Sports & Fun


that if you use the word “thug”, you are in fact hurling a racial epithet.

Surprised? I sure was, when I first read about this in Saturday’s AJC article entitled: “What is a Thug?”.

All of this suddenly appears to have come up with the wide reactions to Michael Vick’s latest escapade… being forced to surrender his marijuana transportation container (aka Aquafina Water Bottle Diversion Safe) at the Miami Airport as he passed through TSA security checkpoint on his way to meet his new coach for the first time. Now he wasn’t arrested, because he apparently didn’t have his bottle full of contraband at the time, but certainly did not show very sound judgement for someone who is the “face of the franchise”.

Economic reality means that there’s no way that the Atlanta Falcons would ever cut or trade Vick… even if owner Arthur Blank isn’t happy with him. That’s the fact. But it must be some disappointment to know that your franchise’s star player is a pothead who can’t be trusted off the field. (But in fairness… at least he’s not as bad as his brother Marcus).

Anyway, many fans in Atlanta, very much disappointed in the continued regression in the performance of the Falcons on the field, found Vick’s latest move to be very stupid. And so the article informs… criticizing Vick by calling him a thug is practicing racism:

Considering that the Atlanta Falcons quarterback is not a hardened criminal or known to be a gang member, has the use of the word “thug” about him, and other young black men, started to sound like a racial epithet?

“I’ve been astonished at the blanket bigotry in some cases,” said Jamie Dukes, the 680 the Fan radio talk host and former Florida State offensive guard. “Thuggery denotes a criminal element.”

Now, I really like Jamie Dukes and he usually has some good insight about the game of football. I would have loved to have heard a lot more from him than just the sentance fragment that they quoted in the story… but let’s assume for the moment that he does find it offensive.

Vick’s hip-hop fashion sense, cornrows and jewelry drew as much condemnation in these arenas of public discourse as his string of unrelated personal problems. The incident last week at the Miami airport was the latest to draw attention, with an accusation that Vick tried to take marijuana through the Miami airport dismissed Tuesday. (Earlier this year Vick made an obscene gesture to game spectators and settled a lawsuit alleging he knowingly infected a woman with herpes.)

“It’s become a very racially sensitive discussion,” observes Steak Shapiro, host of 790 The Zone’s “Mayhem in the A.M.” radio talk radio program, with some callers basically saying, “If a white athlete screws up, he’s made a poor decision; if a black athlete screws up, he’s a thug.”

Now I don’t want to nitpick, but Vick was not charged with taking marijuana through the airport security checkpoint. They just noted that he acted suspicious when they took his water bottle and upon further investigation, noted that it had a secret compartment. This was further investigated, but no charges were filed… presumably because there was nothing (or too little) there in the concealed space.

And I can’t discount the fact that there are probably some idiots who might not feel that a black man should be quarterbacking a team in the NFL. But I don’t think that these are the people that are leading the discussion.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think there would have been the same reaction if he were white, black, yellow, or blue.

Towards the end of the story, they note that linguistics people are not quite so fast to confirm this trend, but then immediately refute it:

For the record, [Oxford English Dictionary Editor Jesse] Sheidlower has not noted “thug” used as a pejorative term by whites to describe young black men.

Johnson of the Hawks disagrees. “I do think it’s definitely a race-based stereotype. And I think it’s one that, in our culture today, too many people are willing to accept and tolerate, even when they know it’s wrong.”

Then again on Sunday, the ‘thug’ discussion was reinforced in an AJC opinon piece by Angela Tuck:

With his braids, casual style of dress and “doo-rags,” Vick rubs some people the wrong way.

But, explains Wyche, that’s more a generational thing than a race thing.

In no way has Vick earned the “thug” label some bloggers have given him. It bothers me that people are so quick to brand someone they don’t even know. Even more troubling is the fact that “thug” now seems to be a code word for young black men.

“Most people don’t know the definition of a thug,” said Frank Walker, a cornerback for the New York Giants who lives in Atlanta in the off-season. “Thugs rape and murder people. When they run up against a thug, they’ll know [Vick] is not a thug. He’s an individual.”

From flipping off home fans to engaging in self-destructive behavior, Mike Vick is not acting very smart. Whether it’s fair to call him a ‘thug’, or simply a ‘fool’… I guess you can debate the point. But I really don’t think it’s just because he is black. Or a quarterback.

Randall Cunningham is not a thug. He may run his mouth sometimes when he should keep quiet, but so does Rex Grossman, who can barely pass the ball and is white. White NASCAR driver Tony Stewart was acting like a thug two years ago, when he decided to punch out any reporter asking him difficult questions. But he was forced to get his temper under control or risk losing a chance to participate in his profession. And he went on to win the championship.

Ironically, with all of this talk of unfair thuggery labels, there was also an interesting story elsewhere in the AJC this Sunday. It was about Quincy Carter, the former UGA standout who went on to the NFL to start for the Dallas Cowboys. You may remember him. He was another black quarterback drafted at the same time as Vick. Now he’s out of football after a couple run-ins with drugs (failed drug tests and an arrest).

Asked if he is an addict, Carter struggles with the term before slowly finding the words:

“That’s a hard one to answer. I don’t need to smoke weed. I don’t have to. I shouldn’t. I do realize that it’s not good. … You know, I’ll go ahead and humble myself and say that I do think it’s a problem. I am smart enough to know that failing a test, getting arrested — I do have a problem. I just don’t like the word addict.”

People have to have responsibility for their actions. I hope that Quincy gets his life together, now that the glare of the lights of the football field are in the past for him. He doesn’t seem quite there yet. But when we are disappointed in the behavior of our sports starts, let’s never sugarcoat the bad and ignore it, because then it’s never corrected, much to the detriment of athlete as a man.

And let’s stop insinuating that criticism of Vick, or the use of the word ‘thug’, is meant to be racist.

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I’m really surprised, but it appears that Buford, GA’s own Darius Walker is skipping his senior season at Notre Dame and decalring for the NFL draft.

The AJC predicts he might go in the bottom of the third round or the fourth round.

A surprise.

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It seems that the University of Minnesota is refusing to schedule athletic contests against the University of North Dakota in protest for their use of the “Fighting Sioux” team nickname.

OpinionJournal’s James Taranto notes that their ‘principled’ stand against scheduling home events with schools that use American Indian mascots loses something, because hockey is exempted from the prohibition.

I previously saluted North Dakota’s stand taking on the NCAA over their dubious enforcement of a ban on American Indian mascots. As an alumnus of the University of Illinois, I would rather keep the Chief over the NCAA!

But I also found this interesting:

Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa are Big Ten Conference schools with policies against playing nonconference teams with American Indian mascots.

My suggestion for the Golden Gophers, Badgers, and Hawkeyes is that they close the loophole they’ve left in their policies. Go ahead and forfeit all of their games against the Illinois Fighting Illini!

P.S . Maybe someone should tell the University of Iowa that “Hawkeye” is atribute to indian leader Chief Black Hawk. An American Indian. And I know their mascot is a silly cartoon bird, but they really should be consistent with the desire to eliminate all references to American Indians in our culture and a “bizarre” tribute to them.

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Straight from the Truth is Stranger Than Fiction Department: Hans Blix to serve on ski ethics panel. Yeah, this is the guy you want looking for evidence of doping in your ski program.

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News reports today give some happy news: North Dakota state officials have filed a lawsuit Friday against the NCAA to challenge its restrictions on the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname.

[Attorney General Wayne] Stenehjem said the lawsuit seeks to allow the University of North Dakota to use the nickname throughout the school year without being sanctioned in possible postseason play, along with unspecified money damages.

The NCAA has banned the use of some American Indian nicknames and logo in postseason tournaments, saying they are hostile and abusive.

Stenehjem said the NCAA overstepped its bounds.

Way to go! As someone who also believes that it’s none of the NCAA’s business whether or not the University of Illinois chooses Chief Illiniwek as its mascot, I’m glad to see someone who pushes back on the NCAA.

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EPSN says that Detroit Lions wide receiver Roy Williams wasn’t particularly focused on the team’s goals during last Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears. According to their report:

The Lions’ Roy Williams apparently doesn’t play to win the game. He’d rather strike a pose.

Williams’ celebration after his first catch of Sunday’s game against the Bears drew ire from the Chicago crowd and had Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom scratching his head.

When Albom asked Williams why he celebrated a reception with his team already trailing by two scores, Williams responded, “I celebrate first downs all the time. I’m not gonna stop that. I’m an exciting player. If I do something exciting, I’m gonna show my actions.”

Albom responded, “But you were losing, 10-0.”

“What does that mean? … That means nothing to me. The score means nothing,” Williams told Albom.

It’s an easy story to believe if you watch the NFL for very long. First there was celebrating touchdowns, then the “sack dance”. Now players break into correographed gyrations for a three yard gain, or for making a tackle on a runner.

It’s silly, and takes away from the bigger picture. Knowing what you need to do next in your gameplan.

But lest one think that professional athletes are the only one striking a pose, oblivious to how the larger game is going… just think about all of the politians during this election cycle. One may be justified in saying that being a polititian is synonymous with being a “poser”.

But it seems that principles certainly take a back seat sometimes. Seizing on a moment (a political ‘first down” if you will) and posing and strutting for the ‘fans’. “Look at me!” It doesn’t even matter if they are behind in the score… it’s all about me!

Maybe it’s time to put your head down and just play hard. Do the right thing. There are still some “real fans” out there who like that kind of player best!

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According to reports today:

Maurice Clarett was charged with carrying a concealed weapon after a highway chase early Wednesday that ended with police using Mace on the former Ohio State running back and finding four loaded guns in his sport utility vehicle, police said.

Officers used Mace to subdue Clarett after a stun gun was ineffective because the former Buckeyes star was wearing a bullet-resistant vest, Sgt. Michael Woods said.

“It took several officers to get him handcuffed,” Woods said. “Even after he was placed in the paddy wagon, he was still kicking at the doors and being a problem for the officers.”

The complaint police filed when they charged Clarett with carrying a concealed weapon without a permit said he had a 9 mm pistol under his legs in the driver’s seat of the SUV.

Police also charged him with failing to maintain a continuous lane, which they said was for Clarett making a U-turn on the freeway. More charges are possible, Woods said.

Now that means that Clarett is uniquely qualified either to join the other reprobates on the Cincinnati Bengals or be names one of Cynthia McKinney’s bodyguards/aide.

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There’s really no excuse for the Atlanta Hawks. The franchise is in ruins… the ownership battles even needed a judge to settle the issues. Over the last couple of years they traded away anyone who had any value for little or nothing in return, except for mythical “cap space”… only to realize that they could not really sign any marquee players willing to wade into such a mess.

But there was an interesting article in today’s AJC: NBA’s youth movement a painful adjustment. Basically it’s a story that tells about what the NBA had become… a place where kids, unschooled about the game of basketball, now have to learn their craft. It’s symptomatic of the things that have ruined the NBA — the players don’t know how to play anymore. Of course LeBron James has a ton of talent… but every time one of these high-school players or college freshmen are drafted, it means that the league suffers just a little bit more.

On the Hawks’ practice court at Philips Arena on a given day you could find a college basketball coach’s dream. Josh Smith guarding Marvin Williams on one block. Esteban Batista and John Edwards trade elbows on the other. Salim Stoudamire and Royal Ivey guarding each other at the top of the key, all in a half-court scrimmage that Hawks coach Mike Woodson uses to teach his youngsters the nuances of the passing game and spacing.

Ten years ago drills like these would have been an anomaly at an NBA practice. There was no need for such trivial pursuits since most, if not all, of the players in the league had several years in college programs where the fundamentals of the game were as routine as baggy shorts and black socks.

But that was when the NBA truly was a player’s league, where only the best of the best made it. Since Kevin Garnett did something very few before him did — go directly from high school to the NBA in 1995, rosters have gotten younger and younger.

During that same span the league has gone from the polished product that mesmerized the globe during the golden era of Magic, Bird and Jordan to what is on display now, a league where teaching and player development is far more prevalent than ever before.

Is it any wonder that USA Basketball doesn’t really have a “Dream Team” anymore?

Anyone watching the NBA’s so-called “All Star” game a few weeks back could see that the players are much more interested in seeing their dunk highlight replays that playing basketball.

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USA Basketball
The Olympics are in full swing, and I have been trying to watch as much as I can stomach. Unfortunatly, it seems that NBC and their affiliates seem to want to make the experience as difficult as possible. Although they insist on only showing Americans and American teams, the various announcers seems to delight in talking them down and pointing out every mistake, even when they were doing well.

That said, it was so sad over the weekend to see the USA basketball team get whipped at the hands of Puerto Rico. Not that it was a surprise after seeing them struggle during tune-up games with Italy and Germany. I know that some have said that it’s unfair to criticize the players on the team because they were the ones who actually bothered to show up for the games, as opposed to the rest of the the NBA ’superstars’ who were too busy ‘resting’ during the off-season. And certainly a true All-Star team would have an easier time.

I’ve also heard others predict doom and wish for the return of college players in the Olympics because, in theory, they would be more motivated to win.

But it seems that those are mostly misguided. The current state of the NBA game is so poor and this is just an indication of this failure. Returning to college play will not be successful either, because the college game is being trashed as well. Any time the first round of the NBA draft is dominated by high school players, then college recruiting is moot. If someone stays in school more than two years, then we hear how they are hurting their draft chances. So we end up with a bunch of people who can dunk the ball, but rarely know how to shoot or play defense. In fact, playing defense is really not good because if you keep someone else from getting a dunk in the clear, then they might do the same to you. So no one knows how to shoot or play as a team, because no one plays as a team anymore.

So this is not a failure of these players… they are playing exactly as they normally do. So sad.

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Last night, as GM of the Atlanta Hawks, one of the doormats of the already weak Eastern Coference, you went out to make a trade. It’s been tough for you and the Hawks this year. Essentially playing a man down after unloading selfish ‘Big Dog’ Glenn Robinson for essentially a song… you have really been working for next year. Ironically, my family has seen more Hawks games this year than ever before…

If we go back in history to 2000 before you arrived on the scene, the year the Hawks decided that playing in the playoffs was a luxury. They made a different deal with the Blazers. At that time, they sent Steve Smith to Portland for JR Rider and Jim Jackson. At the time we looked at it as moving the team younger. Jackson didn’t pan out but JR Rider remained - putting in a few points but acting like a team cancer. After finally getting fed up and releasing him, JRcouldn’t even get it together to play for Phil Jackson on the Lakers.

Now it’s Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff, and Dan Dickau to the Blazers for ‘bad-boy’ Rasheed Wallace and Wesley Person??? Are the Hawks acting as a charity to help out Portland?

Shareef was one of the only players out there busting his butt every night playing for this team. He didn’t open is mouth in the press. He didn’t lead the league in technical fouls. He doesn’t smoke pot and ignore his coach.

With Wallace on the team I doubt I can ever take my family to a game again.

I’m sure that you told Coach Terry Stotts, ironically an interim now with the longest tenure of a coach in the conference, that it’s about to end for him too.

Mr. Knight, if this is you the Hawks thank the fans of Atlanta - forget you.

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