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PC, microphones, and "Doh!"

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
from the New York Times

June 10, 2004


Ignorance and Arrogance Collide, Live and Off-Color


ESS than an off-season since Janet Jackson was busted for her material breach of decency on the Super Bowl stage, Bill Parcells decided to open his flap.

Within weeks after the Dallas Mavericks were chastised for mocking Sacramento in a video skit that depicted the "Queens" in drag, Larry Bird indulged in a TV chat that dragged out an offending thought on race.

Over the past month or so, Shaquille O'Neal has blurted curse words on air, while Steve *&!# Francis has uttered a chosen expletive in exchange for an adjective.

The official den mother of live-mike morality - the Federal Communications Commission - has enough weighing on its censors while policing Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern and, if it's ever tuned in, the Knick City Dancers.

Do broadcasters and beat reporters need a "dump" button for raving sports icons, too? This tape-delayed method of pre-empting offensive material before it hits the audience is intended to protect shock jocks against themselves during a William Bennett revival that was touched off by Janet - or Ms. Jackson, if you're nasty.

Didn't Parcells and Bird hear? The anything-goes entertainment culture of insensitivity is out. Self-censorship is in. For different reasons this week, Parcells and Bird failed to apply the new rules of microphone virtue.

Bird's offensive lapse was out of ignorance; Parcells's racial slur was out of arrogance. Bird was prompted by a question; Parcells was prompted by pomposity.

In a roundtable discussion with Bird, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Magic Johnson that is scheduled to be shown tonight on ESPN and was reported by USA Today yesterday, the host Jim Gray said, "Does the N.B.A. lack enough white superstars in your opinion?"

Granted, the inquiry by Gray was a leading question, but Bird chose to advance the loaded topic when he said a white superstar would be good "for a fan base because, as we all know, the majority of the fans are white America.''

"And if you just had a couple of white guys in there, you might get them a little excited,'' Bird said. "But it is a black man's game, and it will be forever. I mean the greatest athletes in the world are African-American."

Unable to pick up his dribble, Bird, the homespun folk legend from French Lick, Ind., went on to say that he loathed being guarded by a "white" guy during his Celtics days, adding: "As far as playing, I didn't care who guarded me - red, yellow, black. I just didn't want a white guy guarding me, because it's disrespect to my game."

Maybe he was kidding, but Bird managed to denigrate the white athlete, marginalize black players and Euro-bash the influx of foreign stars to a league that, under Commissioner David Stern, is regarded as the most wonderfully diverse in the world.

Bird's backward accounting of the league's current makeup must be a product of anachronistic thinking steeped in an N.B.A. era of ugly stereotypes during the early 80's. The league has progressed; Bird should join in.

As most understand, the N.B.A. isn't desperate for a superstar of a certain color, but it craves a colorful talent who transcends race the way Michael Jordan did in the 90's - and the way Yao Ming just might do in the coming years.

Bird's rationale is out of touch; Parcells's is out of control.

As the lord of discipline on the field, as the issuer of gag orders for his football assistants, as the only voice he wants to hear, Parcells is a narcissist in the reflection of his own pithy prose.

"She's making progress," Parcells once said on the health status of the New England receiver Terry Glenn. Very clever.

On Monday, Parcells outperformed. On his very own, he turned a phrase into a slur against Japanese when he said "no disrespect to the Orientals" then likened the surprise-attack offensive schemes of the Cowboys to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

An uncomfortable murmur spread through a press gathering that included a Japanese journalist. Later in the day, an apology from Parcells was released through the Dallas Cowboys.

The audible cringe of the Dallas news media might have been a little sobering for Parcells. At times, his aura has rendered some news media folks either too helpless to react to his bully pulpit or too awestruck to parse his crude meanderings.

No doubt the usual shtick of Parcells is entertaining - as is the normally refreshing candor of Bird - but neither icon can use the entertainer's alibi for their most recent errors in judgment.

They are not talking heads or radio pundits on the air. Bird and Parcells are authority figures within their leagues. Bird is the president of the Indiana Pacers, while Parcells occupies every title but team owner in Dallas.

They have to be above racial putdowns and removed from the antennae of the F.C.C. Revved up by Janet, the vulgarity vigilantes have enough wardrobe malfunctions to monitor without sports icons exposing their mouths. Dump buttons, anyone?
post #2 of 8
How did Bird "margainalize" black players? He very clearly stated that the African American players in the NBA are the best atheletes in the world and that they will continue to be. And the fact of the matter, is that it is true. Whether it is as a result of social or genetic reasons, or a combination of the two, it cannot rerasonably be disputed that the NBA is dominated by African American players, and not just by numbers, but in ability.

Oh, and Celtic fan...I don't want to hear about Cousy or Havlechek.

Is there anything wrong with this dominance....no. Sports, at that level, should be a meritocracy.

Was there anything wrong or racist about Bird saying that the NBA would benefit, from a fan base standpoint, if there were more white "superstars". No; but I don't think it is accurate. Just think about it...name the five most popular NBA players (all time); how about Jordan, Magic, Dr. J, Bill Russel and Wilt as one list.

One last observation...is Jim gray a squid? Hell yes.

Edit...and about Bird insulting the Euros who play now??? No...none of them play defense anyway, right Dirk?.
post #3 of 8
A good example of why women sports writers get paid less than their male counterparts! What a load of clueless PC dribble. What's she do for an encore, team uniform fashion critiques?
post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 
Rul, I tend to wonder the same, and agree. Nowdays, you can't even open your mouth without someone saying their toes got stepped on. Sure will be a perfect world when no one actually says anything anymore. We'll all hire PR types to help with our scripted press releases.
Did I ever tell the story of meeting Jim Gray in your very own SacTown airport, right after a Lakes/Queens game? (He'd covered it, of course.)
post #5 of 8
Originally Posted by ryan
Did I ever tell the story of meeting Jim Gray in your very own SacTown airport, right after a Lakes/Queens game? (He'd covered it, of course.)
No...did he ask you a stupid question?
post #6 of 8
why does anyone expect professional athletes to be well-spoken?

they spend their lives ignoring education and amplifying physical performance. they're already on their chosen path, and it's not an intellectual one, nor a rhetorical one.

Bill Parcells is a redneck, and anyone who is "shocked" at his statements must not know much about him.

I'm not sure what Larry Bird meant by saying that being guarded by a white player is "demeaning to his game," unless he means that white players are de facto inferior. reverse racism? I don't think so. Bad choice of words? Most likely.

What I don't understand is the author's need to turn everything into a matter of political correctness.

Let Parcells be a redneck. Free speech is designed so that we can have rednecks speaking vile bigotry -- it's a nice base of comparison against someone who's egalitarian in words and deeds.

This is just more evidence of the fact that Pro Sports is the domain of the dunderhead.
post #7 of 8
What about Bill Bradley?
post #8 of 8

I know... and Gary Fencik, and...

...then-active NY Giant Center Bart Oates and I graduated in the same class in law school.

for sure EVERYone's not dumb or inarticulate. I mean to criticize the notion that one should expect intellectual perfection and purity from professional athletes and their coaches/managers.
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