2004 would need a little extra juice, a little kick.
So, that’s one part of the story that I find worthy of chewing on. The other part of the story that is noteworthy is Schilling’s own role in fanning its flames. Lots of celebs, including pro athletes, have their own blogs. But, for someone interested in sports media, what’s distinctive about Schilling’s blog is that it is framed, in part, as an explicit antidote to the failings of sports media. In his criticism of Shaughnessy for his various misrepresentations, and Murray Chass, for being out-of-date in his understanding of baseball statistics, Schilling’s blog has sent the message that he’s writing, in part, because the sports media has failed to do its job.
I have to personally apologize for the delay of part three. I simply have no excuse so I won’t cowardly use one. This conversation is more of a precusor for an interview DWil and I conducted with Scoop Jax that will be posted Monday entitled Vantage Point.
Read the first part one of Jemele’s interview again and notice that Jemele was the first to alert the sports world regarding Don Imus’ now infamous comments. We also discuss her knighting 24 as a better player than 23. That column sparked a mini controversy that she backs up her very eloquently here. Jemele is simply a journalistic force–not in a couple of years–but right now. Open your perspective to change and I assure you, it will be duly noted. She will be a voice of dissent in a white male dominated field that desperately needs adaptation. She’s not a female kicker, but a strong armed quarterback with the keys to an entire gender.
Could you handle the scrutiny?
The Division 1 Board of Directors voted 13-3 yesterday to place a moratorium on text messaging as a recruiting tactic. It will go into effect on August 1st. Personally, I prefer the term “moratorium” to “ban” because in all likelihood the issue isn’t dead, only muzzled, for now. Though less stringent proposals had been on the table – strict 4pm-8pm time limits on school days and 8am-8pm limits on weekends– the board voted to get rid of text messaging all together in large part because “student athletes expressed some problems” over the number and frequency of the messages they were receiving from college recruiters. One unnamed recruit told of receiving 52 texts while he was sleeping. A barrage of calls by a Penn State defensive coordinator prompted one aggravated kid to say to him, ‘Why are you calling me? You’re not my girlfriend. I’ll see you at practice.’
“He looks determined without being ruthless. Something heroic in his manner. There’s a courage about him, he doesn’t look like a killer. He comes across so calm, acts like he has a dream. Full of passion.”
“You don’t trust me, huh?”
“Well, you know why.”
“I do. We’re not supposed to trust anyone in our profession anyway.”
What up, yo. Time is runnin’ out.
I am breaking a rule here. Usually, I just cover sports media. If sports media stray into non-sports topics, as happened with John Amaechi and Don Imus, for example, that’s fine. The focus is still on sports media. But, today, I am going to violate that rule (sort of) by talking about Newsbusters, a non-sports website devoted to exposing what it believes to be liberal media bias. Their topic: Keith Olbermann, and NBC”s announcement last week that it was hiring him to co-host its Sunday night football studio show – Football Night in America. The Newsbusters headline: Liberal Bias Invades NFL.
Sports Media Watch covered the story when it broke, noting that the reaction was generally positive but also flagging some of the criticism, particularly from right-wing sources that dislike Olbermann’s politics.
Among those sources is Newsbusters, which begins by warning that “football
fans can probably expect some liberal bias in the upcoming NFL season.”
In case you weren’t already aware, hip-hop has been under attack for the past few weeks. Besides being lambasted for its normal transgressions (acts of violence, misogyny, etc), hip-hop has been roundly blamed for causing poor Don Imus to be confused about proper linguistic etiquette. It was only a matter of time before the Hip-Hop Haterati started blaming hip-hop culture (i.e. young black athletes) for what they perceive as the decline in the popular appeal of the NBA. In a blog I came across yesterday one of the aforementioned Haterites tried to link the “cultural marginalization” of the NBA to its ties with hip-hop culture over the last 10-15 years. The blogger’s spectactularly pedestrian analysis was worthy of at best a “B” in 10th grade Rhetoric, but in the hostile climate created by the Don Imus conflagration it actually passes for a credible argument worthy of mention and discussion on ESPN.com
A heads up: Jeff Pearlman has graciously agreed to be interviewed for TSF. I’ll have that interview up in the next day or two.
<>Two items of note from the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated:
<>1) Sally Jenkins has a terrific story about the Carlisle Indian School, the extraordinary institution for Native Americans that produced Jim Thorpe and, according to Jenkins’ title: “The Team that Invented Football.” Though Jenkins doesn’t use the phrase, Carlisle’s coach, the legendary Pop Warner, applied Moneyball principles nearly a century before that term entered popular parlance. Faced with a small student population and saddled with overwhelming resource constraints, the leverage that Warner found was the incredible speed and adaptability of his charges, which he parlayed into football’s first vertically-oriented offensive attack. Jenkins explains that, under Warner’s tutelage, “Carlisle mastered an astounding array of trick plays – reverses, end arounds, flea-flickers – and forward passes.” In carrying out such innovations in order to compensate for the fact that Carlisle’s team was giving up more than thirty pounds per player to the elite football schools, like Army and Harvard, Warner and Carlisle “transformed a plodding, brutal college sport into the fact intricate game we know today.”
The First Hip-Hop Hooper?
Master P’s son, Lil Romeo apparently has some game. According to the juvenile hip-hop star cum Nickelodeon darling, he’ll be playing hoops at USC in two years. If he actually suits up for the Trojans he will become the first ever major hip-hopper turned college basketball player. Ma$e, Cam’ron and The Game are among the list of rappers who allegedly had D-1 skills. Master P actually tried out for a couple of NBA teams several years ago. The list of ballers who’ve attempted to make rap careers includes Chris Webber – who actually produced a track on Nas’s Hip-Hop is Dead – former pro Dana Barrows, Allen Iverson, Kobe, Shaq, and most recently Tony Parker! Yes, you heard me correctly. A few weeks ago, the future Tony Longoria released a hip-hop album that is available in France.
Uh-oh, don’t look now but the TSF prediction (Denver in seven) might be coming true. Even though every single ESPN expert picked the Spurs in six, Denver looked like a team on a mission tonight. Doug Collins’ analysis was right on when he noted that San Antonio had never actually seen this Denver team. In fact, no one has really seen this team. Watching Denver tonight was like watching that kid you always knew had potential finally show and prove. At times they were scary good tonight, and they still weren’t as good as they can be. They were everything we thought they could be which was everything the experts believed they couldn’t be, and they’re just beginning to hit their stride. I feel for San Antonio, but this is good for the league.
Although Iverson and Anthony combined for 61, it was they way they scored that was most impressive. Anthony came out sizzling, hitting Ginobli (or was it Finley– they were so far out of the picture once Melo was done I couldn’t tell) with a quick double cross, hesitation at the foul line that was just plain ridiculous, then had the nerve to throw it down in traffic. The kid announced early and often that the last three playoffs were just that: the last three.
Here we go…
Crickets. We all know the sound. Do you find it amazing that that sound can also be associated with a NBA playoff series that could have ignited a one on one rivalry for years to come? Gilbert get up bruh! Join the party! It just ain’t the same without Gilberto Gil raining one handed jumpers–falling out of bounds mind you–while almost being consumed by the shadow of The King.
What to look for: Detroit consistency.
Detroit is arguably the most hard working team in the league and “big boys” teams to get past their very evident team shooting issues. Similar to the acquisition of ‘Sheed during their 2004 championship, the addition of Chris Webber has paid immediate dividends to a team that lacked consistency early in the season. His great sense to create passing lanes helps this team score big buckets after minutes of empty possessions. The roster is packed with battle tested veterans who are ready to make another run at the title that Webber so covets. This is most likely Webber’s last chance to get that June shine.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
Having the best guard tandem in the Association with Billups and Hamilton, the Pistons are going to be a difficult out for whomever they face in what shapes up to be very intriguing playoffs. Who is really going to stop either guard when the game is on the line? The Magic are simply too young to back Detroit into a vulnerable corner. Tayshaun Prince, along with Webber and Antonio McDyess are the X factors that pose constant matchup problems in any situation .
What to Look For: Somethin’ biblical.
At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. . . . For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect –- if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time (Matthew 24:10-13;24 NIV).
They were thisclose. Thisclose to an upset. It didn’t happen. Instead, Kobe Bryant was accused of a cardinal sin, quitting on his team in a game 7, an accusation that will linger in the air of this entire series.
They were thisclose. Thisclose to being upset. It didn’t happen. Instead, Steve Nash maintained his mystique and may hoist another MVP trophy during this series.
I know that last year’s playoffs don’t actually count towards this years award, but to think that they aren’t remembered is a bit naive, no? If the Lakers won that series, Kobe would have been absolved of practically all previous transgressions and would have finally shed the image of a brooding loner. If the Suns had lost that series, the deification of Nash and Phoenix would have been proven to be a ruse in the worst possible fashion. Instead, Nash is still praised for turning a team with two other All Stars-one of them also a candidate for DPOY, a former coach of the year, and a candidate for sixth man of the year into division champions, and Kobe Bryant is still a Judas.
Sebastian Telfair was arrested after speeding early this morning (4 a.m.) in Westchester, NY. Officers clocked Telfair’s 2006 Land Rover at 77 mph in a 45 mph zone. Searching the vehicle, officers found a loaded .45-caliber hangun under the front passenger seat. He and his passenger, Al Eden Fuentes, of Queens were then charged with felony second degree possession of a weapon. Telfair was also charged with misdemeanor driving with a suspended license. Both men are to be arraigned later today.
Bernard McGuirk, the long time producer of the Don Imus Show was summarily fired – finally, I might editorialize – for his contribution to the Imus-Rutger’s Women’s Basketball team shenanigans. One can only wonder what Sid Rosenberg of the 790 The Ticket show and the third member of the radio racist holy trinity is thinking about now. (dwil)
What to Look For: Honestly, who wouldn’t want to see an upset in this series? Denver is the most exciting team in the NBA with two of the most watchable stars in the game. As phenomenal a season Carmelo Anthony has had, no one seems to believe he and Iverson can carry the Nuggets out of the first round, though. That might be enough to motivate the duo. Also, back in the mid ‘90s Duncan and Camby were the two best big men in college basketball. When they played head to head on national television Duncan served Camby. Is it finally time for Camby to get some get-back? These might be the two hottest teams in the NBA right now. Both of their records in the month of April were phenomenal. This series is all about tempo and who controls it. If Iverson continues to play within a team framework and Melo doesn’t resort to jumpers, Denver is dangerous.
Denver Strengths/Weaknesses: It bears repeating: the Nuggets have the best one-two scoring punch in the game. They also have one of the best defensive rebounders and shotblockers in Camby. Quietly, the acquisition of Steve Blake might’ve been one of the best mid-season moves by any NBA team. He knows how to distribute. He’s a great decision maker. He’s a winner. He’s not as fast as Parker, but he moves his feet well enough to at least funnel him away from his sweet spots in the lane. Iverson can’t cheat on defense and Melo has to hit the boards harder than he normally hits them. At the same time, the Nuggets defensive woes won’t be solved in a series.
What to Look For: Look for a young Toronto team to struggle early in the series and for a seasoned New Jersey team to capitalize on its playoff experience. Chris Bosh will put up monster numbers against the New Jersey front line, but an energetic and equally narrow Mikki Moore will at least provide an active, disruptive defensive presence. The two teams split their season series 2-2, with both winning on their home courts which probably means homecourt will be a factor as the series wears on. However, New Jersey is capable of winning on the road. The Nets ended the season going 7-2 in April. Toronto ended with an 8-3 record during the same span.
New Jersey Strengths/Weaknesses: New Jersey owns the best backcourt in basketball. Kidd and Carter have carried an otherwise depleted and inexperienced team all season long. They are both excellent rebounders and passers. The Nets are thin inside and lack any sort of post scoring presence. Josh Boone, however, has emerged of late as an added scoring and defensive threat. The Nets are also missing backcourt reserve help, which means Kidd and Carter will have to log serious minutes. Eddie House is out indefinitely and Marcus Williams has hit the rookie wall.
1) Just a couple of quick notes here. First, kudos to Bomani Jones of ESPN’s page 2, for pointing out the absurdity of the $100,000 fine the NFL levied against Brian Urlacher for wearing a baseball cap during Super Bowl week that had a non-NFL sponsor on it. When I heard this fine reported on Mike and Mike this morning, I was surprised at how little attention they gave it. Surely, I thought, they would comment on how steep that number is in comparison with the amount the NFL usually fines players for doing things like stomping on other guys’ heads. Well, Jones did the leg work and pointed out the following:
Urlacher was fined a whopping $100,000 for wearing a hat promoting vitaminwater at Super Bowl media day. That’s more than the total fines against Bill Romanowski for kicking Larry Centers, spitting on J.J. Stokes, breaking Kerry Collins’ jaw with an illegal hit and three separate illegal hits and a punch on Tony Gonzalez.
Well, that about tells us everything we need to know about the NFL’s priorities. For the record, the NFL is playing “the kind of gangsta” that is “to be respected” in Jones’ view:
The TSF Voting Methodology:
Three (3) points were awarded for every first place vote in a given category
Two (2) points were awarded for every second place vote in a given category
One (1) point was awarded for every third place vote in a given category
Each member of The Starting Five was asked to submit their top three choices in each category: MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Most Improved Player, Comeback Player, Rookie of the Year, and Coach of the Year.
Nearly a year ago a juvenile court in Plainfield, New Jersey found Reggie Dixon guilty of aggravated sexual assault against his teenage steps-sister. Because of the statutory nature of the crime, the prosecution’s failure to disprove consent beyond a shadow of a doubt was irrelevant. Dixon’s punishment: psychological treatment, fines and penalties and mandatory sex offender registration.
Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano knew all of this when he signed Dixon on March 31st. Plainfield, Dixon’s hometown, is about as populated as Rutgers’ New Brunswick-Piscataway campus, and is only a fifteen minute drive away. What Coach Schiano knew better, though, was how close Rutgers came to joining the elite BCS Bowl clique this past winter, how high the expectations are going into this year, and, most importantly Dixon’s 40-yard dash time: 4.35.
The Sixth Man: SML will on occasion sub-in for one of the starting five, give them a quick breather.
There is no debate on referee Joe Crawford’s just announced suspension from basketball. One just has to watch the video of an incredulous Tim Duncan sitting on the bench, first laughing at another ridiculous call, then completely shocked at being tee’d up and ejected from about 30 feet away. Crawford’s history of questionable officiating and ethics has already been covered in detail by this site in the last post.
Of course, the bigger issue, and there is one, is renegade officiating in general. Well, “renegade” if you believe it’s not pre-organized; regardless of whether you are a person who believes that sometimes refs act as if they are above the game, or whether you are a person who believes those refs are acting as part of a deeper conspiracy, the point is we have all seen bad refereeing. Anyone that has ever played sports of any kind, at any level (professional, amateur or recreational), has had a run-in at some point with a referee who was power-tripping, or worse. But this is becoming a very big issue in major sports right now.
HNIC wrote a fantastic piece yesterday on Jackie Robinson and I just wanted to write a tangential post here, looking at an article Jeff Pearlman wrote for ESPN’s page 2 over the weekend about Barry Bonds’ decision to wear No. 42 for the Robinson celebration. I generally like Pearlman, and I like his politics (he’s one of the few mainstream sportswriters to be upfront about what those are). But, his piece on Bonds (about whom he wrote a well publicized book) was piling on at its most egregious. And, in the course of attacking Bonds for doing what scores of major leaguers did the past couple of days, he showed an ignorance of the complexity of Jackie Robinson himself, which HNIC so beautifully laid out.
As an aside, I want to note that my father, who died many years ago, was a political radical in his day and was among the folks who volunteered to be a body guard for Robeson during the fateful Peekskill concert to which HNIC referred. Robeson died in January, 1976, when I was ten, and I heard a lot about him, especially because my fifth grade music teacher, Mr. Scott, devoted the entire semester to studying Robeson after his passing.
OK, to Pearlman. To cut to the chase, Pearlman was deeply offended by the fact that Bonds decided to wear No. 42, comparing that decision to President Bush’s entirely phony efforts to drape himself in the clothing of an environmentalist while supporting policies that do clear detriment to the environment:
Of course, by now all noncomatose homo sapiens realize that Bush is to the environment what Hulk Hogan was to the Iron Sheik’s head. He’s pro- Alaska oil drilling, anti- the ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, pro- curtailing the federal standard for arsenic in drinking water and, most recently, anti- the right of states to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from motor vehicles.
He also hates long walks on the beach and birds that chirp.
And yet, when Bush shows up at a forest gate to kiss a leopard, none of us flinch. We are numb to the phenomenon. It is what it is — a public figure extolling a virtue, then doing zilch to support it.
Which leads us, naturally, to Barry Lamar Bonds.
Yesterday Major League Baseball did the right thing, a wonderful thing, in honoring Jackie Robinson. The 60th anniversary celebration of baseball’s desegregation couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time either. Race and sports are yet again at the forefront of public dialogue. With the suspension of Pacman Jones, and the never-ending soap opera surrounding Barry Bonds, the pro athlete is in need of some good P.R. Major League Baseball players and managers stepped up big.
But once the clock officially struck 12, I was left wondering why Jackie Robinson had never felt real to me as a kid; why his name never evoked the stirrings of supreme adulation in my soul like Ali’s and Malcolm X’s. Growing up, Jackie’s was a name I knew because I had to know it. He stood beside Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. in the pantheon of inviolable, unassailable black deities from the days before technicolor, immortals I dared not question or criticize. Cornel West calls it the “Santa-Clausification” of our heros. It’s when we strip them of their personhood for the sake of symbolism. He originally used the term to describe the public’s perception of Dr. King: the gulf between the Dr. King we learn about in schools and the Dr. King of actually flesh and blood— a mortal man with doubts, a man with an appetite for the fairer sex that drove him outside of his marriage. According to West, it’s only when we begin to deal with our heros as people who walked the earth that we can learn from them and appreciate them and even strive to exceed them. On the flip side, as long as they remain untouchable we remain untouched.
It’s become an increasingly common point of discussion to link the Imus firing to the dismissal of all charges in the Duke Lacrosse case. I was not yet blogging when, just over a year ago, allegations emerged from an African-American escort/dancer that she had been gang raped at an off-campus party by members of the Duke University Lacrosse team. The case was problematic almost from the start. It emerged relatively early on that the witness had a troubled past, including a previous unproved allegation of sexual assault, that there was no DNA evidence linking the accused to the alleged crimes and that the DA, Mike Nifong, had acted in a reckless manner, publicly and repeatedly vilifying the accused before he had amassed convincing evidence against them. Almost from the first, Nifong’s critics accused him of pushing this case in order to aid in his re-election campaign in a city with a substantial African American voting population. Whether this is true, or whether Nifong’s ultimate re-election hinged on African American support, I don’t know. But, whatever the motive for his conduct, the misconduct hearing he now faces appears well-deserved. My thought when Nifong first brought the case was that a DA would not pursue such a case unless he really thought he could get a conviction. And, as I’ve noted previously, the New York Times, in a long article last July, after the case had already begun to unravel, reviewed in detail the case file and found that there was a basis for moving forward, even without the DNA evidence. But, the accuser’s changing stories, the lack of DNA evidence, the incontrovertible alibi of one of the three accused and the fact that Nifong himself was so obviously incapable of acting impartially about this case meant that it just didn’t have a leg to stand on. We’ve all known for months that eventual dismissal was the likely outcome.
The inter-weaving of this story with the Imus story comes not only from the timing of the firing and case dismissal, within twenty four hours of one another. It also stems from the intense focus on the role that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson played in the public unraveling of Imus. In my earlier Imus posts this week, I maintained that the lumping of Jackson and Sharpton on this issue is curious, since they’ve played very different roles in the controversy – Sharpton a relatively significant one, Jackson much less of one. But, the two have also been lumped together in the linking of the Imus imbroglio with the Duke Lacrosse case. Beginning Thursday night, when I heard Adam Gold on 850 the buzz in Raleigh (and almost all of his callers), there was a trope repeated endlessly over the next couple of days: when are Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson going to apologize to the falsely accused Duke Lacrosse players? Gold himself asked that question throughout the evening, though he answered it by saying that he wasn’t going to hold his breath. But, between Gold and his callers, there was repeated goading directed at the two activists for having come down to North Carolina, stirred the pot, agitated for the conviction of the players and for having vilified those players – (in some versions calling them devils – and not Blue Devils). Gold, I should note, still believes that something very ugly likely happened on the night of March 13, 2006 – that the accuser was likely mistreated (and no one disputes that racial epithets were directed at both women involved in the party), felt genuinely threatened and may have been a victim of what we would call ‘sexual harassment.” (a view of the situation that seems plausible to me). But, Gold noted, this is still a far cry from rape and therefore, a terrible miscarriage of justice.
In Part 2 of this conversation, Jemele and I converse candidly about some issues that need to be addressed in sports. I really appreciate her honesty. It’s unusual to hear someone voice their true thoughts in such an arena. She deserves mad props for understanding the true meaning of what The Starting Five is all about. My wish is that all writers would be this forthcoming because only then will sports fans truly learn through a writer’s extensive experience as well as the sports they cover. We see sports differently than fans. The levels and layers of understanding are vastly different because its our specialty. These interviews have that in mind, so begin to see a little more objectively and open up your perspective of sports in general.
MT: Are you comfortable with the way MLB is celebrating the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking into the major leagues? What’s your opinion or earliest memory of Jackie Robinson?
JH: I think Jackie Robinson is probably one of the most underrated athletes of our time. His place in history is also underrated. Reading what he went through is just like a Hank Aaron story, it literally brings a tear to your eye. It makes you respect him that much more when you see what he had to endure. I have read his story many times. I have interviewed people in his family and I am stunned every single time at how he did it. It makes me almost embarrassed when I hear certain athletes talk about how they face racism. They use this word lightly. They don’t really understand what racism is until they take a peek at what Jackie Robinson had to go through. I believe that MLB plans to have everyone wear the number #42 on April 15th to celebrate his anniversary, which I feel is a fine tribute. I think his place in history has been solidified. He was just an amazing man. Someone wrote a book about his impact on integration—which I think is something for a far deeper conversation. What is interesting is how integration affected the inner cities and not always in a good way. Obviously a great door was opened but at the same time it is interesting to me that a great door was also closed when you look at what happened with the inner cities regarding culture and sports.
I said yesterday that I haven’t heard Imus traffic in overtly racist stuff over the past few years, but Imus’ history is clear, as Dwil points out today in his Whitlock takedown (more below) and as is clear from the damning transcript from Sixty Minutes about which Bob Herbert wrote this morning. Furthermore, as Bryan Burwell, of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch told Jim Rome on Tuesday, Imus’ producer Bernie McGuirk, who is unashamedly racist, has gotten off scott-free in all this. And, Imus is, of course, responsible for whatever McGuirk, or Sid Rosenberg or anyone else on the show has said in this vein over the years – it’s Imus’ show.
I mention this because it makes the body-of-work vs. single-bad-act defense non-sensical.
As I am sure most of you know, NBC has pulled the plug on Imus’ MSNBC simulcasts. And, so no one misses the point – this was the market at work. Sponsors started pulling ads, and next thing you know…The government didn’t force this decision, and unless a relevant group in the market-place had raised enough of a stink about the content of a show, this wouldn’t have happened. I am emphasizing this point because there’s been so much effort to characterize as pernicious the “interference” of the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton (about which I will have LOTS to say below). But, they have no power to shut down a show other than their ability to persuade and signal to relevant actors in the market place that supporting a particular product, in this case, Imus, might no longer be worth their while. I don’t personally believe that the market should be the arbiter of all values in our society, but that’s a premise that most people in the world of sports commentary take for granted and never question. So, I think it’s fair to ask – why is such an exercise of marketplace power out of bounds now?
This isn’t the first time Rutgers basketball has found itself at the center of a racially charged controversy. Just four months prior to C. Vivian Stringer’s arrival on the Piscataway campus in the summer of 1995, the school’s African-American student body was doing its best to rekindle the fire of the sixties generation. For weeks the campus became a hot-bed for political activity. Protests. Teach-ins. Fire alarms. Bogus bomb threats. A highway was taken over.