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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Here we Go Again: White athlete makes it because of Effort, Black because of talent

(Sorry, faithful reader, for the long absence of entries. Laptop miseries are my only, weak excuse)

Oh, Lord, when will sportswriters and commentators ever learn? It seems that Michael Jordan and John Stockton are both to be enshrined in the basketball hall of fame. As the greatest player of his, and perhaps any, generation, Jordan has naturally been scooping up the lion's share of publicity. So old Fran Blinebury of Yahoo! Sports decides to give Stockton his due--fair enough.

I have fond memories of John Stockton. I remember watching, I think, his first all-star game when I never saw him take a shot, content to dish well over a dozen assists, I'm sure, to the best finishers in the game. I thought that was cool. And I'm not afraid or ashamed to admit that I thought it cool that a white dude could hang with the predominately African American fraternity of NBA stars. Of course, when his Jazz played my Bulls, it was sorry, Johnny--MJ and Co. are gonna shoot you down! But I digress.

Instead of writing about Stockton's ability and grace, Blinebury falls back on the old myth: that white athletes make it on determination and effort, whereas blacks make it on natural, God-given talent. Here's the link to the pathetic piece.;_ylt=AlmO81gQfqsN7NEUgHYk41w5nYcB?slug=ys-stocktonhall090809&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

Yeah, the white guy is the blue collar, lunch pail guy who makes it on sheer grit. We've heard it all before, ad nauseum. Jordan was impulsive and spectacular, Stockton, relentless and single-minded.

1) You telling me Jordan wasn't relentless? That he didn't spend hours and hours in the gym and weightroom, watching film and breaking down defenses? Give me a break.

2) You telling me Stockton wasn't naturally gifted? The guy makes 5000 more assists and 700 more steals than anyone else in the game ever has, and it's all due to his effort and work ethic? Yeah, right.

The worsPt, it turns out, was not in the article, but in the headline teaser on the Yahoo! Sports front page: there it says, "John Stockton wasn't big or fast. He goes into the Hall of Fame because few in the NBA could ever match his toughness."

Stockton wasn't fast? He got those 3,265 steals by willing the ball into his hands? And how many of those nearly 16,000 assists came on fast breaks? Slow guys don't lead fast breaks. They lead slow breaks. And slow breaks don't result in very many assists.

White reporters seem to want to believe that sports come easy to blacks, and therefore any white person who makes it in black-dominated sports must not be doing it on talent, but on personal effort. It's a sick theory. It's racist. It's demeaning to both the black guy who, it is assumed, is undisciplined and "lucky" to be born the way he was, and the white guy, whose gifts are belittled. This is 2009. Sports scholars and critics have been critiquing this myth for dozens of years. Yet it still prevails. Sad.

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