Is it really about race?
- Jason Whitlock has an excellent column in today's Kansas City Star about the Pacers/Pistons incident.
"American sports fans, particularly those who consistently shell out the hundreds of dollars it takes to attend a professional game, are fed up with black professional basketball players in particular and black professional athletes to a lesser degree.
Yeah, let's cut through all the garbage and get to the real issue. The people paying the bills don't like the product, don't like the attitude, don't like the showboating and don't like the flamboyance. The NBA, which relies heavily on African-American players, is at the forefront of fan backlash. Stern realizes this, and that's why, spurred on by the Detroit brawl, he is reacting decisively.
What the players must come to grips with is that just because race is an element in the backlash, that doesn't mean the backlash is fueled by racism.
We're witnessing a clash of cultures. A predominately white fan base is rejecting a predominately black style of play and sportsmanship."
I agree with Whitlock, that the tension between fans and athletes isn't fueled by racism, but a criticism of behavior. Don't forget, the fanbase of the NFL was pretty critical of Eli Manning's comments on the eve of the draft - he put himself above the league and the team and almost no one thought that was appropriate.
Where I diverge from Whitlock is the "black style of play." Aside from T.O., the NFL has whole bunch of black athletes that don't act like boobs. I don't think it has anything to do with race, I think it has to do with age, experience, and the game concept.
1. Obviously, football is much more of team game. No one man can do it alone. Eleven guys, working in tandem, police each other's behavior. Occassionally, the loudmouth emerges, but for the most part, everyone behaves like a professional.
2. The NBA drafts kids right out of high school. At 18 years old, kids with no self-discipline become millionaires, and all external controls to their behavior are removed. In the NFL, players must complete some college before getting drafted, in the right program, under the right coach, it matures the players before they begin their professional career. It's humbling to live in a dorm, no matter how nice it is, go to class, no matter how occassionally, and have to worry about things like schoolwork, even if you take "gut" courses and have a tutor. MLB matures its young in the minor league system, subjecting them to buses, cheap hotels, and towns in the middle of nowhere.
The NBA athlete has never been humbled, never known external controls, and doesn't know how to behave as part of something bigger than themself. Draft white kids out of high school under ther same conditions, and you create the same problems.
It's not a question of race, it's a question of maturity.