Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sergio Garcia Branded a Racist--What A Raw Deal

Spear-chucking jigaboo, lazy spook,  chitlin'-eating coon,  watermelon-lovin' shine, no-good nigger and on and on....

Now these are hard-core racial slurs--cruel, slashing, stake-in-the-heart verbal bullets meant to demean and  scar. On the racial-slur meter, these are all 10s. But how do you rate comments by non-whites about an African-American eating fried chicken?  Are they automatically and unequivocally racial slurs? Of course not. Many such comments wouldn't even move the needle on that slur meter. One that's mistakenly being branded a slur was recently made by Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia.

He's being crucified and demonized as a racist for making a "fried chicken" comment. The way he's being treated you'd think he'd said something that registered a 10 on that slur meter. No question,  he's getting a raw deal. There's a stain on his image that will follow him for the rest of his career. Back in 1997 golfer Fuzzy Zoeller made a joking reference to Tiger Woods and fried chicken that has dogged him ever since. You say Zoeller and right away many think fried chicken and Woods and then, inevitably....racist...

Garcia has been under fire all week for making a so-called racial slur.aimed also at Woods. It's no secret that he and Tiger don't like each other..Their feud heated up recently at the Players Championship when Woods apparently did something to trigger crowd noise that, Garcia charged, was a distraction that caused him to blow a shot. Early this week, responding to a media question about his relationship with Tiger, Garcia replied: "We'll have him 'round every night. We'll serve fried chicken."

Then all hell broke loose. That reply was instantly deemed racist. Smelling a juicy scandal, the media played  up the incident. Every time Garcia's reply is mentioned, there's a reference to the 1997 Zoeller furor. Garcia has become the new Zoeller--golf's reigning racist. Suddenly, in the eyes of many, Garcia traded in his golf cap for a KKK hood. Some sponsors apparently will drop him, costing him millions.

Aren't we getting too sensitive about such things? Fried chicken is a universal dish. Everyone loves it. Everybody eats it. Is a black eating fried chicken still a negative stereotype? Didn't we get past that way back in the last century? Just because Garcia mentioned sitting down with Woods to a fried chicken dinner, it's unfair to brand him a racist.

A comment involving blacks eating fried chicken can be racist--in certain situations. That depends on who's talking and the context. If a good ol' boy from Mississippi talks about eating fried chicken with a "nigra," now that clearly has racist overtones. But when someone like Garcia, who has no history of racism--or any kind of negativity for that matter--mentions dining on fried chicken with a black, why would that comment automatically be branded racist? If Garcia had talked about eating watermelon and chitlins with Woods, now that's clearly a racial slur. But eating chicken? It's a reach to label that racist. It's surprising so many people sprinted down that dark road.

Garcia has apologized but apparently he didn't grovel enough. That apology, considered insincere and half hearted, just made things worse. Another apology hasn't swayed anybody. He'll keep on apologizing, no doubt with the same results. They don't work because they seem like damage-control and not from the heart.

It's easy to see what's going on in Garcia's head. It's tough to give a convincing apology when you don't think you're guilty. Garcia obviously doesn't think he did anything wrong. He can't be believable apologizing for a remark he never meant to be racist.

I believe him. I don't think he's a racist or had any malicious intent when he answered that reporter's question. Unfortunately, most people don't agree. They think he was delivering a racial zinger at Tiger.

Sadly for Garcia, there's not much he can do to clean up this mess..Sergio Garcia, racist. What an ugly tag--one he'll never escape.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

NBA West Finals: Memphis Wins Ugly

Warning to the casual NBA fan. Steer clear of the Western Conference Finals, between the Memphis Grizzlies and the San Antonio Spurs, which start Sunday in San Antonio. This series isn't for you.

 The casual fan zeros in on the NBA at playoff time, looking for glamor, flash, high-speed offense and dazzling dunks. Naturally, that casual fan favors the conference glamor boys, like Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Stephen Curry--the stars who bring in the TV ratings.  But these guys got bounced in the first two rounds. The most entertaining team in the league, the speedy, high-flying Denver Nuggets, didn't even make it past the first round.

What's left in the west is two of the most boring teams in the league, all blue-collar-grit and old-fashioned sweat. Their slow, deliberate, grind-it-out style triumphed over razzle-dazzle. This series is for the die-hard NBA fans, those who appreciate intricacies like rugged, relentless defense, smart screen-setting and bruising, under-the-basket play.

The most exciting player on the floor will be Spurs' point guard Tony Parker. But he's not all that flashy, lacks star-quality and really isn't an A-list attraction.. Three of the top four Grizzlies--Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Tony Allen--are defensive specialists, among the top ten defenders in the league. The Spurs are defense-oriented too, but not as good at it as Memphis. In this series, offense--and glamor--will take a back seat.

There's been no change in the NBA mantra. Defense does win championships. The best defense in this series and, actually, the best in the league, belongs to Memphis. So look for the Grizzlies to win the west. But it's not going to be easy. And it's definitely not going to be pretty..

It's going to be ugly ball, often closer to wrestling than basketball.  These games will be played at a crawling pace, with not much scoring and a minimum of fast-break, transition baskets. The center of the action will be under the basket, where two Grizzlies, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, who play like angry bears, will be on patrol, battering aging Spurs' center Tim Duncan, swatting away shots and clobbering hard-driving Spurs.

Nobody scores many points on the mean Memphis defense, which held teams to a league low 89.3 points per game. San Antonio won't be any different.  The Spurs are especially adept at ball movement and finding the open man. They'll need these skills, which can pay off in minimally-contested jumpers. The Spurs will rely on accurate outside-shooting. With giant Grizzlies clogging the inside, the only way the Spurs have a chance is if Parker, Danny Green, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard score consistently from the outside.

On offense, Memphis belongs in the lower half of the league. But they're so good at squashing offenses that they don't have to score a lot. All they really need is clutch shooting in the last few minutes. They count on Gasol and Conley for that and, nearly all the time, they come through.

Though these two teams split their regular-season series, 2-2, right now the Grizzlies are the better team. They blossomed late in the season, partly due to the developmental surge from point guard Mike Conley, who's turned into a terror..But the Spurs will put up a good fight. They do have home-court advantage and an edge in coaching, being guided by Gregg Popovich, the league's finest. But the Grizzlies' bruisers will beat up on Spurs' big man Tim Duncan, who'll be worn down later in the series, paving the way to a Memphis triumph.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Gay Players in The NBA: The Dark Side

When the NBA's Jason Collins came out of the closet last week, the first active player in a major American pro sport to admit being gay, he was congratulated by every one, from the President to NBA players like Kobe Bryant. No one, it seemed, had any objections.


While most NBA players have no problem with having gay teammates, some aren't crazy about the idea. These days, however, voicing such homophobic opinions publicly isn't politically correct. Three sources explained how this negative faction thinks. Tuned into the underbelly of the league, these sources are young male college grads who are members of the national NBA underground, handling some of the backdoor business for the players. These "associates" talked about the dark side of the NBA's attitude toward gays..

"You should hear how some of these guys talk privately about gays, both inside and outside of the locker room," says an Ivy Leaguer known as Dr. K. "You hear faggot, sissy, queer, etc.They make jokes about gays, real nasty jokes. They tell stories about beating up gays when they were young. They don't respect gays and think they're inferior. These guys don't want gay teammates."

 Is this just a handful of players who have these attitudes?
 Replied a source named Sugar, who went to the University of Arizona: "It's not just a few guys. This comes from dozens of players I've dealt with over the years. I'm around them when they're high and boozed up. That's when they really start talking trash about gays."

Added Dr. K: "You hear this kind of negative stuff from a lot of NBA guys all over the country, particularly back east. They make fun of gays and the gay life-style. It's part of being a macho jock. If you're a stud, with women hanging all over you, you're cool. The opposite of being a stud is being gay."

What do these anti-gay players object to most about gay players?
Replies Dr. K: "What I get is that the straight players just don't feel comfortable around gays, like they're aliens. It's like they're scared of gays. They don't trust them. For one thing if there were a lot of gay players out of the closet, these gay-haters think the locker room wouldn't be the same. The gay jokes would have to go. Everybody would have to watch what they say. A big thing would be that the players would not feel comfortable in the shower or walking around with no clothes on if there were gay guys around. That's a big deal. They think gay players would be making eyes at them and hitting on them."

Apparently much of the anti-gay sentiment comes from black players. A source known as Davy J, a Georgetown grad who operates mainly on the east coast, speculates that the roots of these attitudes are culturally based.
"I know for a fact that some black players don't like gays. A lot of these players grew up in the hood and still hang out with friends they grew up with. In a lot of hoods, gays are looked down upon, regarded as freaks and outsiders..From what my parents tell me, it's not as bad as it used to be twenty, thirty years ago, but that negative attitude, that fear of gays, is still there. Look, a lot of these players ain't too bright. They went to college but they have some backward views. They think like they're still in the hood. You'd be surprised how many of them don't like whites or Jews and, deep down, are cold-blooded racists. They grew up thinking this way. Some of them won't change."

Continues Davy J: "In the hood gays are the bottom of the barrel. They're looked at as weak and not manly. I have a buddy from Compton who's gay. He's in the closet and says he's never coming out. He thinks people in the hood, his friends and family, would look down on him if they found out, thinking he's less than a man. He says he couldn't deal with the backlash. He's scared of being found out. I feel sorry for the dude."

What the NBA's homophobes don't realize is that there have been closeted gay players in the league for years. Says Davy J: "There's been some gay players right under the noses of straight players who didn't have any idea what was going on. I know about some of them because I've helped them hook up with guys. I've seen some of the gay haters walking around in the locker room with no clothes on or with hardly any clothes on, in front of gay guys they didn't know were gay."

What happens in the NBA sometimes, according to Sugar, is that players with either wives or girlfriends are quietly having gay sex on the side. They're either bi-sexual or straights who dabble in gay sex on the down-low (street lingo for that life style)..
Says Dr.K: "I know for sure of one well-known player who's on the down-low. There are a few others I've heard about. If word got out on this one guy people would really be surprised. By the way, Jason Collins' coming out didn't really surprise me. I'd heard in the rumor mill that he might be on the down-low."

The gay players these sources know about--are they stars or, like Collins, fringe players?
Reports Sugar: "I know of at least three stars who're gay, two out of the league and one currently playing. But the gay players I know about have been mostly backup and end-of-the-bench players, guys who know they can be easily replaced. They think if people found out they were gay, they might not get jobs. So they're deep in the closet."

Davy J points out an interesting and little-known phenomenon about gays in the NBA: "Not all gay players are in the closet. Some are slightly out of the closet., on a very limited basis. Some friends and teammates and coaches know their secret, but that's all. Apparently it's been like that for many years."

Why do Davy J and backdoor operatives like him not expose these gay players to the media?
Replies Davy J: "I grew up in the hood, on the east coast. I learned you don't rat on people. We get well paid for our services, which includes keeping secrets, not mentioning names. This gay thing is low on the totem pole. There are secrets in my world much bigger than NBA players in the closet. Like there's an NBA player having an affair with the wife of a big-time politician. If that got out all hell would break loose. Naming names isn't right. It goes against the code."

What's going to happen in the wake of Collins' announcement?
Speculates Davy J: "It depends on the long-term reaction. If he gets signed by some team and he gets endorsements and becomes famous and the fans don't give him a hard time, I think other gay players will come out in the next year. But then there's the gay haters. They will be a problem. They're going to cause some tension in the locker room. Most of the players and most of the fans might be cool with gay players coming out of the closet, but those gay haters...I don't know. They could make life uncomfortable for gay players."
In the next year or two, look for gay players to come out of the closet, with some fanfare and media attention. But in ten years, after a few years of adjustment that may involve some unpleasantness and even some nastiness, gay players will be commonplace. The media attention will fade. But the anti-gay hostility in the locker room? I agree with Davy J. This negativity is fear-based and grounded in ignorance. It's going to take a lot longer than ten  years for that to go away..