Day Four: Stuart Scott’s legacy is diversity.

Like most people my age, I grew up on SportsCenter, watching the Stuart Scott/Rich Eisen morning show for four or five consecutive hours on lazy summer mornings, eventually reciting Scott’s references and punch lines in unison. Stuart Scott was, for all intents and purposes, the original sports blogger. He didn’t do it in writing, but he showed that you could talk about sports while working in jokes and Ma$e references, and that people would enjoy it.

My favorite SportsCenter combinations are probably Scott/Eisen, Keith Olbermann/Dan Patrick, Patrick/Kenny Mayne and Scott Van Pelt/John Anderson – one of those hosts is not like the others. Stuart Scott was a black man from Chicago who became, arguably, the most popular host on a network where the hosts were overwhelmingly white men, and he gained that popularity while quoting obscure Ludacris lyrics.

Some may state that Stuart Scott’s legacy lies in making SportsCenter fun, and appointment viewing, and that he changed the way we talk about sports, but his true legacy is that his work created an opportunity for anchors and hosts like Sage Steele, Jay Harris and Adnan Virk to work at ESPN. In an era when most of ESPN’s coverage is as vapid as Don Lemon interviewing a rape survivor, ESPN’s commitment to diversity among its hosts and anchors is still refreshing. That doesn’t happen without Stuart Scott.

May he rest in peace.

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Day Three: The “Tragedy of the American Military” is also the tragedy of American police.

I just got around to completing James Fallows’ excellent cover story in the latest Atlantic, “The Tragedy of the American Military,” and I can’t help but think about the parallels between American military culture and American police. For one, they’re both, largely and irresponsibly, seen as infallible institutions of American society, and, secondly, because the military equipment we carelessly spend trillions of dollars on ends up in the police’s hands years later through the Department of Defense’s 1033 program – which is how the police in places like Ferguson, Missouri end up looking like this.

As Fallows mentions in his essay, the military (and police) are considered an untouchable aspect of American government. Any calls for reform or responsibly scaling back a laughably monstrous budget are seen as anti-military, anti-police or anti-American, which is how we end up spending $1.5 trillion, or approximately the cost of the entire Iraq war, on the F-35 Lightning, a fighter plane that can only be described as the New York Knicks of the American military: super expensive and essentially useless.

The American military’s budget needs to be slashed (responsibly) and the members of the military need to become more democratized – we can’t have such a minuscule (about three-quarters of one percent) portion of Americans directly affected by military actions, otherwise nobody will give a shit about what they do. At the same time, American police need better oversight and accountability. Civilian review boards, special prosecutors for cases involving possible police misconduct and scaling back the authorizations for use of deadly force are sensible reforms that should be studied and considered, even if they may be unpopular with the rank-and-file.

Trying to make such prized and respected, but broken, American systems better and more efficient for all Americans should not be viewed as attacks on those institutions, and police and military hawks who see them as anything but our responsibility as Americans should be, frankly, embarrassed.

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Day Two: Double-standards and hip-hop.

I was driving home from work the other day, and, since my phone was dead, I was forced to listen to the radio. After flipping through some stations a song called “Habits (Stay High)” came on. It’s a fairly innocuous record by (yet another) Swedish pop act, Tove Lo, about how the protagonist (presumably Ms. Lo) uses drugs and alcohol to keep herself from thinking about an ex. Nothing wrong there, really, except for the fact that the the track’s hook “I gotta stay high all the time to keep you off my mind” goes uncensored through the whole radio play.

I’m not some prude who believes this song should be censored – in fact, I am vehemently opposed to censorship of any kind – but I honestly can’t tell what the difference is between Tove Lo’s “Habits  (Stay High)” and and Three 6 Mafia’s 2005 single “Stay High,” which was radio edited to “Stay Fly.”
Time and again we’ve seen society create a double standard for hip-hop. We are even seeing courtrooms use hip-hop lyrics as evidence in court, when almost no other fictional art form is treated as such. Hip-hop artists seem to be subject to an unfair double-standard that no one else is held to. And it’s not just Tove Lo, either. Billy Joel can sing about smoking weed and jerking off without censorship, but the same rules don’t apply for hip-hop artists.
You can’t listen to “Stay High” and “Habits” and tell me that anything about the songs is inherently different other than the fact that one is sung by a white woman from Sweden and the other by black guys from Memphis. This is another example of a racist society viewing hip-hop culture as a threat to American hegemony (or the kids, or whatever). It might be something relatively small, but it speaks volumes about inequality and racial discrimination in our society.

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Day One: Let’s Talk About Names For a Minute

Oh hey there. As you can see, I didn’t write much on here in 2014. For 2015 I’ve decided to commit myself to writing something at least once per day. It doesn’t matter what they’re about or how long they are, as long as I write. That is, after all, the purpose of this. Anyway, thanks for coming along for the ride!

The Yankees kicked off the new year by trading Manny Banuelos to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for two relief pitchers. I could discuss the merits of the deal (which I believe is a pretty good one for the Yankees, and a sobering reminder that There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect), but that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about Chasen Shreve, one of the two pitchers the Yankees received in the deal. Actually, I want to talk about Chasen Shreve’s name, because, well, it’s Chasen Shreve, and it sounds like something Riley Breckenridge would’ve made up.

Like almost any other person of color in America, I’ve been told that my name is “weird” or not normal because it’s not Bob or Bill or Larry, but Bhavin, a perfectly normal and fairly common name.* I’ve been told, because my name does not sound WASPy enough, that I should go by Bob, rather than Bhavin. Which, no. Fuck you. My name is my identity. Deal with it.

*I’m actually the second Bhavin at my company. My first day at the job likely marked the first time in my life that I’ve entered a room and complete strangers already knew how to pronounce my name.

This kind of shit happens almost all the time.

(That’s the brother of a major leaguer making fun of my name because I made a bad joke about the fact that I pronounce his last name ROARk rather than ROW-ARK, which, let’s be honest, is needlessly polysyllabic.)

But let’s get back to Chasen Shreve, because CHASEN SHREVE. Like, what is Chasen? Is that some hybrid of Chase and Jason? Y’all can’t say that “Bhavin” is weird and then name your kids Chasen Shreve. You can’t. White people have officially lost that.

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Donald Sterling Does Not “Own” the Clippers

A Google News search for the terms “Clippers owner” returns over forty-two thousand hits from New York and Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated, ESPN.com and a myriad of other outlets, whether large or small, reporting on the racist remarks of real estate billionaire Donald Tokowitz, who happened to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team in 1981 for $12.5 million (Tokowitz legally changed his name to “Sterling” for what I assume were business purposes).

Mr. Tokowitz, who has a long, well-documented history of racism and racist policies as a businessman (a compendium of which has been edited by Tim Burke of Deadspin), was recently recorded by his bi-racial mistress as justifying his racism because he “give[s] them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses.” He also justifies his beliefs because in Israel, “the blacks are treated just like dogs,” chalking it up to our “culture,” saying, “we have to live within that culture” rather than help foster change.

The culture Tokowitz is referring to appears to be that of the antebellum south’s plantation culture, only Tokowitz lives in 2014. Mr. Tokowitz is nothing more than a modern plantation owner – he has no use for blacks, or people of color, unless he can exploit them for monetary gain or stick his dick in them. For Mr. Tokowitz, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are the slaves that have made his $12.5 million investment worth upwards of $575 million today (Doc Rivers is probably his version of Stephen from Django Unchained).

Mr. Tokowitz is the Los Angeles Clippers’ “owner” insofar that he purchased the franchise for millions of dollars. Tokowitz, however, does not own the Los Angeles Clippers – he owns a trademark, not a group of players. But, given his sordid history of racism, the idea that he fancies himself as a benefactor of “the blacks” in the same way that a southern plantation owner would have should not be surprising. After all, we continually refer to him as “Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling”; Donald Sterling is Chris Paul’s “owner” not his boss.

Referring to the white millionaire and billionaire plutocrats who purchase sports franchises as “owners” does nothing but reinforce this sort of plantation owner mindset: “Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?” Donald Tokowitz’s self-importance comes entirely from the fact that he signs paychecks that enable young black men to become conspicuous consumers, famously telling Danny Manning, “I’m offering a lot of money for a poor black kid.”

At some point, maybe we should stop referring to these rich white guys as “owners.” I don’t know what we should call them, and frankly I don’t care. Let’s just not allow them to delude themselves into believing that they own a bunch of “poor black kids” who help make their “owners” even more millions of dollars than they earn themselves. Because, while Donald Tokowitz may be the only purchaser of a sports franchise that we know to be a virulent racist, I highly doubt he’s the only one.

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