Screw Carmelo Anthony, Praise Spencer Hawes
Accuse me of beating a dead horse, but this is still important and we still live in an age where Steve Nash wearing a "No War. Shoot for Peace" counts as a "political statement. Or in Shoals' words, "I like that Spencer Hawes is seen as 'political,' which is kind of like calling that guy in the Applebee's commercials a 'chef'"--this is a point to which I will return. Now, be quick to note that THIS IS NOT A POST ABOUT POLITICAL BASKETBALL PLAYERS but rather how low the friggin bar is set for these guys in terms of "being political" and how despite that, credit should be given to the few that actually say a damn thing about something as important as this year's election.
Henry already pointed to this great collection of Dr. J stories and noted the particular importance of this one, in which Dr. J promises to endorse a local political candidate in his hometown of Roosevelt provided that the politician promises to enact certain recreational programs. I'm seriously asking, not rhetorically, who is using their clout for this type of maneuvering these days?
Now, the best advice any other sports writer/editor ever gave to me was to inform me before an interview session that athletes are extremely boring to talk to. Perhaps it's because they are so well-groomed with the media, perhaps it's because they have endorsements to protect, perhaps because they didn't go to/do anything in college, or perhaps they are simply way too focused on their athletic endeavor instead of anything else. As un-FD as it is for me to say this, ultimately I agree. Yet there is no reason for athletes' sheer boring-ness to translate into political apathy as well. It's like, just because you are dull, playin it safe, or whatever, doesn't mean you shouldn't eat your vegetables and take your vitamins.
The crux of what I'm talking about is Carmelo Anthony in this video below:
Ignore Hawes for a second and focus on Carmelo. I'm sure many of you aren't raising an eyebrow to Melo's ambivalence, but surely we can all agree that the worst worst worst most unforgiveable thing about this clip is Melo supplanting this ambivalence with a direct bite of Michael Jordan's famous "Republicans buy sneakers too." Sure, Melo was dealing with Elie S-bach. and perhaps wasn't really inclined to come up with something witty to say, but really guy, this is the best you can do? The same dude who has come under endless scrutiny for tossing his bronze medal into the Baltimore harbor (not to mention all the minor b.s.--DUIs, Stop Snitching, etc.). And you aren't gonna say ANYTHING?
The real issue here is not what Melo did, but what he didn't and what lots of NBA players DON'T do. That is, they don't do sh!t and they underestimate the power of doing sh!t. As Oprah can attest, the power of celebrity endorsement is collossal and the power of athlete celebrity endorsement is way larger than people (especially athletes). Now, I'm not sure what type of effect Carmelo, for example, would have by stating his political preference, but imagine the following:
Brett Favre endorsing John McCain in Wisconsin
Bear Bryant endorsing Barack Obama in Alabama
I would be willing to bet that the power of such seminal figures alone could flip these states on their head. I always thought Lance Armstrong made a huge mistake when, at the height of his popularity (and in the rough-and-tumble election year of 2004), he didn't stand up for John Kerry in Texas. If you aren't convinced, perhaps I can remind you of the Illinois Senate race of 2004 when, yes THIS HAPPENED, Mike Ditka was considering running on the republican ticket against Barack Obama. I am not kidding when I say that had Ditka run, this may have changed the course of history forever.
So praise Spencer Hawes for giving a f*ck. I'm not calling the guy "political" by any means, but christ it is refreshing for an athlete to say *something*. Not to mention he gives pretty much the only practical reason (albeit a self-interested one) to vote for McCain: He's worried about his taxes, a point that Arenas has alluded to as well--except Arenas kind of undermined his point by also including a bunch of "echh" material about why voting doesn't matter. Now today, Baron Davis gives us something strong or at very least something really really actually definitively partisan to say, which yes--because the standard is so low for these guys--is darn impressive and something worth praising.
QUICK SUB-THOUGHT: I just had a thought about Carmelo's status as the perennial "bad son" from the famed 2003 draft class and the clear outcast of the Wade-LeBron- triumvirate. If 'Melo truly wanted to separate himself from King Lebjesus and the championship winner, Wade, he could completely reinvent himself as the Muhammad Ali of the NBA, willing to say what those bubble yum and gatorade- shilling stooges won't.