Golfing Detroit

The reason I love sports as an adult is totally different from when I was a kid. Back in Southern California in the 90s I loved sports, particularly basketball, because of how big they were. The players, the lights, environment around a big game, the excitement! And the narratives, especially Jordan’s back then, were so much bigger than me. They made the athletes into legends, living legends, and to my little kid brain, that was just fantastic. I would covet my NBA trading cards as my collection grew to include the best players of that era, because my collection was then able to lay some claim to that big legacy. I had a mint ’93 Jordan card. Can you believe it?!

But now as an adult, that isn’t what moves me about sports. Certainly, there is a strong thread in modern fandom that still looks at athletes with doey little kid eyes, but for me, it’s no longer that way. I’m 29– a lot of these guys are much younger than I am. It’s impossible for me to look up to them in any way other than literally. But sports, writ large, still compels me because of the larger way that it is a metaphor for life that sometimes allows rather profound glimpses of wisdom to be gleaned from the sports page. Though Dano HATES hearing about it, this is what I believe was really going on with LeBron James’s “The Decision” fiasco two summers ago. I think Clevelanders were furious with Lebron because that Cavs team (with LeBron making up about 85% of it) had become a part of them, a part of their explanation of why they still loved Cleveland and why they chose to stay there. If you never have, do yourself a favor and put up Scott Raab’s book on the subject, The Whore of Akron. Despite that pugnacious title, the book is actually fairly thoughtful and illuminating about the ways in which sports can be so much bigger and more important than Bill Simmon’s arcane rankings. There is a reason why President Obama, a serious man with a serious job–say what you want about his policies– will say “Go White Sox” at the end of a press conference to wish the team well. As an adult, sports can become entwined in us, in our place, where we are from, and it can help us make sense of and respond to adversity, especially when adversity is really all there is.

And this brings us to the video at the top of this post. Please watch it. Its a funny enough premise: the reporter sets out to golf the longest hole in Detroit– an 18 mile, par 3,000 bear across the open expanse of fallow Detroit. But within that silly conceit is clearly a point about the current, desperate state of the city, one that has famously lost more than half its population since its heyday in the 1950’s. For people from Detroit, and from other fairly or unfairly maligned places, sports can be a sanctuary. If the Tigers can sweep the Yankees over a weekend series or if they Red Wings can put together a killer playoff run, that is important to the city if for no other reason than it keeps hope alive. That may sound cheesy, but hope is the most important commodity for a struggling city–or sports team–to have, because it allows for the idea that things can get better and that work towards making things better will not be in vain. As the end of the video notes, the will to change the fate of the city exists within the Detroiters themselves. And a statement like that is just begging for a sports parallel: down five points late in the game, a Piston throws down a powerful dunk ahead of the defense–then gets back down to the other side of the floor to block a shot. You can choose any sports metaphor that speaks to the willpower it takes to not only say ‘enough is enough’ but to grind down and enforce that determination.

I’ve been to Detroit and it’s unlike any place I’ve ever been in my entire life. Downtown is beautiful, with tall, old, Art Deco buildings overlooking the river. But, as the video shows, the areas outside downtown are struggling mightily–and there is not solution yet on the horizon. Some people may choose to be smug dicks about the situation and say, “Whatever, move everyone out and tear the whole place down.” And what are Detroiters to say in response to this? Detroit is at her weakest right now, a shadow of her former glory. Unless the conversation turns to sports, because, you know, the Lions are looking pretty good this year. And then there’s a reason to keep hope alive for next season.

Michael Johnson Says Black People are Inherently Faster than White People Due to Eugenics During Slavery; Everyone’s Head Explodes

The World’s Fastest Man in 1996 stated On June 30th:

All my life  I believed I became an athlete through my own determination, but it’s impossible to think that being descended from slaves hasn’t left an imprint through the generations.

Difficult as it was to hear, slavery has benefited descendants like me – I believe there is a superior  athletic gene in us.

To absolutely no one’s surprise, everyone has now lost their shit.  But before the First Take crew have self-righteous brain anuerysms, let’s put this all in context (Damnit, too late.  And, holy shit, Rob Parker and Bomani Jones are complete morons in that clip). 

First, in the original article from the Daily Mail that I linked above, Johnson is referring to research specifically completed on his DNA that proved he is of West African descent.  So it’s not like Michael Johnson just decided to spout some nonsense out of nowhere.

Second, the quote is right there, “benefited descendants like me.”  He is referring to black people THAT ARE ALREADY ATHLETES.  So Rob Parker and Bomani Jones (I’m really disappointed in Bomani Jones, I thought he was more thoughtful than this) saying, “What the hell is Michael Johnson talking about?  I can’t run fast or jump high, and I’m black” is really quite shocking in its lack of comprehension.  (Israel Gutierrez’s statements at the end are even worse, and I don’t even want to get into it.)

Third, (and hold on to your seats, things might be getting RAYCESS around here) I don’t understand why the idea that only the gentically strongest Africans survived the trip across the Atlantic (considering how fucking terrifying those trips were), and then only the strongest of those were allowed to reproduce once they landed in America, thus unintentionally creating a gene pool with a pre-disposition (read: not a GUARANTEE) towards athletic ability is such a CRAZY proposition.  That seems, honestly, like what exactly happened.  Slave owners wanted slaves that were big and strong and fast, as they would be more adept towards surviving the back breaking labor and horrifying living conditions they (slaves) were forced to cope with. 

Fourth, you want more evidence?  Look at the NBA, look at the NFL, and look at track and field (specifically, the most purely athletic event in the world: sprinting).  Black people RULE (especially the NBA) those sports.  It’s not even close.  What do all those sports have in common?  Those are the three sports (with the most compensation) where having innate, natural athleticism gives you a significant advantage. 

I do understand why the black community (specifically the sportswriters on ESPN) would be wary to embrace this.  Both Rob Parker and Bomani Jones mentioned it.  They don’t want to have all of the accomplishments gained by black athletes thrown away with a “natural ability” argument.  They want to say it was hard work and dedication.  My question is: Why can’t you have both (When that is precisely the reason)?  Why can’t they embrace the fact that yes, black people are innately more athletic, so you know what?  Sucks for everyone else, I’m going to get in the gym, work my ass off, and then crush you on the court/field/track.  Why is there this dichotomy (that I feel only sportswriters make) that if an athlete is black, his success comes from natural ability, or it comes from hard work, but never from both (which is the REAL reason as to why ANY athlete is successful)?

I don’t even think this topic should be that taboo.  It’s quite obvious that black people are naturally more athletic (Yes Bomani, I know YOU aren’t.  Which should totally rule out any actual research to the contrary).  This reminds me of Anderson Cooper coming out: 

“Um, yeah, we know.” 

Happy Friday!  Congratulations to those of you that made it to the weekend unscathed.