Category: Sports

This hot mike/Zoom blog is rated R

Even in the Year of the Pandemic, or maybe because of the Year of the Pandemic, things happen that earn the WTF badge.

Megan Fox writes about the viewer-discretion-advised incident of Monday:

Jeffry Toobin, a CNN contributor and writer at The New Yorker, got caught tickling his pickle on a work Zoom call. This wasn’t a situation where he thought he had hung up but hadn’t. Oh no. Toobin was purposefully masturbating during a work call.

He claims he thought he had “muted the video” but left it on “accidentally.” But that’s not believable, because when turning the camera off on Zoom, there is an avatar where the video used to be. How does he expect us to believe he did not check this before deciding to whip out wee Willie? And worse, why is that a good excuse for flogging the dolphin during a work call? Do we need congressional intervention to tell us that being an Army of One on a Zoom call is the wrong thing to do? Do we need a new criminal code for 2020 specifying that hoisting your own petard while attending a conference call is offensive to others? It’s sad that humans can’t just self-police.

Toobin is rabidly anti-Trump as any famous journalist must be. He’s also already well-known for running afoul of the #MeToo crowd when Patty Hearst blasted him for sensationalizing her rape in his book American Heiress in 2018. Fox canceled plans for a movie based on the book after Hearst got through with Toobin.

And now Toobin wants the world to accept that he made a “mistake” and “accidentally” sexually harassed everyone in a Zoom call. That’s what we’re really talking about here. If MeToo has taught me anything it’s that consent matters and if a man exposes himself to anyone without their consent it’s akin to rape. Remember that Louis C.K. was dragged for engaging in this same activity on phone calls with women. So was Harvey Weinstein, who was reported to have sprinkled his house plant in plain view of witnesses. …

This is no different than Charlie Rose or Matt Lauer groping coworkers or having automatic locks installed on the office door. Why should Toobin get a pass because his crime is embarrassing and rather hilarious? It’s still harassment. Every single one of those people on the Zoom call who witnessed it was sexually harassed, if not assaulted. …

This needs to be a firing offense if the big networks are really concerned about making workplace environments sexual harassment-free. I don’t expect he will be fired, but he should be. …

The other troubling part of this story is the call itself, which reads like some kind of Deep-State media plotting session. Did anyone catch that? While everyone is distracted by Toobin’s lubin’, the description of this Zoom meeting is going largely uncommented on.

Vice reported:

Two people who were on the call told VICE separately that the call was an election simulation featuring many of the New Yorker’s biggest stars: Jane Mayer was playing establishment Republicans; Evan Osnos was Joe Biden, Jelani Cobb was establishment Democrats, Masha Gessen played Donald Trump, Andrew Marantz was the far right, Sue Halpern was left wing democrats, Dexter Filkins was the military, and Jeffrey Toobin playing the courts. There were also a handful of other producers on the call from the New Yorker and WNYC.

An election simulation? What are these people playing at? Coup 2? I’m a reporter and my newsroom doesn’t hold conference calls simulating what we want to happen and gaming different scenarios. We just report what happens. What is the purpose of this “simulation”?

Maybe this is why we lose the media game and we should start doing these simulations and get our narrative together ahead of time, but we’ve literally never even thought of doing this. That’s how honest and naive we are! I think I need to see this Zoom call. In the interest of finding out what the media is doing to undermine our Republic, I think we need the tape (and no one believes this was not being recorded). Let’s see what the media is plotting for November 4. They can edit out the Toobin show. I want to know what Jane Mayer, Masha Gessen, Andrew Marantz, Sue Halpern, Dexter Filkins, and Toobin are cooking up for November.

One day earlier, Fox Sports’ Joe Buck and Troy Aikman exchanged thoughts that they thought were off the air but weren’t:

USA Today reports on the aftermath:

On Monday, we learned that Fox NFL broadcasters Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were not the biggest fans of stadium flyovers. And like many topics in 2020, their remarks were seen as divisive.

Defector Media posted a hot-mic video from Sunday’s Fox NFL broadcast of the Packers and Buccaneers that showed Buck and Aikman mocking a military flyover of four A-10 aircraft at Raymond James Stadium.

Aikman joked that a lot of jet fuel was getting wasted for a flyover of a football game that was being played at a mostly empty stadium. Buck also sarcastically said that it was our tax dollars at work.

The comments, though, were evidently seen by some as anti-military (which they really weren’t). So come Tuesday, Aikman took to Twitter to clarify that his joke was not meant to disrespect the military.

Regardless of their opinion, you would think that after Reds and Fox announcer Thom Brennaman was fired for a hot mike moment that sports announcers would be more careful. Then again, you might think people would be more careful around Zoom.

Noon update: Jimmy Traina of Sports Illustrated:

If you’ve been on the internet over the past 48 hours, you most likely saw the video of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman talking about military flyovers.

The internet, as it always does, ran with the video with no context and spun it to paint Buck and Aikman as super liberal, anti-military people. …

There are many things about this ridiculous story that need to be cleared up. First, it seemed pretty clear if you listened to the audio, that Buck and Aikman were goofing around and being sarcastic.

Two, and most important, they were not caught on a hot mic. This did not take place during a break in the Packers-Bucs game.

This was done before the game, during a rehearsal. That means someone who works at FOX, either in a truck or a broadcast studio, pulled the clip on purpose and then leaked it on purpose to make Buck and Aikman look bad. And the fact that one of their co-workers would leak this clip to make the broadcast duo look bad really sucks.

You can be sure Fox is doing some sort of internal investigation to find the culprit.

There is no question, however, that Buck and Aikman said what they said, whether that should have been exposed by a duplicitous coworker. This will certainly add to the general narrative of Buck and Aikman, who have been criticized for going out of their way to make negative comments about, among other teams, the Packers.

 

Coming to a road course near you

I normally do not follow NASCAR particularly often beyond perhaps two races — the season-opening Daytona 500 and the Memorial Day-weekend Coca~Cola (formerly World) 600.

The former is sort of NASCAR’s Super Bowl even though it starts the NASCAR season. The first live 500 …

… included this finish …

… and this fight.

(CBS’ race analyst, by the way, was David Hobbs, who will be happy to sell you a Honda in Milwaukee.)

The Coca~Cola 600 became a family tradition when it moved to the Sunday evening of Memorial Day weekend, we started going to Glen Haven for its Fire Department catfish festival, and we started listening to the race on the radio.

Before that, I have been to Road America a few times since the first time in the early 1980s. Somewhere I have pretty good photos of the track, including cars that spun out in front of me. There is also a photo of me looking as if I’m attempting to break into a Ferrari (that may have been owned by a certain Wisconsin car dealer you may have heard of). There are probably no photos of the Three Mile Island-level sunburn I got that day. (I had to peel myself out of bed the next day.)

I went to a few Road America events during my days as editor of Marketplace Magazine. In one I stood near the start/finish line and watched Vic Edelbrock fire up a 1960s Corvette race car for one vintage practice race. Shortly before or afterward I walked past a tent where Carroll Shelby was signing autographs.

The last time I went was in 2010, when I parked my car in media parking, my Subaru Outback kind of pale in comparison with the Corvettes and Porsches parked there that apparently belonged to motorsports journalists. (I should have bought a Corvette, though I’m not sure at which previous point in my life it would have made financial sense to do that.)

For some reason I have been getting NASCAR emails. That turned out to be a good thing this one time, because the most recent email says:

NASCAR officials released the 2021 Cup Series schedule Wednesday, introducing three new tracks, expanding to six road courses and placing a dirt-track race on the calendar for the first time in more than 50 years.

Next year’s Cup Series remains at 36 point-paying races, starting as it did this year with the season-opening Daytona 500 (Feb. 14) and ending with the championship finale at Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 7). In between those bookends, there are new venues and schedule shuffles as part of the dramatic changes long hinted at by NASCAR officials.

Among the shifts for 2021 are these highlights …

— July 4: Road America, a historic 4.048-mile road circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, that last hosted the Cup Series in 1956.

NASCAR has been at Road America before, though not in its top level, since the aforementioned 1956 race.

Somewhere there is a video of a NASCAR truck race with three trucks going down the two-lane track before the one-lane turn. It’s a wild sight.

I may have to go cover this in July.

 

The ESPN disease

The Packers host Atlanta on ESPN Monday night.

Before you watch, read Jason Whitlock:

ESPN broadcaster Mark Jones doesn’t need to be fired. He needs help.  He needs an intervention. Like the network that pays him, Jones has been radicalized by his Twitter feed.

In reaction to a Louisville grand jury failing to indict the officers who shot Breonna Taylor in an attempt to subdue her boyfriend who shot a police officer, Jones declared on his Twitter feed that he would no longer accept a police escort to the games he broadcast.

“Saturday at my football game,” Jones tweeted, “I’ll tell the police officer on duty to ‘protect’ me he can just take the day off … I’d rather not have the officer shoot me because he feared for his life because of my black skin or other dumb ish. I’m not signing my own death certificate.”

The tweet is insanity. It reveals a dangerous level of paranoia and delusion. Broadcasters of all ethnicities have been receiving police escorts to and from sporting events for at least 50 years. Not one police officer has ever assassinated a broadcaster. Not one.

Mark Jones is crying for help. Twitter is feeding his delusion. Unfortunately so is ESPN. Black Lives Matter cult leaders Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James have indoctrinated the entire network. The Worldwide Leader exists today as a virtual cult compound for racial radicalism.

The network’s reaction to the Louisville grand jury was unprofessional, bizarre and cult-like. Tall broadcasters with no expertise in criminal justice or fact-based journalism ranted and whined. Former University of Georgia basketball player Maria Taylor and former college and NBA star Jalen Rose emoted on ESPN’s NBA Countdown Show.

“I just want people to know that blacks are hurting,” Rose said. “And, uh, as we related to sports that are predominantly black, the WNBA, the NBA, the NFL, all of those players are performing with heavy hearts. And we’re still showing up to try to do our jobs, and I was in that position. I can’t lie to y’all. I was looking in my closet like, ‘I’m going to wear something fresh today, because if I say something to get me fired, then I was crisp.’ That’s what I was thinking.”

I’m not sure if Rose is aware that President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was shown on television and Americans went to work afterward. Breonna Taylor’s been dead for months. It’s also been obvious for months that the police officers who responded to the gunfire of her boyfriend were not going to be charged with murder. BLM cult leader LeBron James and his NBA flock misled their followers into believing the state of Kentucky would waste taxpayer money on a criminal prosecution it could not win.

But Rose wasn’t done. He pivoted into a deeper form of illogic.

“Because when Kyle Rittenhouse in (Kenosha), as a 17-year-old, kills two people and yet three cops aren’t directly charged for killing Breonna Taylor, it shows you how they feel about black lives in America.”

Rittenhouse is white. He killed two white BLM cult members. Rittenhouse has been charged with their murders despite the fact there is quite a bit of evidence that he shot them in self-defense.

Jalen Rose is drowning in the deep end of the pool. ESPN should not allow Rose, Taylor or any of their ex-jocks to swim in the criminal justice waters. It’s too deep. Too dangerous.

If the Worldwide Leader wants to discuss police work, grand juries and race, why not hire former police officers, lawyers and historians to do it at a high level? Why not let trained, experienced journalists lead the discussion? Why let the blind lead the blind?

I’ve known Jalen Rose since he was 19 and a sophomore at Michigan. In the past, I’ve supported his charter school in Detroit. Rose, I believe, wants to make a positive impact on the world. Like all of us, he has blind spots. Wealth invites delusion.

Rose and Jones fit the profile of men vulnerable to Black Lives Matter radicalization. They’re black men married to white women.

I am not disparaging their marriage choices. No one who knows my dating history could argue I have a problem with inter-racial dating. No one.

But, as I’ve written previously, your choice in partners can complicate your racial worldview, particularly in this social media era. Black men who date or marry white women face an incredible amount of racial backlash in the real world and in the social media world. Random people, friends and family members question your blackness.

Swearing allegiance to Black Lives Matter ideology is a protective shield against the criticism. Mixed-race black people use BLM as a shield in the same fashion. It’s not a coincidence that Colin Kaepernick is the head of this cult. Racial radicalism makes him feel black.

I know some of you feel I’m out of bounds discussing the racial makeup and dating preferences of BLM cult members. I’m not. BLM cult members speculate about the racial motivations of police officers, district attorneys and grand juries.

There’s no proof that former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin was motivated by George Floyd’s black race. There’s no proof the three Louisville police officers were motivated by Breonna Taylor’s black race. The evidence points to the Louisville cops being motivated by gunfire that struck a police officer with a lawful warrant.

It’s not a coincidence that many of the most strident BLM cult members are mixed race or involved in a mixed-race relationship. Kaepernick, Kenny Stills, Jussie Smollett, Bubba Wallace, Chuba Hubbard. BLM Grand Wizard Shaun King is a white man who has adopted a black identity.

BLM is a cult for people with identity issues. When I worked at ESPN, the common complaint from black male employees was that it was difficult for black men married to black women to rise in the management pyramid.

ESPN disrupted the Western-prescribed all-black nuclear family long before Black Lives Matter called for it on its website.

Let me repeat. I have NO problem with inter-racial marriage. None. If you’re going to do it, just make sure you’re man or woman enough to handle the complications without joining a race-bait cult.

Someone at ESPN should convince Mark Jones to delete his Twitter account and seek counseling. He’s melting down. In 2018, he posted a picture of himself smiling and praising police in Syracuse. Thursday, he tweeted that the picture was actually him thanking a black dude for finding a bag he lost. I’m not exaggerating. Look at the tweet below.

What we’ve seen at ESPN over the past several years and in the last 48 hours in particular is why sports fans should ‘Kick their ESPN habit. We’re not perfect here at Outkick. But we’re not a radical cult promoting a race war in America.

“Introducing your Beloit _______!”

Wisconsin had a whole batch of so-called “organized” minor league baseball teams.

There now are two — the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, an affiliate of the Brewers, and the Beloit Snappers.

That is, they were the Snappers (and before that the Brewers when they were a Brewers affiliate). The team is moving to a new ballpark next year, and with that they are changing their name.

To what, you ask? Well, that may depend on you. The franchise is conducting an online poll through next Friday. The five finalists, chosen out of more than 1,000 fan-submitted ideas, are:

Beloit Cheeseballs: Residing in the nation’s cheese capital, dive into the cheese life with the Beloit Cheeseballs. Producing over three billion pounds in 2019, Wisconsin has been America’s largest cheese-producing state for over 100 years straight years. The New York Times once wrote about Wisconsin that “Cheese is the state’s history, its pride, its self-deprecating, sometimes goofy, cheesehead approach to life” and the Beloit Cheeseballs will add a fun new slice to Wisconsin’s cheesy pride.
Beloit Moo: With its affectionate “America’s Dairyland” nickname, over 1.2 million dairy cows call Wisconsin home, living on more than 7,000 dairy farms across the state. Cows help power a bovine-based economy in the region, helping Wisconsin hold a leading spot in the production of cheese, milk, and agricultural products across the nation. Pay homage to the farmers whose fields surround Beloit and the cows that help feed families across America with this catchy team name.
Beloit Polka Pike: Wisconsin residents have been tapping their toes to polka, the state’s official dance, as long as they’ve been pulling fearsome pike from the Rock River. Grab your accordion and your fishing pole and head to the ballpark where every night will be a music-filled festival as the Polka Pike pay tribute to the river that neighbors the stadium and the state’s history.
Beloit Sky Carp: A slang term for a goose that would rather stay home in Beloit in the winter than migrate south, the Sky Carp name whimsically represents the future of our city, a flourishing, innovative town so strong that no one wants to leave. With the new stadium’s riverside views, flyovers from flocks of sky carp will be common at games for years to come. Join the gaggle of geese fans as this creative team name takes flight next year.
Beloit Supper Clubbers: From relish trays to Old Fashioneds, supper clubs represent an iconic and traditional part of our region’s culinary character. Just like our new ballpark will, supper clubs serve as a popular gathering spot for families young and old, offering great food, great music, and great times night after night. Join the club and place your order for extra fun in 2021.

Two are dairy-based, which puts them in competition with two one-time Timber Rattlers alternates:

Promotions Watch: Turn Back the Clock Nights | Ballpark Digest
The Timber Holsteins?

Wisconsin Udder Tuggers: Timber Rattlers rebrand makes a splash

That isn’t even close to the ultimate T-Rats alternate …

Wisconsin Brats Lineup & Game Notes: June 9, 2018 | by Christopher J Mehring | Rattler Radio

… the Wisconsin Brats.

 

The latest American division

Rod Dreher:

Gallup’s new poll has some pretty interesting news about the widening schism in American life. It seems that the Great Awokening of professional sports has alienated a lot of white non-liberal Americans:

The sports industry now has a negative image, on balance, among Americans as a whole, with 30% viewing it positively and 40% negatively, for a -10 net-positive score. This contrasts with the +20 net positive image it enjoyed in 2019, when 45% viewed it positively and 25% negatively.

This slide in the sports industry’s image comes as professional and college leagues are struggling, and not always successfully, to maintain regular schedules and playing seasons amid the pandemic. Professional football, baseball and basketball games have also become focal points for public displays of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

While it’s not clear how much the various challenges and controversies swirling around the industry are each responsible for its slide in popularity, it is notable that sports has lost more support from Republicans and independents than from Democrats. In fact, Democrats’ view of the sports industry has not changed significantly in the past year, while Republicans’ has slipped from a +11 net-positive score in 2019 to a net -35 today, and independents’ from +26 to -10.

The sports industry’s image has also deteriorated more among women than men, and among older adults than those younger than 35. Sports has also lost more support from non-White than White Americans, but given the extraordinarily high ratings from non-White adults a year ago, this group continues to view the sports industry positively on balance today. That is not the case with White adults, who now view the sports industry more negatively than positively, and by a 22-point margin.

Here’s a graphic:

That is remarkable. Sports used to be a unifying phenomenon in American life, but no more — not since athletes got woke.

I can’t find the crosstabs for Gallup’s results about the media and the entertainment industry, but we know from other polls that conservatives feel quite negatively about them.

Look what the Madden video game announced yesterday:

Colin Kaepernick can’t get a job on a professional football team, but he has been affirmative-actioned into virtual football by the woke capitalists at Madden. Insane.

What does it portend for American life to have so many millions of Americans alienated from pop culture institutions (sport, entertainment, media)? Sports, of course, is the big one, because sports never before was politically charged. Now it is. The NFL season is going to be the big one. If conservatives and independents turn off the TV because they don’t want to be preached at by woke football players, it will signal a sea change in American life.

How to woke yourself out of the playoffs

Jason Whitlock wrote this after the Bucks fell behind 2–0 in their NBA conference semifinal series against Miami:

The refs bailed out Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday night.

Yep. You read that right. The refs saved the Greek Freak with the bogus touch foul that sent Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler to the line for the game-winning free throws with no time on the clock.

Miami 116, Milwaukee 114.

The 5th-seeded Heat now own a 2-0 advantage in their best-of-seven playoff series against the NBA’s best regular-season squad.

Lucky for Giannis and the Bucks everyone will spend [Thursday] talking about the sloppy officiating that first allowed Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton to knot the score at 114 with three gift-wrapped free throws and then four seconds later handed the game back to Miami.

Milwaukee fans will likely focus their animus toward referee Marc Davis, who made both sketchy foul calls. That’s fine. But all of Milwaukee should be talking about Jacob Blake’s role in Milwaukee’s terrible start to the second round of the playoffs.

The Bucks dug this hole the moment they diverted their attention away from basketball to fight for the life of a criminal suspect who doesn’t care all that much about his own life.

The Bucks are suffering from Post Traumatic Black Lives Matter Disorder. It’s the mental lapse that happens when a professional athlete realizes he’s allowed Twitter race-hustlers to dupe him into caring more about the life of a criminal suspect than the criminal suspect cares about his own life.

Twenty seconds of an edited cell phone video provoked the Bucks to shut down the NBA Bubble and other parts of the sports world. The shutdown accomplished nothing. Skipping work rarely does.

It was a well-intentioned publicity stunt orchestrated by people who believe in the power of publicity to end racism, cure cancer, spark world peace and stop police from shooting resisting criminal suspects.

The Bucks are mentally lethargic because they’ve spent the past four or five days coming to grips with the immaturity, recklessness and futility of their response to events in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Giannis, George Hill, Kyle Korver and the rest of the Bucks are the official public relations team for Jacob Blake, a man accused of serial sexual assault against a black woman. The Bucks knew nothing about Blake when they decided to go on strike moments before taking the court against the Orlando Magic. All the Bucks knew at the time is what the Twitter race-hustlers told them.

A white cop shot Jacob Blake while Blake was innocently trying to break up a fight. That was the original fairytale floating across the Twittersphere.

Now we know the rest of the story. Blake allegedly had a history of sexually abusing the black woman who called the police. He allegedly stole from her. He wrestled with the police. He admitted having a knife. With his kids in the car, he ignored the commands of police at gunpoint.

Blake behaved in an incredibly irresponsible manner. He behaved like a man who didn’t care whether he lived or died. Think about it. You’re somewhere the courts have ruled you should not be — at the residence of the alleged victim of your sexual assault. Your kids are in the car. You fight with the police. The police draw their guns and you attempt to get inside the car where your three children are.

You’re endangering your own life and the life of your three completely innocent children.

The social media mob and Black Lives Matter dictate that we only evaluate the behavior of white police officer’s in these situations. It’s illegal, immoral and racist to second-guess Jacob Blake’s behavior.

BLM seemingly believes Blake has no responsibility to protect the safety of his three kids, to protect his ability to provide for them. According to Bigots Love Marxism, it is the sole responsibility of the government and white police officers to make sure nothing bad happens to Blake, a suspect they’re trying to arrest for visiting a woman he allegedly sexually assaulted.

Bigots Love Marxism thinks black men are incapable of consistently making decisions to protect themselves and the welfare of their children. Blake responded to police like a man with a death wish and no regard for his children.

Did he deserve seven shots in the back? No.

Am I going to skip work and mourn Blake’s tragedy as if the government sanctioned the KKK to physically harm Martin Luther King, Michael Jordan, Patrick Mahomes or a sophomore at Morehouse College? Absolutely not.

The Bucks made fools of themselves. They chose the wrong hill to plant a flag. It’s easy to lie to yourself via social media. The algorithms, Russian bots and blue-check, bubble-approved sports journalists protect the influencers promoting BLM Derangement. It’s unlikely anyone will ask the Bucks if their Blake stunt shook their focus.

And if the question is asked, they’ll be allowed to pretend it was all worth it.

“The Bucks started a conversation. They raised awareness. They showed empathy.”

Inside the social media matrix, it’s better to slap a slogan on the back of your jersey, kneel during the national anthem or perform some other  symbolic gesture on behalf of a criminal suspect than it is to take action in support of a high school or college kid attempting to make a positive impact on society.

The Bucks are “ride or die” for Jacob Blake.

If they die in the second round of these playoffs and Giannis leaves for Golden State, Milwaukee made the ultimate sacrifice for someone unwilling to sacrifice his pride to protect his three sons.

Trust me, not everyone on the Bucks’ roster is foolish enough to believe justice for Jacob Blake is worth a 0-2 playoff deficit.

According to Wisconsin court records, Blake has been in court three times for not paying child support. The charges for which Kenosha County courts issued an arrest warrant include third-degree sexual assault — domestic abuse (maximum penalty 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine), criminal trespass to dwelling — domestic abuse, and disorderly conduct — domestic abuse. That is who people are defending.

To no one’s surprise, what pro athletes — and, for that matter, Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes — thought happened in Blake’s arrest is not what happened. But don’t believe me, read the state Department of Justice‘s investigation yourself. (The DOJ, by the way, is run by Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat.)

There would be some cosmic justice if the Bucks ended up losing this series. The Bucks’ owners are well-known Democrats. Fiserv Forum, built with $250 million in taxpayer dollars, was built in part to attract the 2020 Democratic National Convention, which of course wasn’t really held in Milwaukee due to the coronavirus pan(dem)ic. (Someone predicted that Milwaukee would take a bath over the convention. He was right for reasons that didn’t exist when he thus opined.)

Beyond the political issues (actually, not, given the Democratic governor’s shutdown of this state earlier this year), the Bucks clearly suffer when not playing at home. The NBA “bubble” has had the impact of completely negating home court advantage. It’s as if the NBA designed it to eliminate the Bucks’ chance of getting to the NBA FInals, let alone winning.

 

On protestball

The latest act in this week’s Protestarama was National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball players’ deciding not to play games in protest of the police shooting in Kenosha earlier this week.

Jason Whitlock said this before this week, but one assumes he still believes what he said:

Nearly 30 years ago, in a 1993 Nike commercial, professional basketball legend Charles Barkley fired the first shot at the “role model” concept popularized by Columbia University sociologist Robert K. Merton in the aftermath of the 1960s counterculture movement. “I am not a role model,” Barkley proclaimed in the half-minute spot. “I’m not paid to be a role model. I’m paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”

Barkley’s words landed with a force every bit the equal of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem knee 23 years later. Former Vice President Dan Quayle defended Barkley, while Barkley’s fellow NBA superstar Karl Malone criticized him in Sports Illustrated. Leading news magazines, including Time and Newsweek, published articles exploring the controversy. Newspaper columnists from coast to coast—on and off the sports pages—also weighed in. The topic still sparks debate today.

Of the many phrases and concepts Merton coined—including “self-fulfilling prophecy” and “unintended consequences”—“role model” has had the most impact. On the surface, the argument that young people tend to model their behavior after high-profile, successful adults is harmless. However, in retrospect, the elevation of athletes and other celebrities as primary figures in the formation of behavioral norms for young people helped create the conditions that are powering the destructive Black Lives Matter movement today.

Merton’s role model concept undercuts the importance of parents and nuclear families. That was the point of Barkley’s criticism. Feminists and other progressive critics of America’s “patriarchal” society—including the Black Lives Matter movement, whose Marxist-influenced statement of purpose opposes “the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure”—have used Merton’s concept to great effect. Muhammad Ali, Pete Rose, Farrah Fawcett, Barbara Streisand, Mick Jagger, Marvin Gaye, and Burt Reynolds infringed on territory primarily reserved for mom, dad, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and teachers.

Technology has helped advance the process, diminishing the influence of traditional authority figures and strengthening the reach of celebrities. Kids shut their bedroom doors, turn on their televisions, laptops, and game consoles, plug in earbuds, open social media apps, and disappear into a world far removed from mom and dad. With a mere push of a button they tune out the worldview of their families and tune in the worldview of athlete LeBron James, actress Lena Dunham, rapper Snoop Dogg, social media race-baiter Shaun King, and others like them.

On top of all this, we now see America’s enemies, particularly China, using these modern role models to promote racial division and destabilize our country—with those on the political Left as their accomplices. Today, they have coalesced around the Black Lives Matter movement to push America toward a level of racial dysfunction and animus not experienced since the Civil War.

It’s fitting that Charles Barkley fired the first shot against this trend, because American sports have become the Gettysburg of what some have called our “cold civil war.” And if China and the Left complete their radicalization of sports, our nation may never recover.

***

Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.

Nelson Mandela, the South African freedom fighter-turned-statesman, spoke those words in an effort to heal the country he came to lead after spending a quarter century incarcerated for opposing apartheid. Mandela embraced sports’ power to bridge racial divides, looking on athletic competition as a kind of antibiotic for racial animus and discrimination. South Africa’s victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup and Mandela’s presentation of the Webb Ellis Cup to team captain Francois Pienaar stand as an iconic symbol of unity in post-apartheid South Africa. Clint Eastwood directed a movie, Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, that memorialized the importance of the moment. It bears re-watching today.

Since sprinter Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and boxer Joe Louis scored a first-round knockout over German heavyweight Max Schmeling in 1938, sports have served as a powerful racial unifier in America as well. The victories earned by Owens and Louis punctured Hitler’s Aryan superiority myth, unified black and white Americans in celebration, and established Owens and Louis as this country’s first black national heroes.

Owens and Louis laid the foundation for Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey’s partnership with Jackie Robinson to integrate our national pastime, Major League Baseball, a decade later. Robinson’s successful integration of baseball, in turn, inspired Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s.

Indeed, Barack Obama, America’s first black president—the world’s first black leader of a predominantly white country—credited Robinson’s career for his own political rise. “There’s a direct line between Jackie Robinson and me standing here,” Obama said in January 2017, while hosting the world champion Chicago Cubs at the White House. He continued:

There’s a direct line between people loving Ernie Banks, and then the city being able to come together and work together in one spirit. . . . Sometimes it’s just a matter of us being able to escape and relax from the difficulties of our days, but sometimes it also speaks to something better in us. And when you see this group of folks of different shades and different backgrounds, and coming from different communities and neighborhoods all across the country, and then playing as one team and playing the right way, and celebrating each other and being joyous in that, that tells us a little something about what America is and what America can be.

Yes, America is a shining example of sports’ transformative power. The games we play, the games at the center of our social behavior, combine with our founding principles to enhance the American experience. America’s enemies know this, which is why the culture war has moved to our arenas and stadiums. Sports are now in the same crosshairs as our Founding Fathers, under attack for past racial sins and unappreciated for their vital role in cultivating racial unity. Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, but by writing the Declaration of Independence he made the emancipation of slaves inevitable. American sports were once segregated, but no American industry can match sports’ empowerment of black men.

The black-player-dominated National Football League is the most powerful force in American popular culture. It provides the number one television show on five different networks—CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN, and the NFL Network. In this era of have-it-your-way TV, where consumers record and watch shows when they want while fast-forwarding through advertisements, only live sporting events can be consistently counted on to deliver audiences that sit through commercials.

But while American sports have never been more influential, they’ve also never been more vulnerable to foreign influence. Their partnership with global brands and their desire to build global audiences have given foreign countries a pathway to manipulate American sports and culture.

Look at how China, with its 1.4 billion consumers, rules the National Basketball Association and its de facto parent company, Nike, the same way it rules Hollywood. Access to China’s consumers and Asia’s cheap labor (even sometimes slave labor) is the key to Nike’s economic growth. The Portland-based shoe and apparel manufacturer generates $40 billion a year in revenue. Its global reach, agenda, and revenue streams dictate the strategy of the $8-billion-a-year NBA. Many are unaware that Nike, and not the NBA, controls basketball. One could make a fair argument that the NBA is nothing more than the in-house marketing department of Nike.

Both Nike and the NBA kowtow to China, which explains their silence on the horrific human rights abuses inside China and the suppression of Hong Kong freedom fighters by China’s communist government. More important, Nike and the NBA’s China agenda helps explain why Nike pitchmen LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick enthusiastically smear the United States as inherently racist and evil. From Joseph Stalin to Fidel Castro to our own time, the communists’ favorite propaganda tactic has been to paint the West, and the U.S. in particular, as racist.

The militant social justice messaging of James and Kaepernick serves the interests of not only the Chinese Communist Party and globalist corporations like Nike, but also our political Left. Kaepernick’s National Anthem defiance in 2016 gave the Left an opportunity to politicize football, America’s new national pastime, and force it into the kind of “progressive” posturing already commonplace in the NBA and Hollywood. Arrogance, lack of foresight, and the advice of an inner circle that included former Clinton administration press secretary Joe Lockhart as the NFL’s vice president of communications, explain commissioner Roger Goodell’s laissez-faire approach to Kaepernick’s protest. Underestimating the determination of the Left and the power of social media to intimidate corporate America, Goodell and the NFL’s TV partners wrongly thought that the Kaepernick controversy would fade over time.

Instead, four years after Kaepernick first knelt, the Leftist mob has forced the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and the National Basketball Association to take their own knees and pay homage to the dishonest Black Lives Matter narrative on police brutality. The NFL plans to paint social justice messages across its end zones this season and to allow players to wear helmet decals with the names of alleged police victims. The San Francisco 49ers fly a BLM flag next to an American flag at Levi’s Stadium. MLB opened its COVID-shortened season with “BLM” carved into pitcher’s mounds, and the Boston Red Sox put up a 254-foot BLM billboard outside Fenway Park. NHL players are now regularly kneeling during the National Anthem. The NBA’s basketball bubble at Disney World is a virtual shrine to BLM: “Black Lives Matter” is painted on the court, players wear social justice messages on the back of their jerseys, and it’s major news when a player stands during the National Anthem.

The entire American sports world—a culture that traditionally celebrates victors, meritocracy, colorblindness, and patriotism—has suddenly immersed itself in black victimization and left-wing radicalism. This immersion threatens to do permanent damage to American culture as a whole. It has certainly undermined national pride. A country that no longer believes in its founding ideals cannot prosper and survive.

***

If our sports stadiums and arenas have become the Gettysburg of the culture war, Lebron James and Colin Kaepernick are playing the roles of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, fighting to divide the nation even further than it is. The mainstream media is only half right in casting them as modern-day equivalents of Muhammad Ali. Ali’s religious sect, the Nation of Islam, was certainly divisive: it championed black secession. But unlike the BLM movement, it also rejected victimhood. Its founder Elijah Muhammad and its spokesman Malcolm X promoted bootstrap self-reliance and were disdainful of liberal politics. “The worst enemy that the Negro [has],” said Malcolm X,

is this white man that runs around here drooling at the mouth professing to love Negros and calling himself a liberal. It is following these white liberals that has perpetuated problems that Negros have. If the Negro wasn’t taken, tricked or deceived by the white liberal, then Negros would get together and solve our own problems. I only cite these things to show you that in America, the history of the white liberal has been nothing but a series of trickery designed to make Negros think that the white liberal was going to solve our problems.

Pro-BLM athletes today have moved beyond the idea of a role model that was debated in 1993—the idea of modeling behavior to be imitated, such as self-reliance, hard work, responsibility, and good parenthood. Through the power of social media, to which they are addicted, these modern role models exert influence by promoting commercial products and political causes. In the case of NBA athletes like Lebron James, this means turning their backs not only on the oppressed people of China and Hong Kong, but also on the poor and underprivileged in America among whom so many of these wealthy athletes grew up, and who they now condemn to victimhood and dependency with their political activism.

Charles Barkley was right 30 years ago. Parents, not athletes, should be role models. Today the situation is even worse, with sports further dividing an already dangerously divided nation, rather than providing the unifying and even healing force Nelson Mandela described. Predictably, there are now calls to boycott sports, and it seems inevitable that the TV ratings of the pro sports leagues will decline. This is unlikely to matter, however, to the suddenly-woke billionaire team owners and their handpicked commissioners.

As fans, we can only hope and pray that these feckless leaders will reconsider their embrace of the BLM cult—a necessary first step to returning American sports to what it has been in the past: a force for unity and a model of a diverse and colorblind meritocracy.

The call(s)

Sports Illustrated asked a number of prominent sports announcers for their opinions of the greatest sports calls announced by someone other than themselves.

The number one call is not surprising.

Followed by …

(I have heard six calls of Gibson’s home run, including Vin Scully on NBC, Jack Buck on CBS radio, Don Drysdale for the Dodgers, Bill King for the Athletics, and this Spanish radio call. There is no bad call of this moment.)

Al Michaels, of “Do you believe in miracles?” fame, said that just popped into his head as the moment took place. He said he has never preplanned a call because then it will sound canned. That included the Miracle on Ice because before the broadcast, Team USA’s presence in that game was so improbable that, Michaels wrote, he and analyst Ken Dryden just hoped the game would be close.

I have a strange mental exercise before big games. I always write out my opens so I get in what I want to without the, uh, you know, kind of verbal wandering that, um, can happen. On the opposite end of the broadcast, I sort of plan what I will say — not a clever catchphrase, but the mechanics of it — if the team I am covering loses, as in “(insert win here) beats (insert loser here) (insert score here); the (winners) go to state, and the (losers’) season ends at (number of) wins and (number of) losses.”

I have a psychological rationale I figured out some years ago. George S. Will once said that pessimists are the happiest people because either something happens and they were correct, or they are pleased to be proven wrong. I am not a fan of announcers who lose their, uh, stuff when the wrong team wins:

I got to do one of those kinds of games earlier this season — a girls basketball team that had gotten to the sectional level three previous seasons without getting to state. The sectional final was the last and best chance to get to state for the undefeated team.

Presty the DJ for Aug. 5

First, a non-rock anniversary: Today is the 95th anniversary of the first broadcasted baseball game, on KDKA in Pittsburgh: Harold Arlen described Pittsburgh’s 8–0 win over Philadelphia.

Speaking of Philadelphia … today in 1957, ABC-TV picked up WFIL-TV’s “American Bandstand” …

… though ABC interrupted it in the middle for “The Mickey Mouse Club.”

Today in 1966, the Beatles recorded “Yellow Submarine” …

… and “Eleanor Rigby” …

… while also releasing their “Revolver” album.

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Aug. 5”

Some things never change, NFL QB edition

Pro Football Rumors:

The Jaguars have agreed to trade Nick Foles to the Bears, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). In exchange, the Bears will send a compensatory fourth-round pick to the Jags. The former Super Bowl MVP will restructure his hefty contract as part of the trade, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network tweets.

It’ll be new surroundings for Foles, but he’ll have plenty of familiar faces to help him adjust. Head coach Matt Nagy is among the staffers that have worked with him in the past, which will help with the learning curve.

The Bears have been exploring alternatives to former first-round pick Mitchell Trubisky this offseason, though they’re not necessarily out to replace him. Instead, Foles figures to serve as competition for the soon-to-be 26-year-old.

Trubisky showed plenty of promise in 2018 as he led the Bears to an 11-3 mark in 14 starts, a campaign that resulted in his first ever Pro Bowl nod. However, things got really rocky last year – Trubisky had just 17 touchdowns against ten interceptions and the Bears’ D couldn’t make up for the shortcomings. The Bears went 8-7 in Trubisky’s 15 starts and finished .500 on the season, leaving them short of the playoffs.

Chicago initially insisted after the year that they’d roll with Trubisky in 2020, but reports soon emerged that they were going to look for a veteran to push Trubisky. They’ve been connected to a number of signal-callers including Foles, Andy Dalton, and Teddy Bridgewater, and we heard Monday that they were focused on trading for either Foles or Dalton.

The Bears will take on the last three years of Foles’ contract, which pays a base value of $50M before the restructure. The Jaguars will be left with a substantial dead money hit of $18.75MM in 2020 and a mid-round pick. Jacksonville seems prepared to turn things over to Gardner Minshew, the sixth-rounder who went 6-6 last year as a rookie and finished the season with a top-10 interception rate.

Foles has had plenty of success at Soldier Field, as his last win as a starting quarterback was in Chicago in the wild card round of the playoffs two seasons ago in the infamous ‘double-doink’ game. While the Bears have insisted they aren’t giving up on Trubisky, it would be highly unusual to pay a backup quarterback as much money as Foles is getting, and it would be surprising if he doesn’t take over at some point.

Chicago now has even less draft capital, as they’ve already shipped out a bunch of picks in previous deals. They now have the 43rd and 50th overall selections in next month’s draft, but no other picks in the first four-rounds, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes in a tweet breaking down all of their picks.

Keith Olbermann said this in the late 2000s, and now this needs updating:

So the Bears have a quarterback problem. Thus has it been for the length of the era of Rex Grossman — and the eras of Kyle Orton, Brian Griese and Jeff Blake; Chad Hutchinson, Jonathan Quinn, and Craig Krenzel; Kordell Stewart, Chris Chandler, Jim Miller, Cade McNown, Shane Matthews and happy Hank Burris. Well, that takes us all the way back to 2000.

Following Orton’s return three years after the first of his two benchings came the era of Jay Cutler … and Todd Collins, Caleb Hanie, Josh McCown, Jason Campbell, Jimmy Clausen, Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer. That takes us from 2009 to 2017, when the Bears let Cutler leave, signed Mike Glennon and drafted Trubisky.

Bears fans wring their hands when after two games, Rex Grossman’s quarterback rating matches the speed limit. But this is one of the NFL’s great unrecognized traditions. With brief interruptions of stability from the likes of Jim McMahon and Billy Wade, the job has been unsettled since Sid Luckman retired.

Wade was the quarterback when Da Bears won the 1963 NFL title. The next season, Wade was replaced by Rudy Bukich, only to replace Bukich one season later, only to be replaced by Bukich one season after that. Bukich was out by 1967, when Jack Concannon arrived, only to be replaced by Rakestraw for two games. Bobby Douglass and Virgil Carter arrived the next season when the Bears inexplicably cut Rakestraw.

This is how Da Bears could have two Hall of Fame players — running back Gale Sayers and linebacker Dick Butkus — and end up with two winning seasons (their first, 1965, and 1967, the first and last of the Packers’ threepeat NFL titles) and zero playoff berths. (Sayers’ career ended in 1971, two years before Butkus retired.)

There has always been a Rex Grossman, he has always underperformed, and they have always been about to replace him. The Bears have had 13 starting quarterbacks in the last eight seasons and 40 in the last 47. They’ve started Moses Moreno, and Larry Rakestraw, and Doug Flutie for two games in 1986, and Peter Tom Willis — all three of him.

As compared to 13 starting quarterbacks in eight seasons a decade ago, Da Bears have done much better in the past eight seasons — nine starting QBs. Dating back to the 2010 season, when Da Bears teased their fans with an attempt at a Super Bowl run (and needed three quarterbacks to lose the 2010 NFC championship to the Packers), the count is 11 starting QBs in 10 seasons.

Moreover, once the Bears told George Blanda he was too old to do anything but kick any more. This was in 1958; he would quarterback the Raiders in the AFC Championship Game in 1970.

They drafted Bobby Layne and traded him, and they drafted Don Meredith and traded him, because who would need Don Meredith when you already had Ed Brown and Zeke Bratkowski?

So there’s no explaining this revolving door at quarterback for the Chicago Bears. But if history is any indicator, it is sending this message to Chris Leak, the Florida quarterback whom the Bears cut last month: stay in touch, your era may be next.”

A decade later, there still is no explaining this revolving door at quarterback for the Chicago Bears, which indeed remains one of the NFL’s great unrecognized traditions.