Other People's Lives
I really need to be working on this chapter about the integration of the NBA, and I did post something on FD today, right? But I am about to explode over accumulated energy and angst over some race/sexuality/basketball stuff, and I'm sick of carrying on 15,000 chats at once about it, while trying to provoke some reaction over Twitter.
Exhibit A: Brendan Haywood: If you don't know this story, I have no idea how you found your way to this site. Newsflash: Pro athlete is not entirely comfortable with the idea of homosexuality, uses language that might offend some. I might even include the fact that Haywood is black, since it's relevant later. My reaction yawned at these comments, instead choosing to focus on what might make Haywood retreat into such a defensive, reflexive position. He brought it up, remember. No one said "what do you think of that effeminite Marbury."
Exhibit B: Tim Povtak, FanHouse columnist, clowns O.J. Mayo for wanting to return a diamond bangle. Now granted, Povtak admits he just might be old school, and does mention Bill Russell and Joe Dumars as dudes who wouldn't wear flamboyant jewelry. And I by no means wish to imply that a desire for excessive ice is a genetic trait inherent in all young African-American men. But I read this as basically questioning the manhood of any present-day athlete who dresses flashy, which by and large applies to black players.
It has as far back as the 1970's, when Earl Monroe rocked high heels and Clyde wore mink on the subway. To regurgitate somethng I remember hearing in grad school, it's a form of racism that also manages to be sexist, since it puts down an ethnic group by feminizing it. EDIT: Yes, that does also make it implicitly homophobic, too.
I know Tim Povtak is no Brendan Haywood, in terms of visibility or just plain mattering to most people. But why is it that Haywood—whose attitudes are par for the course everywhere in sports, including on the web—is being criticized for saying what most athletes think anyway. It's also no secret that, culturally, the question of homosexuality in African-American communities is even more thorny than in your average predominantly white enclave. That's worth considering when Kevin Arnovitz mentions that he's overheard one of the NBA's most "enlightened" players spout homophobic cliches. That doesn't excuse it, just makes it unexceptional. At the same time, Povtak writes something that, at least to me, was not only uglier and more layered but also less expected. And yet no one's freaking out about his column, as far as I can tell. It's just some grouchy white guy complaining about the younger generation.
I have nothing but the utmost respect for peers like Kelly, Kevin and Ziller who have written about Haywood as part of a bigger problem. I don't for a second disagree with that assessment. I do wonder, though, why the blogosophere—which I'd argue is usually on the surface more homophobic than racist—is so quick to condemn Haywood (and itself?), while Povtak's column, which turns over a new leaf as far as yuckiness is concerned, drew little criticism. Is homophobia an easier target? Are we that scared to talk about race? And should it matter that much more when an athlete says it, than when a writer—supposedly the "smarter" side of the equation—puts his foot in his mouth?
I assume all things are wrong at all times. If we've moved on to prioritizing, picking our spots, or working with the demon we know best (as in, would like to admit we know best), please tell me.