The State of Black America Pt I: The Athlete (Updated)

Too often Black children are pushed toward athletics to the detriment of academics. I would be the last person to suggest sports have no place in the lives of our youth. Without sports, there are many children who will never feel their worth. But our children should not be led to believe athletics are the sole means to an end, whether the end is leaving the ghetto, supporting their parents or personal success. Furthermore, the expectation is that a Black child is automatically good at sports, particularly basketball, football and track.

Gold medal Olympian Shani Davis brought all of this to mind. The Chicagoan was teased as a child for speed skating. His mother had to fight all kinds of people who did not believe Shani should be a skater. Only days ago, he overcame the odds of a predominately white sport to become the first black person to win an individual gold medal in the winter olympics.

As is often the case when we excel, he has come under fire. Another American speedskater, Chad Hedrick has spent much of his time in Torino lambasting Shani for refusing to compete in the relay. Shani did not compete for a myriad of reasons. 1) His 1000m event, his signature event, was only two days afterwards and he wanted to concentrate on it, 2) there were people on the team for the express purpose of competing in that event and he did not want to take their spot, 3) speedskating is NOT a team event, and none of them helped him get there. Of course people are focusing their attention on the last reason. Hedrick even went as far as to call Davis "selfish." Or at the very least imply it. Who the f*** are you??? You don't even know him? That pissed me off. Why? Because the Black athlete is America's favorite to emasculate and vilify.

Black athletes are called everything thing, but selfish seems to come up most often. Why is that? Why is it that a white man who does the same thing gets far less coverage? Unbalanced, negative coverage. Its ridiculous. I will not deny that sometimes they deserve it. T.O., Warren Sapp, Charles Barkley, Latrell Sprewell, Allen Iverson. They've all had their moments they have never been able to live down. But this right here is just ridiculous. Now tonight's 1500m race is being touted as a "showdown." I know part of that is to combat NBC's lagging ratings for the Olympics, but I for one cannot wait for Shani to kick Hedrick's ass. Parrish presented an excellent foray into the Shani Davis controversy. Check it out.

So what is the state of black america's athletes? Too often they are encouraged to leave college early, or skip it all together. How many white athletes have you seen doing this? I know you see it all the time with baseball and hockey, but in the NBA, overwhelmingly, it is black children who are taught they should go for money instead of their education. I for one, cannot agree with it. I do not care your level of talent. The average teenager is not ready for the rigors of a professional season with grown men and millions of dollars. LeBron James is an exception, not a rule. Not only will coaches tell you that, but there is a long list of high schoolers taken in the first round sitting on the bench who could've been college superstars. Kwame Brown anyone? Number one draft pick?? We need to impress upon our children that they are more than their athletic prowess. What happens when your pro football-bound son tears both his ACLs? Good luck finding a team willing to suffer that nightmare. Go pick up a book.

Speaking of books, today marks 41 years since Malcolm X was gunned down while spreading his new found message of brotherhood. If you read no other autobiography, treat yourself to The Autobiography of Malcolm X. It is an engrossing read.

UPDATE: Shani Davis won the silver medal, beating Chad Hedrick who was forced to settle for bronze. The two held a joint news conference afterwards making both of them look rather silly. Davis refused a request from "The Today Show" to appear this morning. Hedrick accepted and re-iterated he didn't know Shani well, but felt betrayed by Davis refusing to participate in the team pursuit. Hedrick looked like an arse. A big white one. He also made it glaringly clear how wide the cultural chasm is between the two men.

*This is part one of my new weekly series, "The State of Black America." Your regularly scheduled programming will commence at will. Thank you for reading "All Me, All the time." Please stay tuned.


Adei von K said...

I feel so sorry for Kwame...from the Wick. He was touted to be the next Jordan and everything...PAUSE SON! Get your learn on, please. I know football players who got hurt or got into trouble and have nothing to lean on. They are at home coaching highschool football. Not to say that's a bad thing but since you didn't get a degree in Phys Ed in college, you are nothing more than a volunteer at Suncoast.

Jameil said...

I know its cold blooded, but i don't feel bad for Kwame. Stop listening to people who mean you no good. Unfortunately, sometimes those people are also the ones you love. At some point you have to acquire a spirit of discernment.

Unknown said...

I read AUTO X in 1989. It is engrossing. Of course, I like the book better than the movie.

Sports vs. Books.

Young people have been fighting that battle for years. I chose books because it leads to a pot of gold. But that road is wide. Unlike sports.

CNEL said...

Why was I thinking of starting a similar series of articles and commentary? Dang Jameil LoL. I feel you on pointing out the plight of the athlete, and in particular the black athlete. I know a lot of stellar high school and college athletes, and marveled at how they are treated in comparison to their other contemporaries. I think more needs to be done to highlight some of our true and great "scholar athletes." It takes more than athletic dominance to be successful, how about teaching younger generations to be well rounded individuals?

P.S. Loved "Your regularly scheduled programming will commence at will."

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post..and thanks for the shoutout...

Vonetta Flowers was the first black PERSON to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics(2 person bobsled, 2002)...and has an AMAZING story of her own. I only mention this because she is my celebrity crush and she must not be ignored.

I will be anxious to read your series.

Jameil said...

dp i know. did you see the piece the today show did on her about her twins? it was toooooo cute. loved it. she seems like the nicest person in the world.

Anonymous said...

Yeah...im a HUGE fan...

she could never get enough shine.

i could BUSS this Chad dude in the mouf though.

Got lots of thoughts on the athlete thing otherwise...but i dont wanna be bloggin in your comments...thats so tacky...love your spot.

Jameil said...

yes miss ashli, you are correct.

Ladynay said...

I was having a much toner convo with a friend of mind about how children don't value education like our the generations that came before us did. It's all about the money, how much can I make and how fast can I make it!

So...Wise...Sista said...

Great piece. Insightful as hell and I totally agree...but I was also thinking of something...how many people do you know that went to college, are now out $50k...and still have no career (and not bec they arent busting azz for one)? Now I'm not saying education is not imperative, it is...but if you're an athlete with pro potential, chances are THAT is your Education 101. I went to a Div I school (shout out to Melo & DNabb) with lots of athlete friends who are the first to admit that they couldn't focus on a "real" major if they wanted to. Sports is their major. It's the system that needs fixing.

Miguel said...

on behalf of all laker fans, i'd like to say that KWAME BROWN IS THE WORST PLAYER IN THE NBA...a grown ass man who can't catch ? shit's disgusting. that is all.

now that i got that out of the way, i'll be looking forward to your weekly updates. somebody's gotta balance out the silliness i write :-)

CNEL said...

I would say that both Davis and Hedrick, need to grow up, because whether they like or not, they are role models. But we all know calling some athletes role models is like cursing at them.

Jameil said...

wise... i was one of those people for a while. and yes, i know several others currently in that position. i'm still not going to encourage the future child prodigies that will be my children to put all their eggs in the athlete basket. whatever happened to having something to fall back on. how stupid does the athlete sound who says they're in school w/no time for... school? you don't hear the white boys sayin that shit. and if you head to duke, you won't likely hear the black guys sayin it, either.

miguel... HAHAHAHAHA!! its also sad when a grown woman can't catch. but when that's what you pick up a check to do???? umm... yeah. i need you to handle that. lakers. sigh. such a sad excuse for a team right now.

cnel. you better say it. they are making me shake my fist sternly at them right now. fools!! fools i say!! the latest news is that shani filed a lawsuit against the city of chicago in march 2003. he and two other black men say they were stopped and searched b/c of their skin color. it is expected to go to trial this year. very interesting.

Karamale said...

amen to the whole post.

Rell said...

Honestly, I think if you're in a position to go to the NBA straight out of high school -- you should run to the draft.

I know you've heard these arguments before, but for the ones who haven't... if someone gave you a 3-yr/4.4 million dollar contract to go pro in whatever you wanted to do out of high school, would you do it?

I know that doesn't justify things but if one looks at the positive side of things, IF (and I know this is a big IF) the money is used correctly it can parlayed into other settings and eventually helped toward the advancement of us as a culture.

It can finance other people's educations etc. I know that's an idealistic view, but it is possible.

Jameil said...

karamale. i was starting to think you deserted me. i know you're all managing two blogs now but don't make me have to go over there!!! lololol

wow rell. that was amazingly idealistic. honey babydoll. you know it don't happen like that nine times outta ten. and no i wouldn't go pro immediately after h.s. but you know, i might consider taking less than four years. journalism ain't exactly something you HAVE to have a degree for.

btw, did you notice how jj is NINE points off the all-time record for scoring in the NCAA? how ya like them apples!!!!!!? yeah!!!!!

So...Wise...Sista said...

Honestly I don't think that's idealistic at all. Do you really think that the grown man who can't catch has mastered Calculus or Bio? What the hell is this guy gonna do after college that he isnt able to do now? If this is about money, even the 12th man on an NBA roster is in the financial position to invest, own a business, or *gasp* go back to school. And if Kwame is pursuing a dream and doing what he's love, how is that different than Peter Jennings skipping college altogether? I am 100% pro-education, but I think the college v. pro discussion can sometimes lack a critical or realistic perspective.

Jameil said...

its idealistic b/c it rarely happens. yes, it would be great and i'm all for the athlete who goes back to school and/or contributes to the community. but there are a lot who do not.

and you know it doesn't take mastering calculus or bio to get a college degree. obviously i had to take neither of them. most of my fellow journalists would probably have failed miserably at calculus!

my main point is that most boys who enter the draft are not considering other options. they're thinking about money. too often they are reared to consider themselves the savior of their family at 18. and i have real issues w/that.

the difference b/t kwame and other athletes and peter jennings are HUGE. white man in the 1950s or 60s not going to school, not really a big deal. peter jennings educated himself through his craft. i can almost guarantee 90% of the people who entered the draft after h.s. could've nurtured their craft a lot better in college. its not just about education, its also about maturity.

So...Wise...Sista said...

I dont disagree with you, but...say a kid goes to college 4 yrs, graduates with a degree in Journalism (how they'd manage that with their practice and travel schedules I dont know, but lets roll with it). He goes to the league and blows out his knee. Thank God he has that degree to fall back on??? Dude could have been a commentator regardless.

OK then...kid graduates a Sociology major. Blows his knee in his first start. Thank God he can still be a...Sociologist?? Face it, most athletes want to be athletes, so why not go to the league? Blow a knee, open a car wash. Chances are you've networked with other wealthy people who can invest and help...not unlike us networking with other journalists who can help.

I'm the 1st to throw shade to Kwame and my personal whipping boy, Tyson Chandler. College would have done them both good. Even Jermaine Oneal. But obviously I say Bio and Calc figuratively, (PS- as a broadcast major I did have to take both). But as devils advocate I speculate that a 4yr education is not necessarily the savior for a kid who sucks at school anyway, but is great at basketball and is given this opportunity. And isnt the point of college REALISTICALLY to learn skills to make money and follow your dreams? It sure as hell is not about irrelevant bullshit electives. Plus are college boys that much more mature than high school boys? lol

And why do baseball and tennis players get a pass?

Jameil said...

tennis, baseball, hockey players. all them. none of them get a pass. but also realistically, black children don't often participate in those sports. i just could care less about how hard life will be for some little white man. clearly he will have whatever he needs regardless.

let me tell you a little story. (not sports but somewhat related). when i graduated, i worked at the mall. it sucked. a lot. i sent out more than 60 resumes before i got a single response. this guy who worked at the sprint kiosk got his g.f. pregnant. so her father gave him a job at one of the stations (a job i applied for) b/c that's where he worked and the guy needed what the father considered a real job. never went to school. didn't even want to work in the field.

now that's some bullshit. but shit like that happens every day. yeah its not just white people, but they don't have to fight like we do to prove ourselves. they can have nothing and only have to disprove themselves.

that means we have to work harder. you know the old adage. work twice as hard for half as much. its not as bad as it was, but we still have a ways to go.

i'm not saying don't play sports. who on earth would i watch? but i am saying we are putting our children at a great disservice by pushing them toward athletics at the expense of academics. why do they have to chose?

and if this dude on your team couldn't catch, then broke his knee at practice, got cut, never went to school, and didn't strike you as particularly bright, (no i'm not saying people who don't go to school are stupid) would you give him money to invest in a car wash or any other business? hell to the naw. you probably don't even like that cornball.

and we all know playing a sport does not a good commentator make. yes, it is immensely helpful and actually can make things extraordinarily better. (i LOVE charles barkley as a commentator). however, would you EVER put evander holyfield in front of a hot mic? i sure as hell wouldn't. i would run in the other direction, frightened he would ruin my ratings and make everyone yell at me for putting a jackass on television. speaking of boxers. i'm not so sure roy jones, jr. should be allowed to commentate either.

on another note... why on earth did journalism majors at the 'cuse (is that right?) have to take all that? that's nonsense!! i was pissed about my earth science and college math reqs. why must i take basic ish?? i did higher levels in h.s. i just figure there's no point. how on earth will that help me in life? i'm going with not at all.

Jameil said...

p.s. i'm so glad to be having this convo. i love when posts take on lives of their own.

So...Wise...Sista said...

That's deep. Kudos to you for not giving up. I know mad college grads STILLL working at the mall.
The moral of your story: It's all about who you know, and the opportunities you're given.
The other moral: Athletes shouldn't have to choose btwn school and sports.

But for every Kwame there's a Kendrick...who doesn't play sports and doesn't get a good education either. Go figure.