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March 31, 2007

Comments

Mike P

First time commenter, long time reader...wanted to jump in on the piling onto Bill Simmons here.

It's funny to see these guys calling Simmons a racist. On Monday of this week (the same week he penned the Mayo column) he practically led off a comment with this remark:
"Look, I'm with you. I bailed on college hoops once high schoolers started jumping to the NBA and every All-American seemed to be fleeing for the NBA one year too early. When I was growing up, college teams stayed together for three-four years (like Georgetown and St. John's in the mid-'80s, or Duke and UNLV in the early '90s). Once that continuity was removed, the quality of the product declined and bottomed out with a disaster of a 2005-06 season that featured two astounding realities:

1. Two white guys (Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick) were indisputably the two best college basketball players alive.

2. George Mason made the Final Four"

On Tuesday, Simmons noted that he got a lot of heat for comment one above. He responded thusly:
"Yesterday's blog elicited a few e-mails along the lines of this one from Mark Jacobs in New York: "I was very offended by your comments about last year's season being such a disaster that 'two white guys' were indisputably the best players in college basketball. Basketball doesn't require a non-white gene to be played well. You ought to look up Larry Bird or Pete Maravich. Did you write that the last football season was a disaster because two African-American coaches were in the Super Bowl? Didn't think so. Keep your comments to sports and athletics and stay out of the social arena."

Um, I was trying to be funny … I just forgot that we live in a world where you can't joke about anything. This nation is tighter than Meg Ryan's face right now. Loosen up. It's not a crime to joke about the fact that last year's college hoops season sucked so much that the best two players were white. See, basketball has been a predominantly black sport for about 40 years now, a blessing because the game evolved in a vertical direction and became infinitely more entertaining than the product from the late '50s. If you wrote down the best NBA players from the last three decades, you'd probably notice that all of them were black except for Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Steve Nash, Chris Mullin, Dirk Nowitzki and John Stockton.

Now, if last year's best college players were on the level of Bird, Nash and Stockton, it would be one thing. But J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison both flamed out in the tournament and look like potential busts as pros. Hence, my joke in yesterday's blog. For anyone who was offended, I'm sorry … not for the joke, but for the bug up your ass."

Look, Simmons has a lot of juice and people who follow sports seriously know him and know that his views carry weight. I do think it's a bit of a stretch to assume that because Simmons' doesn't embrace Mayo's "me first-sim" that he's a racist...and, maybe Mayo is not the standard bearer of this new reality, but, and I say this as a black man, there IS a lot of showboating and arrogance among young black athletes. I'm not going to get into a lengthy discussion of possible root causes for that (it would get far too long and be far too political). For the vast majority of athletes (of any race), the excesses of youth pass as they get older and wiser and so it may be with Mayo. But, Simmons' saying that he likes teamwork and seflessness doesn't mean he's ANTI black athletes; that would be a ridiculous stance to take if you're a real student of his body of work since he's been writing for ESPN. He's against a particular TYPE of athlete (self promoters who think of themselves over team)...that Mayo and T.O. are examples doesn't mean that Simmons somehow is engaging in some stealth campaign to disparage black athletes as a whole and I would warn against that being the take away from the Mayo column.

Kill Whitey

How come when Simmons rips a black kid we get a thoughtful discussion on subliminal racism, but when he dumps on white athletes, expressly for being white (i.e. "Last year was so bad two white guys were the best palyers.") no one says anything. He beats around the bush about a black kid and we have 2,000 words on the subject. He screams "Kill whitey" and everything is cool. If you're not going to say something about one form of racism, then you shouldn't say anything about the other. Plus, don't know the guy or anything, but I might be a little careful about sticking my neck out for OJ. I'm just saying.

Dok

I wanted to post something, but I think Mike P summed everything up pretty well. I too, as a black man, agree that the hypocricy is so blatant that it diminishes REAL racial issues.

stopmikelupica

Hey, first off, thanks to the SportMediaReview for the links. I'm a big fan, and am very proud to be mentioned here.

With regards to Kill Whitey's comments, I guess when Simmons "dumps on white athletes", someone did "say something". Namely Simmons got enough feedback on that one comment to necessiate the response that Mike P wrote about in his comment. Yet Simmons has yet to address the Mayo criticisms, so maybe we can infer that he gets more heat (from his readers I guess) when he makes comments against white athletes than he does when he calls black athletes "punks" for supposedly showboating?

Now, to respond to Mike P: Well, for one I never called Simmons "racist". That's categorically false. My issue with Simmons' take on Mayo isn't that he's "...engaging in some stealth campaign to disparage black athletes as a whole...", it was that ESPN (his employer) seems to being engaging in a campaign to discredit a high school teenager, namely Mayo.

We have seen employees of ESPN call Mayo "a punk" in writing (Simmons) and on TV (PTI). In particular Simmons uses Mayo's "showboating" as an excuse to link him to everything most people despise - Paris Hilton, My Super Sweet 16 types.

The goal of my post was to hopefully raise some attention to the way some of the most influential figures in sports coverage (ESPN, Simmons) can alter the perception of sports athletes, even subtly.

Miami Yacht Charters

The kid's young, he's hyped up, he will mellow out. No big deal.

Mike P

stopmikelupica,
I wasn't calling you a racist, so please don't think that's what I was doing. I agree with you fully on how ESPN can shape the public's perception of athletes.

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