In a recent poll given by ESPN The Magazine, almost 50 percent of those polled think “it’s a shame what’s happening to the (NBA).” By the same token, only 38 percent of those polled feel the same about baseball in the shadow of the most disheartening scandal in the sport’s history – the great specter of steroids – and 21 percent about the NFL in a year when two of its superstars have faced or served serious jail time.
In the wake of the ongoing NBA season – the Association’s most successful and exciting year in the decade since Jordan – half of America, if this poll is to be believed, thinks something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
I’d be inclined to agree; something is very wrong.
The poll paints the sports fan with the troubling broad strokes of racial stereotyping. And it’s not just because they don’t find the product appealing.
Of those fans surveyed, it is believed NBA stars are less likely than their counterparts in the three other major American sporting leagues – the NFL, NHL and MLB – to remain loyal to their teams, respect the fans and, among the most insulting, love their wives. By the same token, they are believed to be the most likely to carry a gun and use recreational drugs.
The numbers this poll brings to light are not an indictment on the quality of the game being played or how entertaining Americans find the nature of the sport. Remember, not too long ago it was the 1980s and the NBA was the most successful professional sports league in America.
But then again, that was a day without cornrows and tattoos.
Prominent white players were far more common than struggling black, inner-city youths who were without fathers and opportunities, youths who used the sport to pull themselves out of the all too often perpetual cycles of violence and to make something of themselves.
Yes, that was certainly an NBA without Allen Iverson.
No, this is deeper, and in a month where dialogues on race relations in America have been opened across the country, Barack Obama being the latest catalyst, it is becoming clearer how deeply rooted racism really is.
Racism isn’t exclusive to segregating white and black children in schools or throwing around ignorance-laden racial epitaphs.
That tide may be receding, but it’s not out yet. It’s not dead – and may never be – it’s being concealed.
Even though racist tendencies are looked down on by the majority of American societies, it has retreated into the last refuge of cowards – their minds, and there it stays, free to corrupt thoughts like a virus, coming out and making itself apparent to others only when the public eye and the possibility of tsk-tsk embarrassment is not present.
After all, you can’t be a racist, you have black friends! How could you be a racist when you like rap music? “Who-me?” justifications and cop outs can be found all over.
Yes, 50 percent of America clearly does find something wrong with the NBA. It’s black.