My father was appalled by the way in which school mascots were often feminized for the girls’ teams. My own high school mascot, the fearsome Blue Jay, became the Lady Jay when donned by someone with a uterus. It’s unclear whether he was spurred to such offense by an instinctual feminism or a deep pedantic streak. He had both.
I was reminded of my father while reading ESPN’s sister website, espnW. It’s sports news and infotainment packaged specifically for a woman’s sensibilities. I think it has something to do with pH balancing? At any rate, it’s an embarrassing ghetto maintained by ESPN and given prominent position at the bottom of their webpage, near other hot sections like “Ombudsman” and out of season X Games coverage.
Published in said ghetto this week was an article on why dumb women make the best decisions regarding multi-billion dollar sports enterprises. This is only a slight exaggeration…
You remember that movie Ghost World? Me neither. It starred that girl from American Beauty and that girl from Lost in Translation and Steve Buscemi Eyes and the kid from The Client (R.I.P.). But none of that matters! What matters for our purposes today is that the plot involved signs from something called Coon Chicken Inn. Spoiler alert: that place actually existed! It was a chain of three fried chicken restaurants that trafficked in succulent breast meat and crazy f**king racism. According to its wiki entry, Coon Chicken Inn even possessed trademarks. Real, valid, honest-to-God trademarks.
This week, the Washington Redskins were adjudged to be more racist than Coon Chicken Inn. Well, not exactly. Specifically, the Redskins trademark was cancelled on the grounds that it was “disparaging to Native Americans.” You can read Elie’s take and the actual decision itself here.
But what if I told you that Coon Chicken Inn was just the tip of the racist iceberg? What if I told you that same iceberg is racist sexist, and homophobic? Is that an iceberg you would be interested in investigating?
Let’s muck around in the fever swamps of America’s offensive trademarks and the shaky legal edifice that has been erected around them, shall we?
There are a great many things in this world that are complicated. Fixing a car, for instance, will always involve a great deal of black magic and skills that can only be found in a vanishingly small elect of horrifyingly hirsute types. The hairier the mechanic the better, my mom never said.
Quantum mechanics, french pastry, the resurgent popularity of men’s tank tops. These things are complicated and hell if I can explain any one of them to you. Ours not to reason why; ours to buy a nice little house in Westchester, sock away a little for retirement, eat more roughage.
Compared to these things, law is piece of cake. Which is why coverage of Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit against the NCAA is a bit confused. Rather than tackling the key question, whether the NCAA is ten pounds of crap in a five pound bag, commentators are wading into the murkiest depths of antitrust law. This is wrongheaded.
I used to watch a lot of televised golf. The Masters, the U.S. Open, the twee British one, that other last one. All the big tournaments, I watched. And I watched because Tiger Woods laid waste to an entire generation of golfers. Previously, golf had been an impenetrable bore to me. I was aware of who the best golfers were and I was also aware that every time I tuned in, they probably weren’t going to win. Golf was random like that, too difficult a sport for one man to dominate. Nicklaus had been the previous generational talent, but even his dominance meant that he won well less than half the tournaments he entered. Something inside of me hated this.
I don’t watch golf as much anymore because it’s reverted back to its random, boring self. Who wins this week will be a total crapshoot. Crapshoot, by the way, was an ancient sport that pit one white guy versus another white guy and each white guy had to defecate into a small white hole hundreds of yards away from his anus. Crapshoot. It was like golf and it was totally impossible to play and/or watch. Anyway.
I mention all of this because crime in the sports world has often resembled Tiger-less golf in its randomness. There has never been any way to predict who would rape whom and who would murder whom else. Total crapshoot. This week has brought us a bit of a referendum on this topic with one athlete dominating his field while another preaches randomness.
In one corner, Aaron Hernandez, who am become death, destroyer of worlds. In the other, Darren Sharper…
This is the delicate dance done between American cities and the NFL. The American city will bow, the NFL will embrace. They glide across the dancefloor of time and space, dipping and twirling, bumping and grinding. The city and the NFL become one as the dance reaches its climactic stage, the NFL gently caressing the city, like a mother might a child. As the music of the universe crescendos, the NFL will whisper gently into the willing city’s ear.
GIVE ME ALL YOUR F*$&ING MONEY, YOU DIRTY PIECE PIECE OF S&!*
The stadium is built and the dance is complete.
In upstate New York, this thrusting, rapey foxtrot is just getting started. Governor Cuomo, the Bills, Roger Goodell, they’ve all been invited. And so has a lawyer… natch.
Because the Bills need a new stadium and because they need a new owner. Because the state of New York drafted an attorney with tremendous upside potential.
My father had a theory. Like most of his theories, he freely admitted that he had probably heard or read it somewhere else. At any rate, the theory involved the scrubs who sat at the end of NBA benches and how a subtle and acceptable racism dictated that those guys who would never see the court anyway would be unusually pale. That if a player wasn’t helping a team win, why would you waste the slot on another black guy? Might as well throw a bone to the largely white fanbase who bought up all the tickets. This theory, of the Token White Guy, holds a sort of narrative power. It makes sense as a story and, facts be damned, has the ring of truth to it. The towel-waving honk at the end of the bench stands for a gentler racism. The inevitability of racism usefully funneled into something nobody cares about.
This week, racism in the NBA took a darker turn (pun WHOLLY intended!). As Donald Sterling was run out of the league on a rail, the Internet exploded in the way it does and the way stars do until nothing was left but the White Dwarf, Donald Sterling. The shrunken remains of a normal star… the degenerate matter.
Which feels a bit like what I’m left with after a week of this story. The degenerate matter. Still, there are words yet unsaid and positions yet untaken. Let us reflect on these serious matters, legally. Like we were trained. This whole thing may open up new vistas of understanding about our notions of justice. Or not.
There is a scene in the film Buffalo ’66 in which Christina Ricci’s character tap dances at a bowling alley. She’s wearing a very short lilac dress to go along with her tap shoes and she begins her dance slowly. She ends it slowly too. The whole thing is slow, a Thorazine shuffle committed to celluloid by one of this country’s truly weird film directors. The scene prompted Roger Ebert to remark, “What’s this scene doing in “Buffalo ’66″? Maybe Gallo didn’t have any other movie he could put it in.” What’s this paragraph doing on Above the Law?
This week, the Buffalo Bills managed to be at the center of the sporting universe for the first time since Frank Wycheck lofted that perfectly tight spiral into the arms of Kevin Dyson. Before that, it was the 4 Super Bowl defeats. The point here, if there ever is one, is that the Bills are destined to occupy our collective conscious every few years as the butt of some cosmic joke we have yet to divine the meaning of. This week, the Bills carry on their illustrious history as God’s punchline, closing one lawsuit and preparing for another.
We among the chattering classes give short shrift to the effects of those opinions we espouse. Take, for instance, gay marriage. This website was one of many that advocated fairly passionately in support of legal gay marriage. In a vaccum, of course, this was a sound position to take on the matter. In a vacuum, everything just sounds like “VVVRRRRRRGGGRRRRRRRR-WWWWWWWOBBLEOBBLEVVVVRRRRR!!!!”
But we do not live in vacuums, do we kids? No. Our floors are filthy. And so it is that gay marriage is now legal and heterosexuals are forced to break big rocks all day, waiting for the day that their homo overlords stop with the disco dancing and the fornicating. This is the bed we’ve made.
I suppose I should get to the sporting point of this discursion before I lose the 3 or 4 people who read these posts. Of late, the internet and even this small cyber space have beaten up on the NCAA something fierce. The organization — full of sports and money, signifying nothing — is a convenient target for scorn. And the recent drive to unionize the Northwestern football team, covered on this site and others, has galvanized into a sort of fait accompli about the end of amateurism, that traveshamockery of Orwellian gobbledygook. But if the Northwestern football players were successful in their legal fight, what would that really mean? What would the world of college sports look like if the jocks finally avenged their tragic defeat depicted in the non-fiction film Revenge of the Nerds?
Bitcoin, your anarcho-syndicalist little brother’s favorite cryptocurrency, has created quite the stir of late. Just last month, your dead grandmother’s favorite newsweekly, Newsweek, covered itself in whatever the opposite of glory is when it pinned the blame for bitcoin on an unsuspecting and camera-shy Californian named Dorian Nakamoto. The man, who reacted to the accusation that he had created a massively popular currency as if someone had shot his dog, retreated to the safety of an awful haircut shortly after the “news” broke. But if Nakamoto wasn’t the creator of bitcoin, then who was?
Yesterday, Slate magazine (a digital publication that is only a magazine because we all agree it is one) reported on the latest developments in bitcoin founder speculation. The results of an academic analysis might shock you. They might horrify you.
They might make you wonder whether that class you took at George Washington Law was taught by the inventor of bitcoin…
Yesterday, one of America’s most famous lawyers died. The repulsive apotheosis of homophobia, Fred Phelps, slithered off his mortal coil surrounded by the physical sensation of hatred and utterly alone… if his own brand of brimstone karmic retribution carries with it even a shred of truth. At any rate, old Fred was a lawyer back in his day. Back in the 70s, he was disbarred for calling a witness a “slut.” Sex is difficult and bewildering for some people.
As a youngster growing up in Kansas, I was familiar with Freddy’s wacky brand of hatred. I think I first encountered him protesting a Pat Robertson speech when I was in high school. Très dada, the 16-year-old me whispered to no one in particular. And so it was that I began to notice Fred Phelps, long before his military funeral protests and his national fame. In college at the University of Kansas, I encountered dozens of his protests. To a homophobe like Fred, Lawrence, Kansas, was Sodom itself. A den of iniquity quite pleased with itself, thank you. And so it was jarring when we all noticed Fred’s choice of attire to keep himself warm during those gross, cretinous, mid-January protests. A KU jacket.
With March Madness upon us and basketball open on another tab of the browser I’m typing on, I say unto you… Rock chalk Jayhawk, let’s talk sports…
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