Just a couple of quick thoughts for tonight. I am settled in watching the second women's national semifinal game, the highly anticipated match-up between the Tar Heels and the Lady Vols. The teams have managed a total of 26 points combined in the first fourteen minutes, so it's not the prettiest basketball in the world. But, one gets the feeling that the game will come down to the wire. One complaint I have is that Mike Patrick is calling the game, instead of Marc Jones. Patrick is a more senior announcer in ESPN's stable, but he's just not that good - he has a tendency to hyperbole and, listening to him, you never know what moments in the game are most consequential. And I don't get the impression that the women's game is an area of expertise for him. Jones, on the other hand, is an excellent announcer. His game calls are measured, but he understands when it's time to press the vocal accelerator. Furthermore, he's been calling women's games all year and has an understanding of it that Patrick doesn't. Jones is in the building, as a sideline reporter, and I think this is an instance where ESPN has relegated the better announcer to back-up duty.
I wanted to respond to Mike P.'s great comments on the previous post, about Bill Simmons' reaction to OJ Mayo. Mike P. says that it's unfair to tar Simmons with the brush of racism, especially when one considers Simmons' body of work, including very recent columns in which Simmons denigrated the 2005-06 college season by noting that the two best players were not-so-good white guys, Adam Morrison and JJ Redick. Simmons wrote the following day that he received some angry email about the comment, and was quite dismissive of that email, noting that it's just a fact that basketball has been dominated by African Americans for forty years and that's a good thing, because the infusion of Black talent has made basketball a better game. Mike P. didn't say this, but I will - unlike many other sports commentators, who wear their contempt for basketball like a badge of honor (and in ways that are obviously racially tinged), Simmons is a huge (and knowledgeable) fan of the game.
Mike P. also writes:
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.
I agree, of course. Preferring teamwork to selfish play is not in itself racist. But, I want to emphasize how little it's taken for Mayo to be considered the exemplar of an entire generation of presumably pathological behavior. This is also, by the way, a very different kind of prejudice, with profoundly different social implications and consequences, than the kind of prejudice that might lead one to say "White Men Can't Jump." Beyond that, even comparing Mayo to T.O. - who, though I think all of his offenses are ultimately trivial, has been behaving in annoying and immature ways for several years (and he's not a kid anymore) - raises questions in my mind. What, really, does Mayo have in common with T.O? Has Mayo ever disparaged a coach, or a teammate, two of the hallmarks of what people hate about T.O.? Other than his flinging the ball into the stands after his final game, has Mayo really done much showboating? I strongly suspect we'd be hearing all about it if he had, given the attention paid to that one particular event. And, if his biggest crime is that he kinda sorta bumped a ref, doesn't that make him more like Billy Martin or Earl Weaver than T.O.? I just think it's really hard for us to avoid automatically going to places that reveal more about our own prejudices than about the behaviors we're judging when we're so quick to vilify a kid who's done no real harm to anybody and comparing him to another notorious Black athlete with whom he has, as far as I can tell, little in common, other than the fact that they're both notorious Black athletes.