FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Pining for the Pistons

by DAVE ZIRIN

[Note: This column is 200 words shorter than usual because Billy Hunter lost 25% of it in the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement.]

The world be an incrementally better place if the Detroit Pistons had won the NBA championship last week. I believe this even though their Game Seven loss to the Spurs meant that we’ve been spared a Mitch Albom column about his experience watching the game with Isiah Thomas, John Kennedy, James Naismith, and Morrie.

The world would be better. But not because the Pistons are a terribly appealing team. Center Ben Wallace shoots free throws like he is trying to smite errant pigeons. The Detroit bench is so shallow, Kelly Tripucka and Earl “The Twirl” Cureton played in game six. Their best player is named Chauncey.

No. A Pistons win would have been a delicious slap in the face to what was becoming a well-orchestrated Pistons Backlash. The Pistons had become a team that people hated, and seemed to enjoy hating, a little too much. The vibe was not dissimilar to how some people talk about the city of Detroit itself: a little too “street,” a little too “hip-hop,” a little too “urban,” all of which are code words for a little too Black.

One nationally syndicated columnist, Michael Cunningham, called the spindly Tayshaun Prince a “Whining Pterodactyl” that “should be extinct.” He then described Rip Hamilton as having “Tap-Dancing Tantrums;” Ben Wallace’s reactions to fouls were called the “Afro Pout” and Chauncey Billups had what Cunningham called a “Woof Whine.” This kind of commentary boggles the mind. Was there no one to advise Cunningham that comparing NBA players to tap-dancing animals might be a bad idea? Who is Cunningham’s editor, Trent Lott? Jesse Helms? Bill Cosby?

Standing up to the Piston’s backlash meant standing up to this tide. It also meant standing with perhaps the most maligned player in the NBA not named Ron Artest: Rasheed Wallace.

A second Wallace championship would have been a sweet sight indeed. Last year, there was perhaps no greater moment in sports than seeing Rasheed Wallace stand triumphant next to seething NBA commissioner David Stern. Imagine George W. Bush’s face if he had to give the Congressional Medal of Honor to Moqtada Al-Sadr, or if Ariel Sharon was forced to host a tribute to Edward Said. That was Stern’s reaction to celebrating ‘Sheed. This is animus writ large – rife with reverberations that extend far beyond a clashing of personality and ego.

It was only 18 months ago when Wallace laid a verbal smackdown on Stern, saying, “I see behind the lines. I see behind the false screens. I know what this business is all about. I know the commissioner of this league makes more than three-quarters of the players in this league… They look at black athletes like we’re dumb-ass n——. It’s as if we’re just going to shut up, sign for the money and do what they tell us.”

Stern, who is challenged about as often as Vito Corleone in an Olive Garden, shot back, “Mr. Wallace’s hateful diatribe was ignorant and offensive to all NBA players. I refuse to enhance his heightened sense of deprivation by publicly debating with him.”

This year, it would have been even more fun to see an encore. Recently, Stern has been hard at work alongside Republican arch-strategist Matthew Dowd about how to “help the NBA’s appeal in the red states.” Wallace, meanwhile, visited the White House last year along with the Championship Pistons, stopping just long enough to say, “I don’t have shit to say to [Bush]. I didn’t vote for him. It’s just something we have to do.”

Herein lies the heart of the Stern/Wallace conflict. It is really about the future of the NBA, and whether the league will adapt to a right wing climate in the country by muzzling its players. It doesn’t matter that Wallace is a skilled big man willing to take big shots in the fourth quarter, play tough defense and be entirely unselfish with the ball. Stern wants him to go away because he represents a block against what NBA suits want the league to become.

The Stern Agenda of a sanitized, 21st century NBA loved and supported by alums of both Bob Jones University and the Belmont Street Projects alike, is a Park Avenue pipe dream, and something we should oppose. Journalist Scoop Jackson likes to say, “Basketball isn’t a metaphor for life, basketball is life.” Life right now is polarized, racialized and divided. So is basketball. As long as that’s the case, I know whose side I’m on – and it ain’t David Stern’s.

DAVE ZIRIN’s new book “What’s My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States” will be in stores in June 2005. Check out his revamped website edgeofsports.com. You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by e-mailing edgeofsports-subscribe@zirin.com. Contact him at whatsmynamefool2005@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

DAVE ZIRIN is the author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States (The New Press) Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
Karl Grossman
Disaster Island
Thomas S. Harrington
What Nerve! In Catalonia They are Once Again Trying to Swear in the Coalition that Won the Most Votes
Pepe Escobar
Rome: A Eulogy
Robert Hunziker
Will Aliens Save Humanity?
Jonah Raskin
“Can’t Put the Pot Genie Back in the Bottle”: An Interview with CAL NORML’s Dale Gieringer
Stepan Hobza
Beckett, Ionesco, and Trump
Joseph Natoli
The ‘Worlding’ of the Party-less
Julia Stein
The Myths of Housing Policy
George Ochenski
Zinke’s Purge at Interior
Christopher Brauchli
How Trump Killed the Asterisk
Rosemary Mason - Colin Todhunter
Corporate Monopolies Will Accelerate the Globalisation of Bad Food, Poor Health and Environmental Catastrophe
Michael J. Sainato
U.S Prisons Are Ending In-Person Visits, Cutting Down On Reading Books
Michael Barker
Blame Game: Carillion or Capitalism?
Binoy Kampmark
The War on Plastic
Cindy Sheehan – Rick Sterling
Peace Should Be Integral to the Women’s March
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
No Foreign Bases!
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Across the Boer Heartland to Pretoria
Joe Emersberger
What’s Going On in Ecuador? An Interview With Wladimir Iza
Clark T. Scott
1918, 1968, 2018: From Debs to Trump
Cesar Chelala
Women Pay a Grievous Price in Congo’s Conflict
Michael Welton
Secondly
Robert Koehler
The Wisdom of Mass Salvation
Seth Sandronsky
Misreading Edu-Reform 
Ann Garrison
Full-Spectrum Arrogance: US Bases Span the Globe
Louis Proyect
Morality Tales on the American Malaise: the Films of Rick Alverson
David Yearsley
Winston and Paddington: Marianelli’s Musical Bears
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail