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Day: February 15, 2012

Linsanity reminds me of the Kurt Warner story from 1999

Those few of us who care about US sports will know a few stories inside and out. Jackie Robinson breaking the colour barrier in 1947 to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers is without a shadow of a doubt the most important. We all agree on that but other stories are told. For me the depths that Josh Hamilton plummeted with all the natural ability in the world but unable to deal with alcohol and drug issues and the comeback and that night in Yankee Stadium is one I read a lot about. The ongoing struggle as he continues to face those demons today.

However at the moment we have Linsanity. Some unknown kid (well not exactly a kid anyone) but a player who has been cut twice, was playing D-League ball comes up to the big team because of a rash of injuries and plays flat out lights out. He takes the team on his back and they’ve now won six straight since he’s come into the club. The feel good story of a guy living on a team mates couch and being the most talked about player in the league isn’t a new one.

Going back 13 years now the St. Louis Rams lost their star QB in an exhibition game and they turned to backup Kurt Warner. r Warner was a star of Aerna League Football and had been stocking shelves at a local supermarket when he joined the Rams. No-one heard of him and no-one expected anything and then something happened. He played football and became quite simply – the best QB in the league. Some unknown backup took a team on his back and was just brilliant. It inspired to this day still my favourite SI front cover Who Is This Guy?

Kurt Warner led his team to a Super Bowl that they won on the last play of the game with a tackle at the one yard line. He led them back again only to be beaten by a last second Field Goal against the Patriots. Then it was over. The Greatest Show on Turf as it was dubbed was finished. Warner became just another back-up in New York and then in the desert in Arizona. However then he started to play great again and led the Cardinals to their first Super Bowl and put them in a position to win late but the Steelers would come back to win it late.

The voice-over artist on NFL Films America’s Game said this of Warner, ‘in the space of four months he (Warner) went from anonymous backup to national curiosity to bona fide superstar’ and that is spot on. Kurt Warner should end up in the Hall of Fame. I’m not saying Jeremy Lin will but what I am saying is that these stories are great and compelling. Sport is all about stories and Linsanity is a great one no matter what Floyd Mayweather says.

I don’t watch Basketball apart from March Madness but I don’t want Linsanity to end. It is a great story that keeps people engaged in the sport. Look at Tim Tebow and the Broncos this year. The madness that surrounded the ex-Florida QB led to the Broncos v Pats AFC divisional playoff game being the most watched non Super Bowl match of all time. That was all thanks to Tebow and the story transcending sport into popular culture. Linsanity is starting to do that and if it continues for the rest of the season then the NBA’s lockout will seem a distant memory.

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Prejudices. We all have them. Why don’t we just admit to it?

Being accused of being prejudiced is something that most of us would be immensely insulted over. However if we are being honest with ourselves we would realise that we are all prejudiced to some level. Take me for example. I know that I am prejudiced against Southampton Football Club. They could do the exact same thing as Portsmouth Football Club but I would look at it differently no matter what logic says.

I am prejudiced towards ginger-haired women. The most gorgeous girl I have ever seen was a brunette but overall I will always look at a ginger-haired woman differently. If there were two identical twins at a bar and one had died her hair blonde away from her natural gingerness then my eyes would gravitate towards the ginger. In the same scenario if there were two identical twins at a bar (this is assuming that I’d be in a bar – I know – crazy talk) but lets just say I was, if I was there and two identical twins were there one rocking a nice dress and one rocking some sort of PVC/Latex number then I’d see the two women differently. Without knowing them I’d automatically like one more than the other on initial viewing.

It would be foolish to think I was alone on this front. Every day we make decisions and impressions on people for various reasons without any real reason behind it. Everyone has always told me that I would go nowhere in life because I’m not a suit and tie man. I can be exactly the same person in an interview wearing jogging bottoms and a t-shirt as I am wearing a suit and a tie. I can give exactly the same answers to exactly the same questions but the interviewers will have a dfferent opinion on me.

The dictionary tells me thus:

Prejudice is feelings formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason, any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavourable.

So it can be both positive and negative.

I bring this up for two reasons. One last night whilst watching Around The Horn and Pardon The Interruption the six journalists across the two shows discussed Floyd Mayweather’s comments regarding Jeremy Lin. If you don’t know the story or the people involved Floyd Mayweather is the undefeated boxer who keeps punking out of fighting Filipino fighter Manny Pacquiao and has thrown many racial slurs at said Asian fighter. Jeremy Lin is the Point Guard of the New York Knicks who has come from nowhere to dominate the sports news over in America and his rise has been dubbed ‘Lansanity’ by the media.

Floyd Mayweather tweeted this on Monday:

Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.

This tweet became the headline story on both shows and was a headline story across the Sports Media yesterday. Out of the six journalists on the two shows three were white and three were black. Michael Smith (black) spoke first and told Mayweather he was wrong, that no-one had done what Lin had done in the history of the NBA (which is true, he has scored more points than anyone in his first five starts ever) and that the story is so big because a) it’s in Nw York, b) it’s the Knicks, c) because he went to an Ivy League School, d) because he is sleeping on a team mates couch and e) because of his race. I happen to agree with Michael Smith. I think he nailed it. The fact that he is Asian is part of the story but it isn’t why the story is so huge.

Next up Kevin Blackistone (black) disagreed completely. He said Floyd Mayweather is right and that the story is only big because of Lin’s race. He said that there are many black players around doing what he is doing (which is factually incorrect as no-one has ever done what Lin has done) and that they don’t get the praise that they deserve before citing black players who aren’t well known doing good things. Blackistone has always defended Mayweather on the Pacquiao issue as well so I knew that Blackistone would defend Mayweather again.

Bill Plaschke and Tim Cowlishaw (both white) backed up what Michael Smith said and Cowlishaw made the great remark that Lin’s race was a percentage of the story but that Blackistone believed it was a large part of the story and the other three thought it was very small. Michael Smith said that was spot on.

Next up on PTI the two most famous and loved talking heads on the American Sports Journalism scene. Tony Kornheiser (white) and Michael Wilbon (black). They are both first rate and I like them both a lot so I was very interested to see what they would have to say. Wilbon spoke first and he called Mayweather a Bigot. They agreed that black players get praised all the time and get paid handsomely in the NBA so to say that they don’t and this kid is is total nonsense. Can’t agree more. When you talk about the greats you start with Michael Jordan and go from there. Most names on that list will be black athletes.

That seems a lot of waffle but here is my point. I knew Kevin Blackistone would defend what Mayweather said because he has always had that fierce defence of any black athlete in any racial situation. The other two black journalists saw it the same as the others that the reason the story is so huge is because of the back story (Harvard, cut from two NBA teams, was playing in the D-League, sleeping on a team mates couch, is in New York) but mistly because he has come in and led the Knicks to five straight wins and he’s lighting it up. In sports one thing I have learned is if you perform you’ll get the praise whether you are black or white or green or purple. No-one cares but if you do well people will cheer for you.

So I would argue that Kevin Blackistone is prejudiced towards black people. Nothing wrong with that per se because his life has influenced him and all the issues he faced as a young black man growing up in America in the 60s and 70s no doubt made him who he is today. Now here is where I bring it back to politics.

A couple of weeks ago now Chris Huhne left the government. He was replaced by a white middle class man in Edward Davey and that cried derision from the blogosphere. It showed that we aren’t diverse enough and that the only way forward is to be a white middle class man. If you aren’t that then your career hopes and dreams would be a struggle. These calls have mostly come from older people who have fought through barriers and problems their whole life.

Being from outside the white male middle class family and wanting to break into business or politics was a real barrier 20 or 30 years ago. Things are by no means perfect these days but those walls are coming down. I don’t think anyone would seriously argue that it is just as hard today to succeed in those chosen career paths for women or for people of ethnic backgrounds compared to how it was a couple of generations ago. Steps are being made to make it a completely level playing field.

However this cannot happen overnight. You can’t just magically wave a wand and 50% of politicians are white and 50% are not. You can’t just wave that same magic wand and suddenly 50% of MPs are men and 50% are not. So the question is what more can be done and should we introduce positive discrimination to help this out?

Would promoting the person who is not best suited for the role in the mind of the employer be right or fair? Would it be the best thing for the country? I remember being in a job where I saw someone get promoted who wasn’t right for the job and it brought the morale f the whole company down dramatically. People knew they were dealing with someone who wasn’t qualified for the task at hand and that whole department pretty much went in the tank.

Now I’m not saying for one minute that Jo Swinson, Lynne Featherstone, Tessa Munt, Jenny Willott et al were not qualified for the role but what I am saying is in the employers opinion the most suited person happened to be a white middle class male. Should he be passed over because he was born a male and to two white parents? Would that be right? Would that fit in with our ‘everybody is equal’ opinion? No it wouldn’t. It would be wrong and would be discriminatory towards someone based on their race and gender. That to me isn’t what the Liberal Democrats are all about.

What does this all have to do with prejudices I hear you mind cry? (if you have read this piece for that long anyway) and this is how it all ties neatly in a bow. People who have lamented the fact that Edward Davey was promoted to cabinet are mostly people that have rallied and seen prejudices for their whole life. They have seen it so much that even when there is none they still see it. Just like Kevin Blackistone did regarding Floyd Mayweather and Jeremy Lin.

We are all influenced by what has gone on in our lives. That is only natural and that is the way it will always be. I have suffered relatively little prejudice in my life and therefore I often speak without any chips on my shoulder and any scars to bear. Some people who have scars to bear and a significant life time of fighting against prejudice whether it be because of their ethnic background, their gender, their supposed ‘class’ or whatever will always have that with them.

I have not heard one peep out of any of the Lib Dem female MPs to say that they believed they were overlooked because their productive organs are on the inside and not on the outside. They might feel it but I haven’t got that sense. It just seems to me that a lot of people are seeing something that isn’t really there and that is causing more heartache than it really should.

I was at a local Lib Dem meeting the other day and one person spent the whole meeting talking about gay and lesbian issues. He is gay and has felt prejudice because of that. So that is his biggest issue that he wants to help sort out and that is fine. We are all influenced and all our actions are related to our past. That is just how it is. We are all influenced and/or prejudiced about many many things and the sooner we accept that then we can try and move on and try to see things for how they really are and not because of how we think they are.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.