Ignorance Isn’t Bliss – It’s Ignorance
Very recently headlines emerged about the latest NFL player to ‘allegedly’ take another human being’s life. If you were watching your TV sets at the time, on another station there was a man being tried for killing another young man, which brought the bigotry debate once again to the forefront of the news. On various other stations in the last few months, you’ve been able to see a woman tell her story about murdering a man (there were stories floating around that people actually paid for seats in the courthouse just to watch it all play out). The only thing that any of these headlines had in common was the feeling of complete nausea that settled over most of us from the blatant distaste for human life.
Now, we come full circle to the sports arena once again. The question that millions of people are asking lately is: What century do we have to get to before bigotry ends in the realm of sports?
I narrow this question down to just sports, because leaving those words out will cause millions of people to respond to a question that wasn’t asked. Nothing here pertains to your point of view on gay marriage, religion, African-Americans, Caucasians, Asians, or any other ethnic background you can think of.
We are now living in 2013. This was a year that, back in the 1980s, was used by various sci-fi writers when talking about a ‘new’ fantastical future world that was yet to come. But here we are in 2013, and the same ridiculous debates are popping up around the globe. Perhaps it’s because these little debates are easier to deal with than dealing with the much larger issues of murder and mayhem. Who knows? But the bigotry factor in sports after all this time makes the mind grow weak.
Let’s go back to Super Bowl XIX, one of the ‘best’ Super Bowls on record according to experts and historians. The 49ers were in the spotlight; the best in coaching, Bill Walsh, combined with the literally awe-inspiring quarterback, Joe Montana, came together to defeat the odds and beat the Miami Dolphins. There were cheers, disbelief, screams of joy, amazement – you name it, every diehard football fan (even if they are not a 49ers fan), remembers that game.
So now I ask you…Would that amazing game have been any less amazing if the QB had been married to an African-American woman? Would the game have been less of a triumph if an integral player on the team had been gay? Exactly – No. Why? Because it was a FOOTBALL game. Exciting, thrilling, captivating – period.
Jason Collins was the first NBA player to openly pronounce that he was gay; this announcement began a national conversation, debate and, in some blogs, massive arguments that had nothing to do with basketball. Bigotry was a focus, as if he somehow destroyed the sanctity of basketball even though he never changed a thing about the game.
Now, headlines are all abuzz over the first openly gay driver to come out in the world of NASCAR. Again, not changing the actual sport at all, Stephen Rhodes made his announcement and new debates began. (Well, they are the same old debates, just a different sport this time around.) But this already did occur when the first female driver came along.
In Rhodes case, he stated that: “Everyone knew, everyone was aware; never really had any confrontations.” Good. That makes sense. After all, I don’t think your preferences have much to do with whether or not you can drive a car.
NASCAR is not the one squawking about this. In fact, they released a statement that read: “NASCAR is a community made up of people from every walk of life. Our employees, regardless of their race, age, national origin, gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation, faith or physical abilities, do an outstanding job of helping to bring the best racing in the world to our fans every week and that is what matters. It’s a stated goal for our sport to reflect America’s diversity. Exclusion or intolerance of any kind – whether behind the wheel, on pit road, or in the garage – is not part of that philosophy.”
This is a solid statement. America takes pride in its diversity, and no matter what happens in this world – whether anyone likes it or not – diversity is what this country was founded upon.
Jeremy Lin, if you remember, is the New York Knicks’ Asian-American point guard that stopped people in their tracks. Sports bigwigs, as well as fans, praised the kid for his unique and unmatchable skill. However, there were some more distasteful people who made distasteful comments that they later, thankfully, apologized for.
Same thing happened with the ‘best golfer’ in some peoples’ eyes – Tiger Woods. He, too, received a couple of nasty comments regarding his ethnicity when he first emerged as a star. And when it comes to the Native American community, there are also stereotypes used in various sports that are being debated.
I think the comment that should make everyone ill was when Jeremy Lin said to Time Magazine in an interview, back when he was the big story, that: “Honestly…I don’t react to it. I expect it, I’m used to it, it is what it is.”
Coming from a huge sports fan who certainly does not claim perfection in any way, shape or form, I ask: When can this country finally stand up and say that, ‘it is NOT what it is!’ If we have to start with sports and move on to other areas of life, so be it. But the bigotry needs to end. The concept of being ladies and gentlemen is not a hard concept; and it’s definitely the one we should institute, so that in 2014 we can stop teaching our kids to hate.
Until Next Time, Everybody,