Surprising notes on Jackie Robinson's self-emasculation: Kevin Blackistone is smart, decent, well-informed, funny, decent and smart.
How do we know that Blackistone's smart? We watch him several days a week on our TV machine.
Who is Kevin Blackistone? He's a sports columnist for the Washington Post and a visiting professor at the University of Maryland. He appears several times per week on an ESPN discussion show, Around Cape Horn.
Blackistone is smart, well-informed and decent. That makes him a great example of an important fact--we the liberals can overstate in striking ways, much as The Others can.
In the process, we may end up harming ourselves at the polls. Or so we'll suggest today.
Where has Blackistone gone wrong, oh so wrong? In this morning's Washington Post, he offers a lengthy column in which he says Cam Newton's blackness is "a factor in negative perceptions about him."
Presumably, that's true, of course. Somewhere, people are thinking or saying negative things about Newton in a way that is tied to race.
On the other hand, Blackistone writes 1148 words on this theme while citing exactly one specific example of this alleged negative treatment. If you blink, you'll miss it:
BLACKISTONE (2/6/16): [W]hen Newton announced late this season that he and his longtime girlfriend were having their first child, the Charlotte Observer in the town he now calls home printed a letter to the editor that took Newton to task for having a child out of wedlock. When it was announced that New England Patriots superstar quarterback Tom Brady fathered a child with his ex-girlfriend Bridget Moynahan after moving on to Gisele Bundchen, sportswriter-turned-academic Ronald Bishop at Drexel found that much of the media explained the event as ". . . metrosexual trappings that come with [Brady's] global celebrity."One newspaper published one letter! In a piece which runs almost 1200 words, that's the only specific example of the negative treatment Blackistone is writing about.
Has Newton received other negative treatment? We will assume that he has. But we the liberals can be very silly concerning topics we care about, in the same way Those People can. If you doubt that, consider this passage from today's column, which was written by a person who's smart, well-informed:
BLACKISTONE: I interrupt this essay out of obligation to so many of Newton's detractors to acknowledge that, yes, he was arrested while at the University of Florida on felony charges for stealing a fellow student's laptop. The state reduced the charges and deferred prosecution because the victim declined to join the prosecution. Newton was required to attend counseling, write an apology letter and do community service. He eventually transferred to a junior college to reboot his college career, which culminated at Auburn with a national championship and Heisman trophy.Like almost everyone else on earth, Newton did something dumb when he was 19. (To this day, we're still amazed by three or four things we did at roughly that age.)
Those of us in the media don't, however, feel so compelled to highlight the legal troubles of white athletes, like, for example, another former star Southeastern Conference quarterback now in the NFL, Zach Mettenberger. He was dismissed from Georgia after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery, grabbing the breasts and touching the buttocks of a woman at a bar. Mettenberger was sentenced to two concurrent 12-month periods of probation, ordered to pay $2,000 in fines and perform community service. Like Newton, he transferred to restart his career, and wound up at LSU, where he starred before being drafted by the Tennessee Titans, for whom he now plays.
That said, are there actually people "in the media" (aside from Blackistone himself) who "feel compelled to highlight" this ancient legal problem? If so, Blackistone doesn't name any such people, or show us what they've said. Instead, he offers a silly comparison to Zach Mettenberger, who apparently did some highly inappropriate things early in his college years.
Without offering any examples, Blackistone says that his colleagues in the press feel "compelled to highlight" Newton's past problem while failing to mention Mettenberger's. To the extent that this may be true, there would be an obvious surface explanation:
No one's ever heard of Mettenberger. Newton's a giant star.
Leaving aside Blackistone's lack of examples, the comparison in that passage is just utterly silly. This thought will occur to many sports fans who read his column.
It will also occur to many sports fans that Johnny Manziel's legal problems are currently being discussed all over the country. So were the legal problems of Ben Roethlisberger just a few years ago. Each of those fellows is widely believed to be white.
Is Cam Newton being badly treated on a racial basis? Presumably yes, to some extent—but how widespread is this problem? Blackistone, who's very smart, writes a lengthy column which isn't.
His most outlandish remark concerns Jackie Robinson. Before that, though, he also offers this:
BLACKISTONE: In the hundred years or so between [boxer Jack] Johnson and Newton, there have been other black athletes similarly criticized, like the star NFL halfback Joe Lillard. Lillard was a standout in the league in the early 1930s and just as cantankerous as many white players then, but was castigated for being so...As described, the "rejection" of Garcia's "tenacity" (seventy years ago) makes fairly obvious sense.
There was Silvio Garcia, an Afro-Cuban whom Branch Rickey originally tapped in 1945 as his guinea pig to trot out onto Major League Baseball's all-white diamonds. But Rickey, the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, rejected Garcia because he saw Garcia's tenacity, admired in others, as a detriment. So the story goes, Rickey met with Garcia in Havana and asked him, "What would you do if a white American slapped your face?" Garcia responded: "I kill him."
And then there is Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, even Barry Bonds, et al.
Meanwhile, Ali became one of the most beloved sports figures in American history. If he and the widely-admired Abdul-Jabbar are the best examples of mistreatment we can cite from the past hundred years, then we're reading a column which doesn't exactly make fabulous sense—and quite a few readers will think this.
That said, we the liberals are capable of making little sense, much like Those People, The Others. In the following passage, we'd have to say that Blackistone moves beyond the realm of flawed argument into the realm of complete absurdity bordering on ugliness:
BLACKISTONE: Newton is, as he declared, a black quarterback who unsettles some onlookers. He doesn't cloak himself in the self-emasculation of black athletes so celebrated in this country from the first half of the last century, like Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson or Olympic star Jesse Owens, who is further immortalized this month in the new movie "Race."Jackie Robinson is widely regarded as an American secular saint. But when we liberals get a snootful, it turns out he actually "cloaked himself in self-emasculation." So did Jesse Owens!
Many people who read that passage will regard it as ugly, absurd, offensive. It would be hard to argue that those people were wrong.
We the liberals love to criticize the craziness of the "low-information voters" who we enjoy otherizing. Without any doubt, conservatives say the darnedest things—but so do we the liberals.
Do we harm ourselves this way? Consider something Cara Buckley wrote in Thursday's New York Times. As you do, try to picture it through the eyes of those who are being rebuked.
Buckley was writing about the Oscars, his current beat at the Times. More specifically, she was predicting this year's Oscar winners.
Along the way, she made a now-standard reference to a fine British actor. In fairness, she didn't say "snubbed:"
BUCKLEY (2/4/16): Last but not least, for supporting actor, it's looking very, very good for Sylvester Stallone, the ''Creed'' co-star. Idris Elba, whose Oscar shutout helped ignite this year's #OscarsSoWhite outcry, nabbed the Screen Actors Guild Award ahead of Mr. Stallone's Oscar competition. (Mr. Stallone was not nominated for an SAG.) Mr. Stallone, meanwhile, is being buoyed by a ton of sentimental good will, to wit the standing ovation that followed for his Golden Globe win.Everything Buckley says there is accurate. But again, she pokes at the Academy for failing to nominate Elba, while failing to note that none of her own newspaper's three film critics included him on their own nomination ballots.
Let's say that again. The New York Times has three film critics. With regard to Elba's performance, they engineered a unanimous "Oscar shutout" too!
Just a guess! There are people in Hollywood who notice this sort of thing and think it's fake and dishonest. Here's another guess:
Next year, some black actors and actresses will lose some nomination votes because of this sort of thing. Another guess: some black actors and actresses lost nomination votes this year because of the way this theme played out after last year's nominations.
Are actors and actresses losing votes in this manner? If so, that's unfortunate and unjust. That said, we'll guess that it's actually happening. And in truth, many people have been overstating, faking and posing in their criticisms of the Academy with regard to this pleasurable theme.
In the real world, overstating actually can create resentment and backlash. Actors may be losing nomination votes as a result of overstatement, faking and posing concerning the Oscars and race.
Could Democrats lose votes the same way? We liberals have accomplished this outcome in the past through our various overstatements. Trust us:
We the liberals are entirely capable of making this happen again!
Blackistone's column is poorly reasoned today. We're going to guess that it struck many sports fans, citizens and voters in a negative way.
We're going to take one final guess. When we the liberals play it this way, progressive interests can be harmed.
Dear lord, those columns can feel so good! Is the tribal pleasure we feel worth the price we may pay?