he plays a lot like detlef schrempf…

18 03 2008

The world of professional sports lends itself easily to cliché. The idea of an athlete telling a reporter he wants to “take it one game at a time” was laughed at as a blandly silly cliché in Bull Durham almost twenty years ago, but it continues to be a mainstay of the post-game interview. It’s rare if ever that such an interview reveals any true insight into the minds of our sports heroes, unless you’re amused by Craig Sager’s suit (I am!), or are curious what Steve Nash ate (probably Del Taco).


That said, the fact that a star guard who just dropped forty doesn’t want to ramble on about his team’s momentum, his calisthenics, and who’s on his iPod is irrelevant and inoffensive. The truly irksome habits aren’t those of the players, but the networks that cover them. The media at large has the power to influence millions, especially the sports media by virtue of the lowered stakes of the discussion. I engage my brain a lot less watching ESPN than I do watching the news, mainly because I assume I can get away with it (that recent piece about football players chasing rabbits in a field was dumb and terrible). I enjoy having the chance to shut down my mind for that invaluable bit of time, which is precisely why I hate it when I’m watching an NBA draft preview and suddenly I’m thinking about racism.


You will, you see, almost never read or watch or hear an NBA draft report comparing a sweet shooting, deft passing, six-foot-eight black kid to Larry Bird. Maybe he’s a Magic Johnson, a Bernard King, an Oscar Robertson kind of guy, but Larry Bird? Hell no, this kid is black. This may not seem so major, especially since calling a guy the next Larry Bird has evolved into a sort of backhanded compliment (the assumption being you can shoot a little, pass a little, and hit the boards a little, ignoring the fact that Bird dominated at all three), but it is an unpleasant instance of people allowing a latent racism to color their remarks.


It could be argued that because such comparisons drawn between players tend to be trite and inaccurate regardless, the process of comparing a collegiate hoopster with any NBA player, legend or bench scrub, is silly and therefore not capable of engendering a racist mindset. And it probably is worthwhile to point out that being called Oscar Robertson instead of Larry Bird might not be a bad thing (might be a good thing if you love triple-doubles), but it bears repeating; despite the at times grossly inaccurate predictions of success young players have thrust upon them, I cannot recall ever reading that Sebastian Telfair was going to be John Stockton, that Luke Ridnour was going to be Dennis Johnson, or that Yao Ming was going to be Hakeem Olajuwon (it’s worth mentioning, actually, that I have seen a few comparisons that were made between Yao Ming and former Pacer Rik Smits, although the rules around this seem to be different when comparing NBA imports).


This is a concerning blind spot I think needs to be addressed, since I have and continue to hold basketball in a very high regard not just for the beauty of the game itself, but for the social and political awareness that seems to be exhibited by many of its fans, teams, and players. It is with this in mind that I’d like to present Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet, or as I like to call him, the next Greg Ostertag. Apologies to Hasheem, but equality marches on.




3 responses

18 03 2008

this is really an interesting subject. i guess there’s a book about this called “forty-million dollar slaves” that i’ve been meaning to read. have you read this? i think it sounds really interesting but i’ve got quite the reading list ahead of me.

amazon.com’s page for the book:

really compelling post.

18 03 2008

I haven’t read it, actually, but I am interested. I’ll have to stroll down to the local library.

15 04 2008

he is weird

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