This morning's sports section provided lots of food for thought. Lots to chew on, lots to digest, but I'm not swallowing what Matt Barnes said; "Obviously, the N word I used is a word that's used on the court, is used in the locker room, is used by most of my friends and family." Family? Really? You mean mom and dad use it? How about uncles, aunts? I'm having a hard time believing this. In the locker room? Used by friends? Can it possibly be as common to use the N word as Barnes makes it out to be? Barnes makes it sound like a generational kind of thing.
I listened to Charles Barkley at half time of an NBA game go off about how the media (and whites) simply don't get how black people use the word amongst themselves. On the same half time show I listened to Shaq quasi agree with Charles. Come on, Shaq, make up your mind. Later I watched Isiah Thomas on NBA Gametime answer Barkley with an unequivocal No. No! Never! The n word should never be used. According to Thomas, it is a word that is historically far too loaded to ever be used in a comradely way among African Americans. Thomas rightly brought up that Martin Luther King and Malcom X would never have used the word. But, perhaps, these Icons of African American history no longer mean the same to a younger, hipper generation of black men of which Barnes is a spokesman.
What do I think? I'm not a virgin. I've been in locker rooms and on the streets and playgrounds and have heard the word even back in my day used just as Charles described it. It never failed to make me feel unhappy, uncomfortable, and unclean. I would have felt the same if my Japanese friends would have playfully called each other japs. Or my Chinese friends called each other chinks. Or my Hispanic friends called each other beaners or spics. Or my Jewish friends called each other kikes. Poles, polacks; Italians, wops. I can go on and on. So, I ask myself, why does the Hip Hop generation of African Americans feel the word Nigga is ok? Ugh! Typing it just now made me cringe. All I see when I hear or see this word is centuries of evil, exploitation, and racial inequality. (Isiah said he saw black men hanging from trees)
But reactions like Isiah Thomas' must not be the case with the younger generation of African Americans. To me, such relinquishing of history is bewildering. All I can think of is it must have something to do with tone. I'm reminded of one of the opening scenes in the novel The Virginian by Owen Wister set in the wild west when the Virginian faces down his enemy, Trampas who has just called him a son of a bitch. The Virginian whips his pistol out, lays it on the table and says, "When you call me that, pahdna, smile."
If tone is what matters, there must be a whole lot of smiling going. As for me, I'm a white man (with some Tartar and Jewish blood mixed in) who knows where he stands vis a vis the n word. I can never utter it.
Also in today's sports, food for thought: I know it's only early in the NBA season, but isn't it revelatory that the three teams that hired Coach Gregg Popovitch's assistants are doing so well? In the same breath, let's hear it for the Indiana Pacers who are making the word Defense and team play fashionable. I do not mean to slight the Miami Heat. I have never subscribed to the notion that the Big Three were responsible for winning the two NBA championships. The entire Heat team play a rugged, in your face, type of defense. And, as far as I could tell, would have lost both championships had it not been for the inspired play of Battier and Allen.
Team matters. It's all that matters. The Warriors get it. The other strong teams get it. Teams that don't get it, better wise up. From this morning's sports: Roy Hibbert talking about well the Pacers were doing. "Some guys on this team before (in the past) were just trying to get a paycheck and go home and then chilling on the beach and sipping mojitos or something like that. That's not us." Am I impressed or am I impressed?
The following poem is about bull riders, a sport that doesn't have much to do with basketball, but the advice in it has a lot to do with how to play any sport.
The Bull Rider's Advice by David Allen Evans.
What I'm saying is
you can't take this thing light
and there's no saddle to sit in
you can do it one of two ways
as far as I'm concerned
if you want to do it
you can get on just for the ride
take hold of the rope like it was
any old rope and pray for a quick 8 seconds
and no spinning
or you can wrap your fist into his back
so deep he knows you plan to stay awhile
dig in with your whole soul
until the sonofabitch is sick of you
and lets up
What I'm saying is
it's up to you
What my musings are all about...
Blogging might well be the 21st century's form of journaling. As a writing teacher, I have always advised my students to keep a daily journal as a way of organizing their thoughts for future writing projects, a discipline I have unfortunately never consistently practiced myself. By blogging, I might finally be able to follow my own good advice.
The difference between journaling and blogging is that the blogger opens his or her writing to the public, something journal- writers are usually reluctant to do. I am not so reticent.
The trick for me will be to avoid cluttering the internet with more blather, something none of us need more of. If I stick to subjects I know: sports and literature, I believe I can avoid that pitfall. I can't promise that I'll not stray from time to time to comment on ancillary subjects, but I will make every attempt to be interesting and perhaps even insightful.