Happy New Year! What if I told you that I haven’t watched an entire game since Game 7 of the World Series? Yeahhhh, I probably wouldn’t admit that. Especially when I proclaimed myself an NBA fan in the penultimate week of baseball season. Especially when December--the month I usually get back together with the NFL and college football--has just come and gone.
So yeah. Things are kinda cool with me and sports. I’ll chalk it up to a post-election haze, a return to reading literature, and family-in-town. Probably one of those things are true. So do me a favor: tweet at me and coax or shame me to pay more attention. Also, naturally the only two teams I want to hoist the Lombardi come February are playing each other this weekend. Sorry Derek Carr-less Raiders.
When Daniel Patrick Moynihan published his infamous concerns on black family life and what he saw as its rapid decline, he badly overlooked the most serious consequence of endemic fatherlessness: below average perimeter defense. All good though. George Karl is here to help.
The former NBA coach and armchair social scientist revealed the extent of his discontent with Carmelo Anthony while coaching him for the Denver Nuggets. In his basketball memoir, Furious George, Karl denounces Melo for poor leadership and a failure to commit to defense -- which, in fairness, might have endeared him to Knicks Twitter if simply left it there. Karl takes a giant leap further, attributing his the flaws in his attitude and game to not having a father.
Karl, who also went after Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and, strangely enough, Chinese basketball, wrote that “Kenyon and Carmelo carried two big burdens: all that money and no father to show them how to act like a man.”
K-Mart was not pleased, calling Karl a “coward ass coach” in a heated tweetstorm. JR wasn’t either, though he only responded with a sole tweet, perhaps too busy defending his NBA title. Melo, whose father died from cancer when he was two, didn’t tweet any rebuttal to Karl -- this time. He told ESPN’s Ian Begley, “I just hope he finds happiness in whatever he's doing.”
As long as there’s a hefty book deal at the ready for paternalistic screeds about grown black men, you can be sure to hear more bemoaning their existence. Speaking of which…
Longtime Florida Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden is also concerned about the matriarchy and its effect on the legal adult males (i.e. “boys”) he’s taken it upon himself to make into men.
“My last years at Florida State, 65 or 70% of my boys did not have a daddy at home,” Bowden told Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg, hosts of ESPN’s “Mike and Mike.” In his trademark folksy yarn, he offered faint praise for their “sweet ol’ mommas.” “But where’s the man?” he asked. “A boy needs a male figure. And the girls do too. Somebody to discipline them and make them be a man.”
There’s of course, nothing wrong with promoting the incredible importance of fathers should play in their children’s lives. That’s cool. More dads, please. (Note to self: I should text my dad more.) But like Karl, Bowden goes off the rails when he extrapolates the perceived baggage of his players into a diagnosis of stunted masculinity of a generation of predominantly black men. Then, who will be the man these boys so desperately need? Bobby Bowden, of course!
Lest you think Bowden revealed appropriate nuance when discussing the family lives of his players, he joked about the earrings worn by his players as yet another sign of their testeronally deficient need to be “like their momma.”
The jig with all of the moralizing is this: these talented young men are again, just that -- men. Imperfect and immature as they may be, they’re grownups. That doesn’t negate their need to continue maturing -- I’m 27 and I literally ate potato chips for breakfast so “glass houses” and whatnot -- but any leader or so-called father figure must provide appropriate and consistent accountability. What constitutes as “maturity” with these men is inconsistent at best, completely arbitrary at worst, and self-aggrandizing in perpetuity. Bowden, for instance, requested leniency for Michael Gibson, a former FSU player convicted of attempted murder as well as four counts of rape back in 2003. (He signed the letter: “Coach Bowden.”) Somehow, his critique of his player’s warped masculinity neglected to include a severe rebuke of his violent and criminal behavior. If you want to read a fitting reprimand, you’ll have to go to his victim, Ashley Witherspoon, and read her testimony.
Meanwhile, Karl has the gall to gripe about men like Anthony, by all accounts a dedicated husband and father, earning “all that money,” as if raising these young men into paragons of their community doesn’t involve compensating them for their demanding, high-skilled, and extraordinarily profitable work.
Karl and Bowden’s selective application of their moral concerns says less about their players and more about how they view them. Their athletes are for their professional success, colorful anecdotes for their memoirs, but never individual people that may need a leader that models the accountability they claim to demand on and off the court. Character matters, but having the conversation is painful because these coaches haven't really mastered that themselves! And so, it’s beyond Karl or Bowden’s paygrade to surmise if what Anthony, Martin, or even Michael Gibson really needed a father-figure. But I don’t think it’s a stretch that young men in a new environment can always use an honest friend. Instead, they got snakes.
Delay of game
Team Kaptain. After all that consternation about disrespecting the troops, Colin Kaepernick’s teammates awarded him with their team-specific Len Eshmont Award, an yearly award given to the player that ”best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont.” Eshmont just so happened to be an original Niners player and but a Navy veteran.
As Dave Zirin explains, many fans, some media, and even Niners GM Trent Baalke worried that his refusal to stand during the national anthem would destroy the locker room.
Most anti-racism protests don’t come with acclaim, so let’s celebrate this rare Niners win accordingly.
Congrats, Kate Scott! One of the most prominent gay women in the sports media world has a new gig.
Sitting together. The agonizing details of what it took for an institution like college football to integrate include permitting temporary stadium barriers to prevent black fans from cheering alongside white ones, banning black non-students from attending games, and tickets specifically stamped for black attendees. Y’all should read this and remember this happened in many of your loved one’s lifetimes.
Family man. To borrow a phrase from Danny Ferry, Atlanta Hawks GM Wes Wilcox “is a good guy, not perfect, but he has a little dumbass-white-Atlanta-GM-executive in him.” Last December, Wilcox took some time to answer fan questions (okay, complaints) about coach Mike Buldenhozer’s performance, the current rotation, etc. Attempting to de-escalate the contentious conversations, Wilcox lightened the mood with some trademark Atlanta Hawks front office humor. If you know anything about the Hawks in recent years, you already realize detente involves making offensive jokes about black people. In this case, black women.
According to season-ticket holder Clarenton Crawford, here’s the joke Wilcox made to the crowd of season-ticket holders:
“I know you guys may be angry with me, but I’m used to it because I have a black wife and three mixed kids, so I’m used to people being angry and argumentative.”
Any idea why Wilcox’s black family gets so angry with him?
Rainbow. Orlando’s MLS team has 49 rainbow colored seats to honor the lives of the 49 slain in the Pulse nightclub shooting.
League Rules. Two years after Little League embarrassed itself by stripping Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West squad of its national title, the organization has beefed up its residency requirements. Under other rule updates, coaches and other team staff will be required to conduct nationwide background checks of sex offender registry data and other criminal records. (I checked: it will ban those who have committed crimes that have harmed children.)
If you liked this...
If you liked this and have already won as games (9) than you won all of last year (10), you are probably over the moon that you just defeated the Timberwolves with a last-second alley-oop inbound play. Lord. What a time to be a Sixer. We’d like to revel in the glory of Joel Embiid alongside you -- would you mind liking Foul and Fair on Facebook and following us on Twitter?
Trust the process,
Morgan and Bradford