There is a cerain high school ref that has clearly been taking lessons from Reggie Miller. His flop almost got OJ Mayo suspended, except a judge overruled the suspension. One one hand, we all know that spectacular high school athletes like Mayo get special treatment. But after watching this video (thanks to Complete Sports), who the hell does the ref think he's fooling?
This, along with the ridiculous Kobe suspension, kind of re-raises an issue that certain people are forcing us to look at every other week.
Now, I don't really know too much about Mayo (perhaps Zuch could help us out here), but I do know Kobe, and it certainly seems like the entire basketball work has come down with a David Stern complex. That is, we say "We need athletes to be good role models and will not put up with 'punks' that want to get in fights and shoot guns." What we really mean, however, is, "We want more white athletes to succeed in basketball, because they're so much easier to deal with than black athletes."
If Steve Nash had smacked Manu Ginobli in the face, would we have even heard about it? Because in the original broadcast, it was seen as nothing more than a good defensive play by Ginobli ("You see the right hand from Bryant coming down and smacking Ginobli. Overtime coming up, after this...").
Yesterday, Tank Johnson referred to his situation as "normal" considering his background, opposed to the expectations of "White America." Of course, people scoffed at the idea that having those kind of weapons in one's home was, by any standards, "normal." Except those people don't understand the standards of certain societies. That type of lifestyle is normal in the background that Tank comes from. Not to excuse Tank, because Kordell Stewart, of all people, made a great point this morning, saying that Tank got himself out of that society and therefore should rise above what is "normal" in the society he was raised in. But the point remains that many of these players are coming out of much rougher situations than the analysts and commissioners that wag their fingers at these players.
All of this is not to excuse the gun-toting, fist-flyin behavior of certain athletes. It is simply to say this:
The world of sports is great for many reasons, but one of those reasons is the ability to give people with no escape, an escape. Many athletes, had they not had (insert sport here), would be dead or in jail today (probably including our beloved Dwyane Wade). I'm talking about basketball especially (which, ironically, is the sport that is most trying to rid themselves of the "thug" image) because you can go into the worst neighborhoods in the country and find a basketball hoop. The players that are good enough at basketball to earn a brighter future are asked to completely change their value system and give up everything that was important to them growing up.
Ideally, every "thug" and "punk" that pull themselves out of those bad neighborhoods and ascend to sports world glory would become Dwyane Wades and be perfect role models. But I don't think anyone realizes how much that is asking of these kids. One more time: I'm not saying these players are innocent, but I'm much more inclined to believe Tank Johnson when he says he doesn't consider himself a bad person.