6.05.2007

My Lifestyle Courageous



So LeBron's having a baby, and it means so much to me. It also seems to be quite important to the media, who love nothing more than plastering the sky with the fatherhood of James, Melo, and Arenas. . . without any consternation at the parents' not being hitched.

Don't get me wrong, I could care less if they want to wed their partners, or even if they stay steadily involved with them on the romance tip. What interests me is how little the rest of America, which regularly flays the NBA on account of its dwindled morals, cares. Or rather, what an appetite there seems to be for their tales of dad-dom despite this potential middle U.S.A. stumbling block.

Granted, all three situations are different. Melo and LaLa are now engaged and lovin' it, Gilbert and his ex are as unpredictable and intense, and Bron's relationship is hidden from the world and possibly flawed. You can decide what to make of the correlation between these players' parenting situations and their public personas. In any case, this trio of All-Stars went and had kid(s) without tying the knot and at least in two cases, with the status of the domestic partnership unclear. Not the end of the world, but does it make for sound self-promotion?



Athletes, especially NBA'ers, sowing babies with abandon is one of sport's eternal punchlines. You'd think, then, that the league, and these players' agents, would have a vested PR interest (note: that does not mean "LaLa's corset") in not making their kids a very public part of their image. Unless, of course, their willingness to be fathers to their children is notable exactly because it distinguishes themselves from the Larry Johnson's and Shawn Kemp's of the scuzzy past. Eff a paternity suit and child support scandal; these are upright dudes with their hearts in the right place, and value being parents. They seem to genuinely feel this way, and it certainly help them for us to perceive them as such.

At the same time, they are being judged differently. It's almost like, because of their occupation and skin color, there's less expected of them in this department. I'm not saying that single-parent homes are bad, or illicit in the eyes of God, but for a lot of "save the NBA" folks, they are. So these stars' high-profile daddying may be a symptom of practical, enlightened family values, I also suspect there's a tinge of racism to it. If America craves a sentimentalized nuclear family, should we hold LeBron James to the same standard?. Otherwise, it should admit it's branding him as an social outlaw, or at least a well-meaning outlier.

27 Comments:

At 6/05/2007 12:17 PM, Blogger RySzabo said...

Or it could just mean that--outside of a few outspoken zealots--this isn't a big deal for americans. I know myself and most of my friends do not view out of wedlock children necessarily bad as long as both parents realize the investment they are making. After all, other than a signifying piece of paper(and potential legal reprecussions which are probably the main deterrant for the uber-rich athlete), marriage is no different than any other long-term dating relationship.

 
At 6/05/2007 12:34 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

agree on all counts. except that the nba has shown a willingness to at least pay lip service to the conservative standpoint, and athletes are a popular scapegoat for casual baby-having.

lala and melo are engaged, but arenas and his ex are all fucked up and who knows what's going on with bron and his lady.

 
At 6/05/2007 12:41 PM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

Shoals, wanted to make you aware of Duncan having read your posts. From a San Antonio paper(via Hoopshype):

"But to become truly Jordan-like, James needs at least one ring. Standing in his way are the heavily favored Spurs, which Duncan says makes them the villains in this drama.

It's a role he embraces — at least for this series.

"We are the bad boys, which is fun," Duncan said. "Yeah, yeah, I enjoy being the bad boys. We're going to try to change our name or get a nickname or something for our team.

"It's a different role for us. We're usually the underdogs. We're usually the ones kind of fighting out of a hole. That's a little bit on (the Cavaliers') shoulders now."

The way guard Tony Parker sees it, the Spurs assumed Snidely Whiplash status when Robert Horry's well-placed forearm sent Phoenix's Steve Nash flying into the scorer's table in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals.

"We've been the bad boys since the second round. It's not going to change," Parker said of the Spurs' new image, which stands in sharp contrast to the choirboy label they once wore. "We are not vanilla anymore. We are the bad boys."

But that doesn't mean the Spurs are a dirty team, Duncan said.

"We aren't doing anything different," Duncan said. "It is what people have tried to put on us. We aren't dirty. We're not anything else. We just play hard.

"We are comfortable with any role. It doesn't change how we play."


The underdog part is total nonsense, of course. And I don't really buy this from Duncan. I'm sure he's a sorcerer when playing D&D and never a thief or an ogre.

 
At 6/05/2007 12:53 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

okay, post edited to make me sound less cluesless.

 
At 6/05/2007 12:56 PM, Anonymous Tom said...

I never head of single parenthood being a moral quandary but that may be because I live in Socal and over here it's more common than not. Are rich white athletes held to a higher standard? When people think of single dads with tons of money, the kid being cared for is a foregone conclusion. The only moral question becomes does he has time for the kid? Hence, the kid being part of the PR campaign.

 
At 6/05/2007 1:02 PM, Anonymous Bayern Munich said...

Interesting ... like other commentors, I personally don't hear a lot of demonization of single/un-wed parents, but if it's out there I would assume those making such attacks would seize on these guys as targets. Is it "lowered expectations?" Maybe, but if so I think the expectations
are set by specific examples (Kemp) rather than general/demographic ones.

Now that I think about it, I think I recall Jermaine O taking some shit for having a kid out a few years ago. I think he was like 23 and his daughter was 4 or 5 when I heard this, so it might have been due to his age rather than the marital issue. Who knows - I'm not sure I even remember it correctly.

 
At 6/05/2007 1:24 PM, Anonymous amphibian said...

Tangent - with the success of Boobie Gibson's LeBron Or Bust draft strategy and the almost certain Knicks/Sean Williams' pre-draft deal, will more athletes end up doing this?

Will this change professional sports drafts? Will Stern step in? Does he care?

I'm just throwing this out to see what y'all (commentators or FD writers) think.

 
At 6/05/2007 1:45 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Amphibian: You think the Knicks are the certain Sean Williams team? I hope so, but if I had to wager... Detroit at 17. They could use a shotblocker/rebounder to help make up for the loss of Ben Wallace.

I do hope he goes to the Knicks, though. The Garden would be very happy with that selection. And then I could work on my Balkman/Williams How High Remixes....

 
At 6/05/2007 2:00 PM, Anonymous rusty said...

What about Matt Leinart? Isn't that dude like the epitomy of rich white athletes from upper-middle class or whatever backgrounds? No seemed to care much when that dude had an out of wedlock baby with a USC basketball player; I think they even broke up before she knew she was pregnant. And Tom Brady? There wasn't exactly a copious outburst of moral indignation over his whole pregnant ex-girlfriend/moving on to Brazilian model thing.

I see where this post is coming from but like the other commenters I just don't see single parenthood/out of wedlock being a big issue for anyone besides Focus on the Family-type fanatics these days. I thought the issue with Kemp was that he fathered a virtual army of babies with a bunch of different women (and failed to support them? can't remember), which seems to be a far cry from having a kid or two with a partner who you just happen not to be married to.

kaifa: Well of course TD is a sorcerer. Dude wanted his nickname to be Merlin for chrissakes (incidentally in retrospect the "Big Merlin" sounds a million times more interesting than "Big Fundamental). I always wonder how TD would've turned out public persona-wise if he hadn't been filtered through Robinson's blase born-again Christianness right when he got to the NBA.

 
At 6/05/2007 2:10 PM, Blogger Brian said...

Yeah, I like what you're trying to do, Shoals, and think there's a lot of avenues in which this argument is one that needs to be made..but not with this instance. It is just because male celebrity rules apply, where you can't really do wrong unless you molest children or kill someone. Otherwise the only people who get gossiped about and mocked are female celebrities. Celebrity status and stardom leaves sexism more intact than it does racism, I believe.

 
At 6/05/2007 2:16 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

there wasn't outrage over leinart or brady, but there was mention of it.

 
At 6/05/2007 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the reason lebron gets away with having an unwed child and not getting flack from the conservative american stern is catering to, is that his child is very visible in his star life. You often hear about and see his kid at games and lebron talks about him a fair amount. Just some thoughts.

 
At 6/05/2007 2:42 PM, Anonymous Bayern Munich said...

Rusty - I think Big Merlin would definitely sound cooler, I would actually just prefer "Merlin." But I always thought The Big Fundamental was a nice attempt.

Not because it sounds cool (it really doesn't), but because I think the idea was to demonstrate dischord or to highlught differences between Duncan and other athletes. In other words, a lot of athletes (all sports) have nicknames like Big Dog, Big G, Big Ticket, whatever, and the idea is usually that it would sound intimidating, or "bad-ass." So I always figured Big Fundamental was developed in contrast to that.

As far as I know, Greg Anthony invented it ... does anyone know otherwise?

 
At 6/05/2007 2:56 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

I thought Shaq dubbed TD the Big Fundamental.

 
At 6/05/2007 4:20 PM, Blogger Ritchie said...

What I actually worry about is despite our society's comfort preaching from soap boxes about morals we don't call into question whether athletes, who commit most of their year to travel and training, are being irresponsible when they father children mid-career. Particularly young athletes who may be doing this (this being both playing sports and having multiple kids) for the next decade and a half. Sure these guys shouldn't have trouble hiring a quality nanny but is a nanny, hopefully a mom and a dad far away playing bball the right environment for a child? What about the fact that the father's lifestyle puts the mother in sole responsibility for everyday care even moreso than a typical patriarchal household?

 
At 6/05/2007 4:51 PM, Anonymous eauhellzgnaw said...

Yeah,

Only the hardcore social conservatives would even make this an issue, unless we're talking about extreme cases like Kemp. Athletes in general don't catch much shit for simply fathering children out of wedlock, unless they're already married or are in high school or something.

Check ESPN's recent feature on Chuck Liddell (before he got knocked the fuck out) and the press on Urlacher's custody battle with the mother of his kid--he midwesterners haven't made a big a deal about that, even though his baby's mom is black.

If people make good faith efforts to support the kid(s), then they get a pass; if they appear to make the kids a focus of their lives, then they are celebrated.

 
At 6/05/2007 9:28 PM, Anonymous rusty said...

bayern munich: Don't get wrong, I too appreciate the singularity and tongue-in-cheekness of the Big Fundamental. It is kind of irritating that the nickname helps to perpetuate the myth that Duncan isn't athletic (sure, he doesn't have great hops but his agility, quickness and ball-handling are all ludicrously good for a 6'11 dude) and that his game and by extension fundamentals in general can only appreciated by crusty old dudes who yearn for more crisp 2-handed chest passes and worship at the altar of Hubie Brown/Jerry Sloan, which I certainly do not; I love watching TD and teams like the Suns and Warriors with equal abandon. Still I appreciate how it embodies how Duncan has quietly and in his own way gone against the grain for the duration of his career.

Also, my favorite Shaq nickname is and always has been the Big Aristotle which, of course, he gave to himself.

 
At 6/06/2007 12:19 AM, Blogger Reggie said...

I don't think the media is expecting any "less" of them because of their race. It's interesting that in this aspect at least, they're getting the same treatment matt leinart and brian urlacher have gotten.

 
At 6/06/2007 1:43 AM, Anonymous Aaron said...

Meanwhile . . . http://www.insidehoops.com/wade-father-060507.shtml

 
At 6/06/2007 1:36 PM, Anonymous Bayern Munich said...

Rusty - I completely agree, the fact that Duncan has very quick feet and good athletic instincts is often obscured. People see it as an either/or situation - is he one of those "crazy-fast, high-jumping, super athletic guys," or is he a "smart, good technique, solid fundamentals" guy? As if they can't be combined.

I mean, look at the basline move he put on Okur in the last series - he moves very smoothly for a 6'11" guy.

Big Aristotle was great, but the best part about it (everyone forgets this now) is that "Big Aristotle" was supposed to be the FIRST in a series of 26 nicknames Shaq was going to give himself. Seriously. He told a group of reporters that he was going to come up with a different nickname for himself beginning with each letter of the alphabet, starting with Aristotle (because it begins with an "a").

I'm not sure what ever came of it - I imagine the reporters avoided him for a few days until it blew over.

 
At 6/06/2007 3:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though it seems this thread has morphed a bit from the original topic, I think it's worth going back to something for a hot second. Maybe, Shoals, I'm reading you wrong, but it seems like to hint at racism for NOT being mad at Bron et al for sowing freelance seed puts us in a damned if we do damned if we don't give a shit about this position. Wouldn't the opposite reaction--widespread condemnation of out of wedlock childbirth--seem to be part and parcel of the criticsim of the rims and bling hip-hop NBA culture? And thus wouldn't that postion also open itself up to charges of being tinged with racism (maybe more)? Not saying that specifically either of the postions--caring or not--is or isn't racist, but it seems like they can't BOTH be; seems like that would require people to be racist as a logical rule, except maybe those who are too busy watching NASCAR to care anyway?

 
At 6/06/2007 3:59 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

no, that's exactly it. i'm not sure how to read the tacit approval of bron's fatherhood against the backdrop of a pro-nuclear family culture. for people who don't care one way or the other about single parenthood, there's no issue. but when people who, according to polling and surveys and stern, do harbor conservative beliefs don't care. . . well, isn't there something weird going on there?

 
At 6/06/2007 5:10 PM, Anonymous rusty said...

bayern munich: Wasn't #2 on that alphabet nickname list 'Big Baryshnikov'? Would that have made the all-time great nicknames list? I like to think so. After seeing that video of Shaq busting out some moves during All-Star weekend I'd have to say it's also justified. A 7 ft, 300 plus lb man in his 30s just should not be able to move like that.

Actually, while we're off on this tangent of the quirks of all-time greatest big men I'd like to recommend that you (and everyone) rent and watch "Conan the Destroyer" if you haven't seen it. Worth it for Wilt Chamberlain in, inexplicably (a schlocky b-action movie with Schwartzeneggar? really?), his only movie role; watch him next to Das Arnold and marvel at his incredible grace and quickness. In the fight scenes Wilt moves like a cat.

 
At 6/07/2007 11:54 AM, Anonymous Bayern Munich said...

rusty - Big Baryshnikov would be hilarious, now I wish they'd made him go through all 26. I'm going to start calling myself Big Baryshnikov when I play ball on Sundays.

I'll check out Wilt in Conan the Destroyer, I never saw that one. You should look into "Bruce Lee's Game of Death" - it has Kareem in a fairly big role (non-comical). He is also moving around very well (martial arts) and he's another similar to Duncan - you never think of him as a great athlete, but he was always in good shape and had very quick feet.

 
At 6/07/2007 2:58 PM, Anonymous rusty said...

bayern - yeah, I've seen Game of Death a bunch of times, being a martial arts practicioner and kind of a Bruce Lee fanatic. I don't know if you know but filming was interrupted partway through when he took an offer to make 'Enter the Dragon' and it was never completed b/c of his death; the majority of the film is a Lee lookalike and stunt double mixed w/archival footage of Lee. The fight with Kareem (who was one of his celebrity students) is actually Bruce. I agree; Kareem looks amazing in that movie, it should be impossible for someone with such large limbs and such a high center of gravity to move like that.

Actually I ride my bike by the spot where Bruce Lee's school in Oakland used to be every day; it's right by the dojo I train at, coincidentally.

 
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