Rooting QUESTIONS

As some of you know, the men’s college basketball tournament, known as March Madness, ended on Monday, with traditional powerhouse Duke barely beating Butler. I was pulling for the team from Indianapolis, and not just because it was the underdog. A small piece was the bulldog mascot; my high school teams were the Bulldogs. A greater factor, though, is that there’s a woman in my choir. Every year, during prayer concerns, she talks about her alma mater’s progress in the tournament. Given the fact that she lost one son, her husband (also a Butler alum) and her other son to various illnesses in the past two years, I was pulling for the team for her sake; alas, it was not to be.

Whereas I’m not fond of Duke. Though they’d not dominated the tournament recently as they did, I developed a dislike for the team not unlike how some baseball fans HATE the New York Yankees.

Now there are teams I dislike for a period. College football was dominated by teams from Florida for a time, and often there was a certain thuggery in the teams, but they’re not as dominant now, so not an issue.

I used to hate the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1960s because they beat the Yankees in the 1963 World Series, a team my father LOVED because the Brooklyn Dodgers played Jackie Robinson. But my Dodger disdain has passed.

In fact, the only franchise I really can’t stand are the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League. Started off with the Cowboys beating the NY Giants in the 1960s, but it’s more about the “America’s team” moniker, something *I* never voted on.

Since it’s a new baseball season, I thought I’d ask – what teams do you really dislike, and why? What players can you just not stand?
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Singer/songwriter Tom Lehrer measures his birthdays in Celsius.
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John Forsythe died while I was away. I remember him best for two sitcoms. One was called Bachelor Father (1957-1962), where a wealthy attorney took care of his niece, whose parents were killed in a car accident. Niece tries to fix up uncle, who’d rather play the field. The other was The Powers That Be, where he played a clueless US Senator; great cast, short-lived (1992-1993), and deserved a better fate.

ROG

Changing the Rules in Sports QUESTION

The NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament is thinking about expanding from 65 teams to 96, which I happen to think is a terrible idea. The Wall Street Journal wrote a snarky article, Hey NCAA, No Need to Stop at 96 Possibly Expanding the Tournament by Nearly 50% Is a Cop-Out; Let’s Let Everyone in,where they sarcastically suggest inviting “every one of the current 347 NCAA Division I schools. That’s right: The Magnificent Three Hundred and Forty Seven. Catchy, right? It just rolls off the tongue…One school will be crowned
the champion, but everyone will be considered a ‘winner.’ The idea is to replicate the drama, energy and positivity of a third-grade gingerbread-house-making contest.”

Meanwhile, the NFL has changed the rules regarding ties in the playoffs, which seems reasonably fair.

So what rule changes in sports would you like to see? How about:

Electronically-called balls and strikes in baseball?
Going back to the 6.0 scale in figure skating?
Actually calling traveling in NBA games?
(I’d say no, no and yes.)

ROG

Major Taylor


On a library listserv a couple months ago, someone was looking for specific information about a French journalist and sports promoter by the name of Robert Coquelle. “Coquelle,” she wrote, “is known for having brought the African American cyclist, Major Taylor, to Europe to race.” Now I’m intrigued, not only by Coquelle, who interviewed the Wright Brothers early on, but mostly Who is Major Taylor?

Marshall Walter “Major” Taylor was a champion cyclist in a period of American history when cycling was very big. Major, who got the nickname from wearing a uniform in his early teens has a society named for him and has a pretty decent write-up in (shudder) Wikipedia. There’s a guy in Rochester who has put together an extensive timeline including his burial in a pauper’s grave in the early 1930s, despite making some serious money, arranged by Coquelle and others.

But it’s this story that most intrigued me. It suggests that Major Taylor was trying to be white, not as in passing for white – he was too dark for that – but rather hoping for a raceless society, recognizing that his blackness was a hindrance. Here’s a poem from this piece by Taylor:
As white as you are, and black as I be
Still it was nature’s Decree
For black as I be, and white as you are
I can be white though blacker than tar (Taylor 418) Apparently, he had hoped his “inner whiteness” would save him from Jim Crow segregation; it did not.

Whatever his racial ambivalence, he is now considered a African-American hero, and, I believe, rightly so. I encourage you to read more about him at the links I’ve provided, but also here and in Google books.

ROG

Sports and Race QUESTIONS

Unrelated forward-
Note to Tom the Dog: Now that you are a game show maven, perhaps you can be a source of pithy quotes on other cultural matters. For instance, an Albany-area woman made it onto the next round of American Idol – a show I’m not currently watching, BTW – but had to keep it a secret for a few months, until the program aired this week. Hey, let’s find other folks who’ve had similar experiences, like that guy who was on JEOPARDY! eight years ago! Voila!
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1. Here’s an excerpt from Boss Talk: ‘Welcome to My World’; NBA Commissioner Stern Gets Kudos for Expansion But Has Share of Problems
Russell Adams and Adam Thompson. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Jan 17, 2007. pg. B.1
WSJ: It’s often been said that when brawls break out on the court in the NBA, everybody makes a big deal out of it, even though other sports frequently have fights among players. Why?

Mr. Stern: My own take is the burden of the fans being so close to the stands. Because of the spectacular view of our game from courtside — which is the closest to the action of any game, and it’s replicated by a camera, and increasingly by high-def, the prospect of players, in any shape or form, crossing the barrier between them and the fans — that’s a problem that we have and no one else has.

WSJ: Do you believe it also might have something to do with racial attitudes in this country, that the NBA is judged more harshly for that reason?

Mr. Stern: Well, I choose not to dwell on it, but you may be on to something. We were the first sport to be identified as black. And, despite the fact that the starters in other sports like football could be equally, percentage-wise, black, our guys are [visible] out there. We can see them, they don’t come encumbered by hat, helmet, long sleeves and pants. You just touched on the global conversation, which is the role of race, and certainly, I would not be fully honest if I didn’t say it’s always there, in some shape or form.

Yes, the NBA is 80% black. But the NFL is about 70% black. Is race a factor in perceptions of NBA players, or is it the proximity to the stands, the fact that, unlike football players, they don’t wear helmets, and that changes the dynamic?

2. Much has been written about the two head coaches in the Super Bowl being black. What’s your reaction? This is my take on firsts in everything: Firsts are important when they get us to the point where it doesn’t matter anymore. Doug Williams, the first black Super Bowl quarterback was important, but I couldn’t tell you the second or third. Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby were important, but one doesn’t make note of every black baseball player, as Ebony magazine did in the 1950s and 1960s; interestingly, black baseball players at the major league level is declining.

Once upon a time, I could tell you the name of every female U.S. Senator, but now there are 16, and I can’t; it’s not enough, but it’s a start. However, I can name all of the black members of the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction, since there have been only three: Brooke, Moseley-Braun, and Obama.

Progress is measured when you stop having to measure.

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Unrelated postlude;

From May 4, 2004 WSJ

A Better PDB?

Jessica Mintz writes in the Wall Street Journal:

“The presidential daily brief titled ‘Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US’ triggered a political firestorm. But for Greg Storey, what was most striking about the document was its lack of style.
“‘Why is it that the president puts up with these horribly written and laid out documents to assess the threat against our nation?’ wondered Mr. Storey, a 33-year old Web designer.
“So he set out to do something about it.”

Here’s Storey’s blog item explaining what he did and why.