Site Meter
Fritz Feds

Friday, February 17, 2006

Am I the only person who has a problem with this?

Finally, tonight, the Winter Games. Count me among those who don’t care about them and won’t watch them. In fact, I figure that when Thomas Paine said that “these are the times that try men’s souls,” he must’ve been talking about the start of another Winter Olympics. Because they’re so trying, maybe over the next three weeks we should all try too. Like, try not to be incredulous when someone attempts to link these games to those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of skating or skiing. So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the winter games look like a GOP convention. Try not to point out that something’s not really a sport if a pseudo-athlete waits in what’s called a kiss-and-cry area, while some panel of subjective judges decides who won. And try to blot out all logic when announcers and sportswriters pretend to care about the luge, the skeleton, the biathlon and all those other events they don’t understand and totally ignore for all but three weeks every four years. Face it — these Olympics are little more than a marketing plan to fill space and sell time during the dreary days of February. So if only to hasten the arrival of the day they’re done, when we can move on to March Madness — for God’s sake, let the games begin.
--Bryant Gumbel

Apparently, I am. I saw this on drudge the other day, and I heard about it on the radio. People are trying to justify this different ways. To me it's unjustifiable. I don't care about what socio-economic point Gumbel thinks he's trying to make. It's a racist comment, and it's unacceptable. I'm not going to make the point, what if Rush said the opposite, which I think is just trying to excuse what Rush said. But the fact that Gumbel is skating by on this one with nary a mainstream word of dissent is absolutely ridiculous and disgusting.

EDIT: Here's another post on it from one of the best hockey bloggers around.


Racism requires some object, some group of people, towards whom the racism is directed. Who is Gumbel's purported racism being directed at? White people, for suggesting that the "best athletes in the world" would probably include at least some proportion of black people? I don't really buy that.

Or is it the Republican Party Convention comment that bothers you? If that's it, I'd call it partisanism, not racism, because it's rather hard to be racist against Republicans. I thought the comment was kind of funny and a little over the top. But disgusting? Nah.
Here's why I don't like the arguments and find them racist and stupid. The very fact that he introduced race into it as a reason he would not watch is prejudiced. (And I'm not all that upset about the GOP thing, because even though that's ignorant as well, at least it seems like a lame attempt at humor.) But the fact that he says that these can't be the world's greatest athletes because of a lack of black athletes is ridiculous. Sports are inherently self-selecting. If I complained that basketball consisted of below-average athletes because of the paucity of whites, I would quite rightly be criticized. I don't know how you don't see a problem with this "if they're no black athletes here (which we all know are the best athletes) the other athletes must not be very good, and are only here because the black athletes haven't decided on competing" logic.
I wasn't debating the logic of his point, only the motivation. Poor logic doesn't get you to ridiculous, disgusting, or prejudiced. Besides, consider his pargument: premise 1--black athletes comprise a significant portion of the world's best athletes; premise 2--the Winter Olympics has very few black athletes competing; conclusion: the Winter Olympics do not have the world's best athletes competing. It makes sense to me. We can justify the lack of the black athletes a number of ways--I think Gumbel would say it has to do with sport selection--but there it is. The Winter Olympics can still showcase the world's best competitors at certain sports/games, but not have the world's best athletes in attendance.

I might have stretched Gumbel's argument further than I should in its defense, because I doubt he thought it through very much before throwing it out there. But there is some support for it. And I still don't see the racism.
And my point is that his motivation is racist, and his logic is based on very faulty premises, once again flowing from this racism. And I find that disgusting. I wouldn't be surprised if he was trying to make a point about black athletes not having the money to pursue a career in the luge, which is again a stupid statement. Frankly, the paucity of black athletes at the winter games is probably predominently attributable to the fact that winter sports are most popular in wintery areas, which usually have less black people in them. Back in the day, some countries produced better distance runners because they were high above sea level, and the runners trained in the thin air. So, his logic is stupid, in my opinion.

But it's racist for this reason. Gumbel looks at the games and sees few black people. He assumes that (in a less polite way of stating your first premise) that blacks are generally better athletes than whites. If black people were to train for the same events, they would do better than the current athletes. Therefore, these games do not boast great athletes, because there aren't many black people. I find this disturbing on a level with the old Jimmy the Greek/Dusty Baker type comments. And frankly, the athlete thing is also stupid and racist. If he is indeed saying that these are the best competitors at a certain sport, but not the best athletes, I wonder if he simply defines athlete as one who runs fast. Perhaps he would like to take a shot at BET for having more black hosts than white hosts, because everyone knows that "whites compose a significant portion of the world's best reporters/anchors/newspeople." I just don't understand how this could possibly be acceptable.
Post a Comment