You Can't Fight In Here, This Is The War Room!

I spent this past weekend at some lake in Western Maryland [not Vegas and J-Bug and House weren't there], which meant I watched only about 1/3 of the sports that I usually do. With that aside, I still haven't seen much coverage of the Derek Lee/Chris Young bench-clearing brawl on Saturday. Just an article or two, a Jay Mariotti rant, a segment on ATH/PTI and that's about it. Two Major League Baseball players swinging at each other, Carlos Zambrano taking off his belt, and every other player on the field and we get yet another "boys will be boys" shrug of the shoulders from sports media and the general public?

Had this fight taken place on a 94' x 50' area of hardwood, however, the sports media as well as American sports fans would be up in arms. They would be calling for season-long suspensions. They would be calling for player bans. They'd be calling for a drastic overhaul of league rules. In fact, this is what happens every time there is a fight in the NBA.

If Ralph Wiley were still alive, he'd be writing this. Except, you know, a lot better and much more professional.

This double standard in sports happens all the time.

The NFL is big brother, so everything slides. The entire Bengals’ roster gets arrested and then people start to notice. And one team gets the blame. Pacman Jones shows white America what "makin' it rain" is all about and it's just one thug. Meanwhile ESPN shows NFL Live three times a day, every day, even in the off-season, because we need to know about mini-camp for some reason.

Major League Baseball is America's Pastime. Fights happen. Brush back pitches happen. Maybe a few guys get suspended, but for the most part no one seems to care. Baseball even looked the other way on steroid abuse for more than a decade and is only now holding witch-hunts in a lame attempt to save face. Once they string Giambi and Bonds up everything will be all right and the past will fix itself, you'll see!

But in the NBA nothing slides. When the NBA Finals aren't very entertaining [see: this season] they say the system has to be changed. They say the product is no good. But no one was saying that last October when the Cardinals became the most unimpressive and least talented team to ever win the World Series.

When a fight breaks out in the NBA the media goes crazy. Fifteen game suspension handed down to Carmelo Anthony for being involved in a "fight" during this past NBA season was seen by some as too lenient. He slapped a dude in the face and then ran away. Lee and Young get five games in a season that is twice as long for the same thing and most everyone is all right with that?

There's a very good reason behind all of this. The NBA is seen as a "black league.” The MLB isn't. The NFL isn't.

When most of your fan-base is white, you're going to have trouble marketing a "black league.” You're going to have trouble getting people to tune in. You're going to have trouble in getting people to relate to the league. And all this happens, to an extent, with the NBA. But there is also another standard by which the NBA is held.

In the 70s, before the arrival of Bird and Magic, the NBA was seen as a bunch of coked-up black guys who could jump really high. Then Larry Legend, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan changed a lot of that, but not for good.

Now, the league is once again unjustly looked down upon. It's viewed as a league of over-paid, apathetic thugs. Everyone waits for the NBA to falter, and then points it out. People wait for LeBron James to be a bust and yell out "I told you so" instead of waiting for him to do something amazing. The media is far more interested in Kobe Bryant as the self-involved head case instead of Kobe Bryant as (arguably) the best professional athlete on the face of the planet.

And it doesn't seem as this is going to change any time soon. The NBA keeps skewing younger. The culture is a youth culture. And that scares the old white men who are writing columns about the league and who are running the TV stations that televise the league.

The NBA isn't obsessed with itself quite in the same way that other sports are. Major League Baseball worships its own past like a religion. And don’t you dare blaspheme that for some reason the present might be more important than the past. In the same way, the NFL takes itself way too seriously. You cannot question Big Brother because the league is Number One. You cannot challenge the decisions handed down by the NFL. It’s football’s world, we’re just paying rent.

The NBA stills realizes what they are doing out there, which is in some ways oddly refreshing. This is a game. It's a business. It’s about fun. It means nothing more than that. It isn't holding America together. It isn't the end all be all.

Maybe this is the reason that the NBA is looked down upon. Maybe it is really because the NBA is just a league that is having fun not taking itself too seriously. Maybe the MLB and the NFL have to take a step back and realize it's just a game. It's there for entertainment. It's not any more important than that.

Or maybe we're just all really afraid of black people.

1 Responses to “You Can't Fight In Here, This Is The War Room!”

  1. # Blogger J Cramer

    I feel like I've argued the points of this article a million times. The NBA is always going to have this problem as long the players are perceived as being "urban" or "hip hop" (i.e. black).

    The NFL has always had one position where they had a marketing machine that didn't involve the black player, quarterback. In the MLB the "white fan" always has a player that looks like him. For every Elijah Dukes there is a Grady Sizemore.

    I always search for another explanation of the stigma that the NBA is saddled with but it always comes back to racism. The NBA markets its best players like Kobe, Lebron, and Tim Duncan. Steve Nash is the execption to the rule but white fans don't appear to be flocking to him as much as one would expect.

    If anyone has ever read Chuck Klosterman's essay on the Lakers-Celtics rivalry in the 80's he goes over some of the same points. Its fustrating being a NBA in the current environment. Right now, the NFL is having problems with players off field conduct. Pacman Jones plays point guard what happens to the NBA. ESPN pulls the TV contract?  

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