TALK TO THE HAND: SPORTS (MUSIC, ETC) IN AMERIKKKA


Redbeardedguy - Posted on 10 January 2011

Author: 
Thornton Kimes

1. Madness, Metaphors, and Mud In Yer Eyes, Oh My!

In 2010 we were "treated" to the stunningly obvious and madly maddening, information that there is a failure-to-graduate-from-high-school rate of 40%+ for Black youth in Amerikkka.  We also heard, just as the college/university basketball championship tournament known as March Madness was getting underway, that many prominent colleges and universities have an equally (or worse) record when it comes to graduating Black basketball athletes; some schools of higher larnin' have problems graduating many athletes period.

Black hole.  Padded room.  Pick your metaphoric image.  The news went "thud!" and the response was a muffled silence, or the cheering of crowds that wanted to see their fave team just win, baby!  2011 is upon us and March Madness looms large again in the minds of sports fans.

2.  A Little (Personal) History, part 1

I guess everyone thinks they live in a place where sports seems like the true religion practiced.  I like to joke that Texas, where I grew up, is definitely one of those places.  I didn't become a fanatic, but I did get socialized into enjoying (watching, mostly) sports.  I loved the 1970's Dallas Cowboys, and several other teams.  My baseball addiction developed the same way--I (usually) follow the teams of the cities I've lived in, though that has been tough to do in places like San Francisco and Seattle--places where it has often seemed that good players get trained to go somewhere else (like the New York Yankees...) to get paid ever more outrageous sums of money.

September 11th, 2001, did more than change some of the ways we live in Amerikkka now.  When the interrupted professional baseball season got back in gear, and the playoffs began, it was clear that the national (news) media had decided The New York Yankees were "America's Team", they "deserved" to win because of what happened to New York City. 

The televised playoffs included many tv camera close-ups of Mayor Rudy Giuliani, which was incredibly annoying since many people seemed to want to forget his Po'Lice-friendly policies and his very public hatred of any art that wasn't safely innocuous and easy to love.  The camera close-ups ended, I think, because the network covering the play-offs got complaints.  They certainly got mine.

Results?  I'm a mild-mannered Boston Redsocks fan.  Never thought I'd say that.  I sort of pay attention to the NFL, the end of the Michael Jordan Era led to a deflation in most of my interest in NBA basketball.  It's hard to ignore local (and other) college sports when something big happens--but there's so many more college/university teams I've never been able to wrap my tiny little mind around following THAT mess.  I loved pro tennis and golf for years, but, even though he has been the Mr. Big of golf, the only way I can get excited about golf again is if Mr. Woods returns to being Dr. Doom on the links.

3. A Little History, part 2

"Back in the day" (aka "back in MY day", not entirely true in my case since i'm not a Greatest Generation elder...) professional athletes had to work other jobs in their off seasons.  Their sports paychecks weren't big.  The pipeline for new guys coming up to replace the older stars was both the college/university-track athletes, semi-pro leagues, baseball's minor league network of teams, etc. 

How things have changed.  For Amerikkkan football you've got the Pop Warner young kids football leagues that train the kids that have potential to play well in high school and beyond.  That system has become a major cog in the machine of sports in this country, spitting out kids and spitting out kids that can go all the way to the NFL if they can ignore all the usual distractions, plus the ones that children in poor neighborhoods deal with daily. 

Basketball has the Nike Camps.  I met a teenager going to a Nike Camp when I was a laundromat attendant in Seattle.  My clue was the sheer massiveness of the amount of sports clothing, and socks.  My ghod, the socks.  The Nike Camps, sponsored by your friendly seller of gazillion dollar designer basketball shoes, are where potential NBA stars go to become better basketball players. 

If you're a kid from a middle class or higher family, the pipeline includes your own family's connections.  For poor young athletes, having potential and being good is about the only thing they've got, despite all the ranting and raving going on all around them about the importance of a good education.  Lip service on steroids. 

As has been said by someone, education ain't a Race To The Top, it's more like the steady tortoise beating the flashy wabbit, but what do "they" know?

4.  Why are Haiti and the Dominican Republic In This Article?

Haiti is in this article because The Dominican Republic is right next door on the island.  There wasn't much news from the DR after the earthquake, mostly stuff about how this or that person or organization that wanted to help could only get into Haiti via the DR.  Why relative silence from the DR?

Silence usually means the government is doing a good job of keeping the disgruntled, the dissenters, from being heard.  The Dominican Republic might as well be called The Baseball Republic.  It is where MLB (Major League Baseball) players from the DR, as well as some homegrown Amerikkkan players go to play "Winter Ball" between the end of one MLB season and the start of Spring Training and the next season.

Another pipeline for MLB is the DR, and other Caribbean nations, where children play street ball, get enrolled in the belly of the beast of the national/international obsession for the game (not to forget the intense desire not to be po' no mo'.  Those big paychecks the stars make are...magnetic); some of those children get exposed to fame early, traveling to Amerikkka for the Little League World Series. 

The drive to get out of poverty leads to doing whatever it takes, By Whatever Means Necessary.  Disputes over the age of young players are common.  Scandals over the age of older players happen too.  One of the relief pitchers for a team that got into the 2010 MLB Play-offs was unable to go pro for several years because his visa was suspended in a scandal over a real or imagined plot to get players married to Amerikkkan women, get green carded-up, etc.

5.  Whazzup, Doc? part 1

If there's more "there" there for young poor athletes, how did we get to this 40%+ national non-graduation rate state of affairs for Black Amerikkkan youth?  How do we fix (I have some ideas on that, which require another article.) what's broke? 

When I was a teenager in the 70's I hated hearing talking heads talk about education being about "training young people to be good workers".  I guess the old chestnut about "well-rounded educations" "well-rounded individuals" (or citizens) has been tossed on the bonfire of the buzzwords.  Capitalism needs workers, so all I hear is a-good-education-is-necessary-so-we'll-have-good-workers!  Yay. 

Several of my facebook friends post oldie and new songs on their pages.  I listened to one particular hip-hop/rap song I liked, posted it to my page, then deleted it--I liked the beat, but the lyrics drove me nuts.  Still, one of the other major paths to some sort of success that has been walked by many young Black men and women in Amerikkka is still spitting out new artists and songs, much to the on-again, off-again chagrin of Conservative White Amerikkka.

More of this might slowly, or quickly, fix some of the broke stuff.  At least one POOR Magazine person wants to produce a music CD, and the recent Mercado de Cambio saw the welfareQueens struttin' their stuff and rappin' hard and very conscious.  Vivian Hain is, as always, an amazing, intense performer, but all of the Queens spat some good stuff and I very much hope the welfareQeens make some beautiful music soon. 

Hey, POOR has POOR Press.  Why not a POOR Records label?  The Mercado was also host to various friends, allies, and extended POOR Magazine family rapping, blowing my mind, having fun.  "Charles Pitts and the welfareQueens" (or any reasonable alternate name you want...) anybody?

6. Whazzup Doc? Big money Capitalist sports must shrink!

I once had dreams of being a professional bowler, but quit competing when the competition got more interested in getting part-time jobs so they could afford to date girls.  The competition kept me focused on something I enjoyed.  Somehow, I managed not to think about joining an adult league for, well, competition to keep me rolling.  My bad.

There are many people in this country who play in amateur sports leagues.  Minor league baseball is popular because it's affordable entertainment.  You don't have to get a bank loan to take the family to a game! 

Making sports more community oriented, more indigenous to neighborhoods, smaller rather than larger, makes sense.  Especially when you have Tea Baggers and others ranting and raving about red ink, among other things. 

I'd much rather see more people playing baseball in the Summer--at the field (in San Francisco) on Turk Street between Gough and Laguna, near where I live--see more money spent on that sort of activity than what gets spent on the Bay-To-Breakers foot-race marathon and other "Bigger Is Better" entertainment events.

Maybe that should be part of the debate over what money should or shouldn't be spent in the coming "here we go again" Budget Brawl In City Hall.

 

 

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