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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Reality Check

How much do I care that Rafael Palmeiro used steroids? Not fucking much.

Gladiators used to kill each other for the amusement of the masses, now they kill themselves and that's sad. Sad that professional baseball has created an environment where it's necessary to juice yourself to the cancer ward in order to compete. Sad that kids think they have to do it too in order to succeed. Sad that it's Rafael Palmeiro, 'cos he's kinda hot.

But is it worth Congress working themselves into a dither over? On the whole I can think of about fifteen hundred more pressing things in need of Congressional attention at the moment, and nearly half involve a company called Halliburton.

I'm much more concerned over the fact that professional athletes are all but silent about what's going on in this country right now for the sake of their own wallets. Jim Lampley subbed for Ed Schultz on Air America today and he interviewed David Zirin, author of the book What's My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States. They discussed the fact that the desire of athletes to avoid taking a stand on political issues was directly related to their roles as money-making machines, and anything that could compromise that cash flow is taboo. In lamenting the era of Muhammad Ali, they brought up the classic case of Michael Jordan and the 1990 Senate race in North Carolina.

For those who don't remember, Jesse Helms was in a close race with the African-American mayor of Charlotte, Harvey Gantt. Jordan's support could have had a huge impact on the race. Jordan refused to support Gantt, and the man whose net worth was close to $500 million at the time said it was because "Republicans buy sneakers too."

Well fuck Michael Jordan. And everyone else who thinks they did it all on their own by their amazing selves and don't owe anything to anybody. If Jesse Helms had gotten his way Michael Jordan would have spent his best years parking Christian Laettner's car.

I'm a feminist precisely because to take advantage of all the opportunities that weren't available to women even twenty, thirty years ago and yet not be one is the pinnacle of arrogance. Those opportunities came at a price and and they came about because somebody stood up, took a stand and probably got her ass kicked for it. And any deranged bitch lucky enough to wind up writing Presidential speeches out of a willingness to pull up the gangplank and lob grenades at all the women coming after her can just roast in hell. Really. I'm sure many of her precious popes will be there to greet her.

Anyway, that brings us to Etan Thomas of the Washington Wizards, who has come out publicly against the war and against George Bush. Says Thomas:
I have never had a problem standing up for what I believe in. I admire the athletes of the past, like Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. Athletes that used their position as a platform to speak out on social issues and stand up for a cause. Basketball is not my life. To quote Bill Russell, 'You're not going to reduce me to an entertainer. I'm a man who stands up for what I believe in and you're going to respect me for it.' A quote I live by is, 'I speak my mind because biting my tongue would make my pride bleed.'"
That's a pretty remarkable sense of self in this cash-mad environment. Thomas is also a poet who wholeheartedly supports the troops. So in honor of the 19 Ohio-based Marines killed in Iraq in the past two days, an excerpt from Thomas's poem on Iraq:
Out of the ashes of Iraq come soldiers dressed in fatigues of fire
Wearing helmets secured in smoke
They've choked off the lies spewed out of the mouth of a burning bush
The true warrior's existing wake
Who's flames burned them at the stake
Cremated their bodies
And stuffed them in an urn wrapped in red, white, and blue....
Rummaging through a forest set ablaze by one lethal match
With witty catch phrases forever attached to the side of their kingdom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Links to Al Qaeda
Eminent threats
And weapons of mass destruction.....
They've been skillfully thrown into the lion's den
Out of the frying pan and into the furnace
Their courage exceeds any measuring stick
But they can hear the footsteps of death creeping around the corner
For they've been led into the eye of the storm
Transformed into peacekeepers
Lending a helping hand for the poorly planned post-war strategy......
Moral: Choose your sports heroes wisely.