Here’s your dissenting opinion.

Here we go again talking about sports.  The past few days the sports world has been abuzz because of comments made by the LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling.  For those who don’t know what happened, here’s a very quick summary.  Several months ago Sterling was talking to a woman that he knows, and he said that he didn’t appreciate the fact that she posted pictures of herself with Magic Johnson.  Sterlings exact words from the recording were as follows: “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”  (From the ESPN article found here.)  As a result of his comment getting out, Sterling was banned from all NBA related activities, find $2.5 million, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said that he plans to ask the other NBA team owners to vote to make Sterling sell the Clippers.

Now, from my understanding, this comment was made in Sterling’s home, and a recording was released several months later.  Per Wikipedia, Sterling was suing the woman who released the recording, and she said that she would “get even” with him.

Lets do something that not many other people seem to be doing, and take a look at exactly what he said. It bothers him that someone he knows is associating with black people.  Not a nice thing to say, but I’m sure you could find far more racially offensive articles from the past week, like this article talking about a fan throwing a banana at a soccer player in Spain.  That’s far more offensive to me, but apparently not to the public at large, in part because it’s from Europe, and in part because it’s soccer, a sport most American’s don’t care about.

Let’s take a look at Sterling while we’re at it, according to Wikipedia, Sterling is 80 years old.  This isn’t excusing what he said, but it does lend some context.  We’re a far more integrated society today than we were when Sterling was growing up.  When he was younger, interracial relationships were more rare, and it’s understandable that they might make him uncomfortable.

Secondly, he said he wasn’t comfortable with the girl associating with “black people.”  There are plenty of other more offensive racial terms that he could have used instead of “black people.”

Lastly, lets look at the punishment.  He’s being find $2.5 million, again we go to Wikipedia, which says that his net worth is something like $1.9 billion.  So yeah, it’s a big fine, but it’s not exactly going to send him to the poor house.  Next, he’s banned from anything to do with the NBA, including attending games or even attending a practice, I think this is going a bit too far.  He’s already a fairly quiet owner by comparison to others (Mark Cuban of Dallas comes to mind), and while he hasn’t done a great job of running a winning team over the years, I don’t think there were ever any stories about him not paying players, or refusing to sign black players, so as far as that’s concerned he’s done his job more than adequately.

And now we get to the most damning part, at least as far as I’m concerned.  Silver is going to try and get the rest of the NBA owners to vote in an attempt to force Sterling to sell the team.  He’s the longest tenured owner in the league, and over the time that he’s owned the team the NBA has grown astronomically larger and more popular.  I don’t know exactly how much, but he’s probably had something to do with that behind the scenes.  I think this sets a bad precedent for the other owners.  This is a very, very, small thing, and they’re trying to force him to sell the team.  What happens in a couple of years when the aforementioned Mark Cuban says something to offend someone, is he going to be forced by the other owners to sell the team?  What happens the next time a coach questions a league decision?  Will the commissioner put pressure on the team to fire the coach?  What about when it’s found that a player told a joke with the N word in it when he was a freshman in high school?  Is he going to be suspended?

This whole controversy boils down to two things.  One, we’ve somehow managed to sterilize our culture to the point where having an opinion that differs from the “politically correct views” in any way shape or form means that anyone who might possibly have been offended any time in the past 50 years has every right to crucify you for what you said.  And two, Adam Silver is brand new as a commissioner in the NBA, and he wanted to do everything he could to make sure that people realize that he is the commissioner and he has the power.

Is Sterling a perfect person, no, he isn’t.  But I doubt that he’s anywhere near as bad as he’s been made to seem.  We’ve all vented about things from time to time, and we’ve all said things that are politically incorrect.  If you took a soundbite of the worst things we’ve said in our private moments, nobody would have a job.  In the past week, I’ve heard plenty of things that are far worse than what Sterling said.  Quite frankly, I’ve said more offensive things than what Sterling said in the past week.  This is a stupid situation that got absurdly out of hand.  If I was Donald Sterling, I’d fight this every step of the way, sit court side at the next Clippers home game, and tell Adam Silver to take his lifetime ban and shove it up his ass.

But that wouldn’t be politically correct would it?

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Why My Favorite Football Player is a Free Agent Punter

As I’m writing this, it’s about 2 or 3 minutes before the BCS National Championship Game with Florida State and Auburn.  We’re also in the middle of the NFL playoffs, with the Wild Card games taking place last weekend and the Divisional Round coming up next weekend.  I enjoy football, but I’m not nearly as big a fan as many other people I know.  The first time I ever been in a Fantasy Football league was this past year, and it will probably be the last time I’ll ever be in one.

So why is my favorite football player a punter?  And one who is currently unemployed?  Because he’s also an extremely intelligent person who is willing to speak his mind on some very important issues.  For those of you who don’t already know who I’m talking about, I’m referring to former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.  I first heard of Kluwe a couple of years ago when he was in the news a little bit for being a general nerd who was (at the time) playing World of Warcraft.  However, recently he’s been in the news recently for talking about his political views concerning gay marriage.  Here are links to a couple of articles he’s written.

“They Won’t Magically Turn You Into A Lustful Cockmonster”: Chris Kluwe Explains Gay Marriage to the Politician who is Offented by an NFL Player Supporting it.

An End To DOMA

I Was An NFL Player Until I Was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot

I agree with everything Kluwe says, but beyond that, I appreciate the bluntness with which he writes.  So often when you hear politicians talking every sentence is layered with so much double talk and subversion that half the time you don’t even know what they’re talking about. (This is one of the things I’ve always liked about Jon Stewart as well, he’ll call politicians on their bullshit.)

Kluwe explains his points, he does it directly, and he doesn’t beat around the bush.  The first article I linked to is a perfect example of why his writing works.  You can see his anger at the blatant stupidity, but he also makes very valid points.  And while some people might not appreciate his profanity, lets face it, that’s how a lot of people – including many very intelligent people – talk today.  Along with that, I think it’s become obvious that trying to play nice doesn’t get anyone listening to you, so maybe it’s time to stop being nice.

His NFL career is basically over, but I certainly hope that he has a long future in whatever he decides to do.  We need more people with a public stage to call politicians on their crap and bluntly talk about issues the way that many people actually think about them.

So exactly how far have we come?

I’ve still got to get back into the rhythm of reading in my free time again, so today I thought I’d talk about something different.  I also think that I need to expand the scope of my blog since I don’t really think I’ll get back to reviewing two or three books every week like I did for the better part of the first two years of my blog.

The basis for this post comes from two separate things I’ve seen recently.  The first is a documentary that I came across last light on Netflix about Lenny Bruce – Looking for Lenny.  I’m a big fan of standup comedy – I know I’ve talked about George Carlin on my blog before – and anytime that you really look into the history of standup comedy, you eventually come across Lenny Bruce’s name.  But while I’ve heard of him before, I wasn’t familiar with any of his material, I was only aware of the impact that he has had on the world of comedy.  After watching the documentary last night, it gave me a lot to think about, to the point where I watched it again tonight.

While he is largely known for being a foul comedian – and he did use more than his fair share of foul language – Lenny was really one of the first people to use comedy as a way to introduce an idea.  When you tell a joke, there is the immediate reaction (hopefully a laugh), but with a quality joke, there should also be a delayed reaction when you think about the joke later.  While Lenny started this, I think that one of the best people to ever do this was George Carlin, specifically with his routine “The Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television.”

But while I think that Carlin’s 7 words routine is a perfect example of using comedy to introduce an idea, I think it shows part of the problem as well.  We’ve been inundated with people cursing to the point where you don’t even notice it anymore.  I know that I swear far more often than I probably should, but the words have no power to me anymore.  The words are overused, but they’re no longer attached to new ideas.

It’s difficult to get people to listen to controversial ideas, even in situations where you think you should be able to.  Even in my college courses, there were plenty of times when I would throw out an off the wall idea, and oftentimes I would get blank stares from other classmates and my professors as well.

So exactly what point have I been getting to?  Simple.  We may have progressed in a lot of areas, but unfortunately not in any of the ones that matter.  We claim to be forward thinking, but most of our society is so afraid of anything new that we mistake an acceptance of cursing for an acceptance of ideas.  And this leads to the second item that served as a prompt for this post.

While I haven’t blogged about it very much, I’m a sports junkie.  And the biggest story in sports for the last couple of weeks is that fact that the NBA player Jason Collins is coming out and admitting that he is gay.  While it is a step towards acceptance, I don’t see why it’s such a big deal.

Depending upon the source that you look at, studies have shown that up to 1% of the population is homosexual (it’s from Wikipedia, but I can easily believe the number, I actually thought it would be a little higher).  Even with a mere 1% of the population being homosexual, the odds are fairly good that you know at least one or two people who are gay.  I knew several people who were gay when in the music department at the University of Akron when I was a music major my first three years out of high school, and several of them were my friends.

So here’s the question that I ask after talking about my recent media viewings and the one news article I’ve seen recently.  Exactly how far have we come?  My answer to the question is that we haven’t come very far at all.  And it’s not just with language or homosexual people.  It’s with anything.  As a society we feel such pressure to show how tolerant we are that we show off the first person who is different far more than we should.  Jason Collins coming out will get far more airtime than something as meaningless as a person’s sexual preference should ever get.

The fact that a professional athlete in comfortable enough in our society to come out as a homosexual shows how far far our society has come.  The fact that it’s a major news story shows that we have so much further to go.

How are you doing?

At first glance, the title for this post is going to seem very strange, but by the end of the post I hope that it will make sense.

Most of the time on this blog I’m talking about books, I’ve tagged over 250 of my 325-ish posts with the ‘books’ tag, but I’m also a fairly big sports junkie.  You’d never know it looking through my blog of course, my ‘sports’ tag has been used all of 1 time out of all of my posts.  But there was something eventful in the sports world this weekend that I want to talk about.  (And for those of you watch a lot of Sportscenter, it’s exactly what you think it is.)

This past Saturday, Jovan Belcher, a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs killed his girlfriend before taking his own life in the parking lot outside of their home stadium.  I’m not going to call the entire event a tragedy like many people will – because while I enjoy sports, I don’t consider athletes to be so far above us regular joes that they should be worshipped.  I do feel sorry for his girlfriend’s family, and for the young child they left behind.

While this event has gotten a lot of attention from the national media, I’m going to take a slightly different take on the situation, and this all starts from the post game interview speech given by Brady Quinn, quarterback for the Chiefs.  (Quinn starts about 20 seconds into the video.)

In 30 seconds Quinn perfectly sums up everything that should be said about the incident.  Think about it for a second.  How often do we ask people how they’re doing and then half-heartedly listen to what they say in response?  I’ve seen people ask me how I’m doing and then walk away before I have a chance to talk, and I’m sure that I’ve done the same to other people as well.

In my Abnormal Psychology class, one of the things that our teacher discussed was the idea of taking any mention of suicide seriously.  And to treat it as if the person was talking about how they’re going to do it.  Life isn’t easy, and there are times when it seems like the only way out is to end it, I’ve been there before, and I know several other people who have been as well.  I’ve had a friend tell me that my being in their life was the reason they didn’t kill themself.  It’s a powerful moment in your life, and the simple act of being there for a friend is one of the easiest things you can do.

Technology has improved our ability to communicate with everyone, I’m using some of this technology right now as I talk about this.  But while we’re more connected to everyone in our lives than people at any point in history, we seem to have more distance between us than ever before.

When you ask someone how they’re doing, take the time to listen to their answer.  When you go out with someone, put your phone away and talk to them.  It’s the easiest thing in the world to do, and you never know how you can change their lives.

Lets put the fanaticism back in fan….. Wait, what?

If you’ve followed my blog at all, it’s pretty obvious that I read all the time.  I don’t have an exact count of all the books that I’ve read this year, but since I started my blog in mid-March I’ve put up about 65 book reviews on here.  Including books that I read before I started my blog, I’m probably up to about 75 books so far this year (if you include books I read in December last year during the semester break the count is probably closer to 90 books).

All that said, spending all my time reading, I don’t generally watch much TV, I think most TV shows are crap and “reality” TV is even worse.  The only thing that I do watch on TV is sports. While I appreciate many sports, I’m not the biggest fan in the world, and there’s a good reason for that.  I don’t live in Europe.

Yes, you read that properly.  Try to figure out my reasoning there before I explain it, I can wait.  Done thinking yet?  Ok.  Being based in America automatically means that you aren’t a part of the most fanatical fanbase in the world, that distinction falls to football (or soccer if you prefer) fans from Europe.

In America we like to think that we’re the best at everything, our sports are supposed to be bigger and better and our fans are more dedicated than other fans.  Those are all flat out lies.  If you’ve never watched a game from the English Premier League (generally regarded as the best single league in the world) or from the UEFA Champions League (this is a kind of composite league from all of the best leagues from around Europe) do yourself a favor and watch some of the games.

Along with the various leagues, there is also the World Cup every four years with the competitions between different countries.  In trying to claim that the Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event in the world, I recall hearing on TV that somewhere around 130 million people watched the game.  That’s nothing, for the world cup a few years ago, there was a report that over 1 billion people (that’s billion, with a B) watched the DRAW for the world cup.  Not even a game, that many people watched the draw to see who each team was going to play.

Soccer fans are also some of the most organized and creative fans in the world.  Watching some basketball games last year, you could hear the announcer at the games trying to get the fans to start chanting defense.  Look at this in comparison to soccer fans, who will randomly break out into song to heckle the other team.  There was another game where all 20,000+ fans in the stadium were singing Blue Moon.  Although I was only watching it on TV, it was really neat to hear that many people singing all at once.  While there are many sports fans for all the teams in America, a lot of them tend to be fair-weather fans, who don’t follow their teams as much when they aren’t doing well.  There are teams in England who haven’t won anything for decades, teams that haven’t even been in the main league for years that still have absolutely rabid fanbases.

So now to the point that actually made me want to do this post.  In a recent Sports Illustrated there was a short article that was talking about the recent riots in England.  Fans of the English club Millwall (which is a team I’ve never even heard of) stepped in to help the overwhelmed riot police, banding together with supporters from other local teams and marching down the main street of their southeast London neighborhood of Eltham to protect it from looters chanting “No one loots us.”  (Taken from the SI article written by Grant Wahl.)

Think about that for a second.  During a riot when most of us with any sense would be sitting at home barring doors and windows, these fans took it upon themselves to help the police handle the riots.  I couldn’t imagine anyone that I know working to help police for anything, let alone a large part of the fanbase working together for the same purpose.

I would love to see that level of organization and commitment from fans of American sports, and it some areas we may eventually get there, some of the MLS franchises are beginning to develop fanbases that are a little more rabid, but they don’t have the history behind them that European clubs do.  I would love to go to a World Cup match and when I have the opportunity I’ll do everything I can to seize it.

So there’s my post for the day, I’ll get back to my book reviews when I finish Locke Lamora in the next couple of days.