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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It's Black & White To Me

I’m going off the board tonight (as I do sometimes) although I’ll work in some horse racing references for good measure. I’ve been consumed for the past two days watching the events unfold after the controversial (soon to be acclaimed?) ESPN documentary “Fab Five” that aired on Sunday evening. I am most interested as a former college baller, albeit Division III in the mid 80’s, as I donned the tight shorts that were mocked early in the broadcast (please don’t laugh too hard at the picture).

I missed the initial airing of the episode on Sunday night, as the Space Gal and I were watching the wretched Celebrity Apprentice, but I was monitoring the tweet activity that was extremely high on the documentary. Intrigued as I was, I decided to invest two hours at 11pm to watch an eye-opening and fascinating illustration of how five freshmen came together and started a national championship game in 1990.

The controversial stuff involved how the Fab Five, particularly main producer Jalen Rose and guard Jimmy King portrayed their main rival, the Duke Blue Devils. If you know me, you know I’m a big Duke hater, and not a big Coach K fan. The vitriol directed towards Duke was interesting in that they called the Cosby sweater wearing All-American Grant Hill “a bitch” and Buffalo-based center Christian Laettner, “a pussy.” Granted they were speaking their feelings as 19 year old kids, but the reverberations have been heard throughout the hoops world over the past three days. Grant Hill has gone as far as to issue an eloquent editorial to the New York Times defending him and the Duke program.

Jason Whitlock also chimed in (I am not a fan) with his typical Al Sharpton-like thoughts, defending Hill and the Dukies. I thought the shots he took at Michigan coach Steve Fisher were pretty uncalled for and without much support. When reading the comments to the post, it becomes apparent that the former ESPN writer just holds a grudge about his former employer. I basically wrote off his analysis of the matter as a biased onlooker. I just don’t get this guy, who admittedly used the Fab Five to advance his own career.

What I really wanted to write about tonight is that all folks are different. I played on an all-white high school team that was ranked 19th in New York State as a senior who ultimately was defeated by Syracuse inner city schools (i.e. mainly black) in sectional finals and semifinals, respectively in my final two schoolboy years. I went on to play in college and for the first time found myself as a minority on my team, as one of four Caucasian players. What I did learn from my black teammates was how to dance, how to rap, how to have each other’s back and how to laugh and bond together. Most of the guys I played with weren’t well off, some didn’t even know how to swim, but they were genuine guys and some of the funniest fellahs I ever met. I still correspond with my two closest teammates, both of whom drove 300 miles from the Bronx to surprise me on my 40th birthday.

They taught me how to treat others regardless of the color of their skin and that life is all about respect. It’s funny when you go to war with teammates you become engrained forever and I think that’s what happens. The Fab Five all happened to be black inner city kids trying to break out of difficult family situations and all of them ended up successful businessmen or professional athletes. But they went to war together and they will forever be branded as a unit.

To me, that’s what’s important, not the name-calling that has been proliferated in the mainstream media. What those five guys accomplished should be celebrated, even if they didn’t secure the big prize. Some of what they said may have been taken out of context and taken too literally, I know, when you ‘re 18 years old you feel like you’re on top of the world and sometimes you don’t think about what you say. I know. I played in that era. To have five freshman take a team to two straight championship games in nothing short of outstanding.

Ok, if you’ve made it this far, the horse racing connection, is Duke’s point guard, Bobby Hurley has always been a horseball. He owns Devil Eleven Stables and had a Derby prospect in Songandaprayer in 2001, winning the Fountain of Youth. He was one of those guys I rooted hard against, but I’m sure Grant Hill thought he was one terrific point guard.

I guess the point I was trying to get across in this post is that everyone seems to try and make race an issue. The Fab Five guys did, the Duke guys did, the mainstream media did. But when it comes down to it, it’s how you treat your fellow man (or woman) what counts. Why can’t everyone grow up and enjoy what was truly a magical time in college basketball.

Your regularly scheduled horse racing blog will now continue its scheduled programming.

1 Comment:

bones said...

Nice shorts, great post, even though your English teacher at NS may argue your grammar use! Go ORANGE!


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