Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Lessons Learned!!!

So I think the theme of today was, " about you read stuff for yourself before going off how people react to it." Because seriously I felt kinda sheepish after I heard about this story by Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star-Tribune talking about the Indiana Pacers being too white.

Before I express how I got exposed for being a sheep - the Indiana Pacers are 50% white, a rarity of a league dominated by Black players. They have more white players than any team in the league and are run by that recent paragon of white basketball - Larry Bird. Bird is one of my favorite players because he outsmarted, outworked and just outplayed his competition while letting you know about it. I've patterned my jump shot after him - that hold it high, release off the fingertips that was butter.

Anyways, I was listening to the talking heads of ESPN's Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption and read Deadspin's article on it - they made it sound like this article was baseless and served no purpose. Making the race issue appear out of thin air when we all know Bird is about winning regardless of color.

My first reaction was laughing because how often do we hear White columnists or people call out something for being too White. Of course I heard it often at school in private convos but rarely did that come out in public. But then I was like, wait a minute, isn't Danny Granger the face of the franchise. He's black. Isn't Larry Bird one of the greatest competitors ever so wouldn't winning care over pandering to race?

I was ready to crucify this guy for being an idiot based on what Bill Plaschke, Jackie MacMullan and Kevin Blackistone were saying. J.A. Adande said it best on ATH - just because something is predominantly white doesn't make it racist. Then I go to Deadspin for their typical snarky reaction and there's a link to the story - hammer and nails in head.

Whoops! Head back to the toolshed and re-read that manual, Mr. Kent.

In said article, Kravitz opens by talking about the whiteness of the Pacers and the perception of the franchise but immediately proceeds to debunk that myth by showing that 1) Bird indeed cares about winning 1st, 2) 8 of the team's last 10 draftees have been Black, 3) Make the argument that it's not about color, it's about W's.

Didn't that just sound like everything the talking heads were speaking about? Yeah I thought so, too. Immediately I felt like an idiot. "Dont question the motives behind his choices" Kravitz said. That didn't sound like him making an argument out of speculation.

Like most Celtics, Bird was influenced by Red Auerbach - a man who cared about winning over race. He drafted Black players, built around a Black player in Bill Russell and had an All-Black starting lineup in the 60's in a city noted for its racism. I hate to use this term, but Red was colorblind - he wanted to win regardless if a city wanted certain players to shine.

Now do I think that pandering to a White fan base is implausible. Absolutely not, the NBA has done it since after the 1970's when league attendance was an all-time low as people assumed the league was too drugged up and perhaps too Black. Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Bird helped bring fans back because they won and sold products - esp. Jordan. It's done it again since the 2004 Brawl between Detroit, Indiana and Detroit's fans (i.e. Dress Code, Flagrant Fouls being called more often, and an overall sissifying of the game).

But is it all racist? No. Are there subliminal messages? Yes, but the league is a business and it wants to present itself a certain way. Can't knock the theory but I'll critique the approach when appropriate.

So kids, it all goes back to what my former pastor/cousin said to us during his sermons. Read it for yourself. Don't take someone's word for it - a lesson relearned today courtesy of Bob Kravitz.

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