Religious Hypocrisy Strikes Again, …or The Dog Fighter’s Advocate

“I wouldn’t have taken him.  Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it. …It’s not going to be totally smooth … things will happen.’’ – Tony Dungy

Let me start by saying I know where Tony Dungy is coming from.  I know because I used to run in the same circles he runs in.  I worshiped and congregated in the same churches, listening to the same preachers, fellow-shipped with the same men who attended Promise Keepers when it was in town.  Dungy, an author of 7 faith based books including one on marriage has never been shy about promoting his brand of Christian faith.  He raised money for the Indiana Family Institute to ban same sex marriage.  A champion for ‘conservative values’ he’s parlayed his image to be the NFL’s edition of  Billy Graham meets Cliff Huxtable.

Dungy displayed his Huxtable mentoring talents with Michael Vick.  After Vick was released from federal prison for the abuse and killing of dogs, he tutored Vick to become the calm voice in the Philadelphia Eagles locker room, and a protege to other potentially troubled NFL players.  On NBC’s Sunday Night NFL Football show, Dungy is the most vanilla/least polarizing of any football analyst.  That it until yesterday’s quote from the Tampa Bay Tribune.

Cliff-Huxtable

Dungy is living a double life, trapped between two conflicting worlds.  His Christian values teaches him that being gay is a sin.  He hears on any given Sunday that there is a ‘gay agenda’ promoted by Satan himself to subject god-fearing men to accept an abomination.  He’s also made a life playing, coaching, and now commentating in a brutal sport that destroys the body and cause brain damage.  Players in the NFL are generally not saints, but sinners.  They are young, brash, carnal, full of testosterone, trained killers who even if only briefly hold the world by their finger tips.  Generally, they live promiscuously and their idea of fun is making it rain in strip clubs.

How does Dungy navigate these two worlds?  It’s not hard.  His ‘values’ are not in peril because most of his Christian brethren love football.  They love the position he’s in.  They love to rub shoulders with NFL royalty.  And most of all, his presence on television brings credibility to their beliefs.  Which is why they don’t have a problem with his comments about Michael Sam.  Sam is gay.  As for what the straight players do and the lifestyles they live, it’s accepted par for the course.  Dungy and his sycophants don’t see promiscuity, materialism and making it rain as a ‘distraction’ to be dealt with.  Heck, if they weeded out the colonies from the strongest and fastest to the most chaste, the NFL would cease to exist. Make no mistake, these Christians want their football.

Some people are calling for Dungy to clarity or make some additional statement so as to not come off as bigoted against gay people. Sam is at least for now a member of the NFL’s family.  While he’s certainly not the only gay player, he is the only publicly acknowledged one.  Dungy, just the fourth black head coach in the NFL’s modern era post Fritz Pollard already had the path paved and smoothed  for him.  His Super Bowl victory makes him teflon.  His clean cut image made it so that he didn’t need to touch the Sam situation. But he just couldn’t help himself.  His Christian Agenda pricked him which prompted a statement for the boys in the congregation.  Veiled in the theme of ‘distraction’, he poked at Sam’s career potential saying he wouldn’t ‘want to deal with’ the baggage.  That same baggage that Branch Ricky dealt with for the media, social and player side show endured by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.   There are no sermons for womanizing, smoking weed and making it rain.  But the anti-gay message is weekly.

No, I don’t want Dungy to clarify a word.  If anything, he should keep it all the way 100 and own hypocrite that he and his Christian brethren are; instead of this passive aggressive ‘not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play’ BS.

Yea… Dungy wants Sam to have a chance….  just not on HIS team.

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Black Youth In Baseball – Death of a Love Story

black-kid

I grew up loving the game of baseball.

This started with my father who used to take me to the St. Louis Cardinal games back in the 70s.  On summer evenings when he returned from work, we took the old Martin Luther King Bridge from East St. Louis and got cheap parking on the south side of the stadium.

Tickets were cheap too.  The bleacher seats were $2 and they went on sale 90 minutes prior to every home game.  (Trust me it ain’t like that anymore!)

We stood in line and got our spots in left or right field.  We’d get peanuts and watch the game while listening to Jack Buck broadcast it on KMOX radio.

Our company was great too.  Usually it was other older black men who loved baseball as well.  They would make jokes and have “old man talk.’ 

This always excited me as I sucked all of that up.  I loved my dad and enjoyed those old men as they told their stories and evaluated the players, the managers and the strategies.

My father’s favorite team was The Dodgers.  This was common for black men as the Dodgers was the team who signed Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella.  There was a loyalty built-in the minority community because the Dodgers were the first to be inclusive and let us in.

I didn’t get it at that age of course.  I was routing for the Cardinals.  That is unless the Cincinnati Reds were in town.  I loved the Big Red Machine and can still name all of their players.

This prompted my love for the game of baseball.  I played it from an early age all the way through high school.  As a child I watched the weekly games on NBC.  And when I moved to South Bend, Indiana watched the Cubs and White Sox as much as I could.

Often I was the best player on my own teams and  I wanted to be in the big leagues.  I had some great teammates and competed against some awesome baseball players.

There were also plenty of black professional baseball players for me to admire too.  Its not like I didn’t love me some Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt and Johnny Bench.  I loved watching a lot of baseball players.  It wasn’t so much about the color.  The point was that without even knowing it I was able to see black men that I could aspire to be like while playing a game I loved.

My guys were cats like Reggie Smith, Lou Brock, Bake McBride , Joe Morgan and Dave Winfield .  My favorite baseball player of all time is probably Ricky Henderson.  He had everything.. speed, power, and a helluva lot of swagger!  This man played till the wheels fell off even if it meant playing for some semi-pro team after having a hall of fame major league career.

Nowadays there aren’t many black pro baseball players to look to.  It seems like the last great generation consisted of the Barry Bonds’, Frank Thomas’ Kirby Pucketts’, Andre Dawsons’ and Ken Griffey Jrs of the world.  That time is about up.  We have a few guys left like Tori Hunter and Milton Bradley.  But for the most part most minorities are from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Cuba.  There are many reasons for this and plenty of opinions out there to explain.  I won’t get into those.

But I will speak on something I noticed when I umpired a varsity baseball game the other day.

The game was between two predominately African-American teams.  One was a public high school and the other was  a private. 

I arrived at the game and wondered whether it was JV or not.  This was because the players were for the most part pretty small.  After speaking with some of them I found they were varsity players though the teams consisted of players who ranged from freshman to seniors.  Most of the players played for the JV and varsity teams because they didn’t have enough players to carry both programs.

The next thing I observed was that the quality of the baseball game was horrible.  The kids didn’t really know what they were doing out there.  Most of the baseball I umpire are either little league, teen tournaments or adult.  Those teams consist of mostly white players who seem to overall have a much better fundamental base than these older black players I saw.

During the game I talked to both coaches a bit.  They talked about the struggles they have with the fact that most of these kids don’t play summer ball and they are so far behind in terms of the fundamentals.  They are happy as I am that they are out there trying to learn the game.  But it’s very difficult at that age when you haven’t learned the basics.  When they play any team with any amount of training, an embarrassing loss is sure to come.

What I have heard for years on TV finally became a sobering reality to me.

The game of baseball… the game I love… the game I grew up with is not a game beloved by black boys and girls anymore.

Now it’s all about basketball and football.

There is no longer the infrastructure for little leagues within the black community.  The fields are run over and neglected.  It’s as if baseball doesn’t exist.

I can understand in a way.  I mean since the age of Jordan kids have wanted to be like Mike.  Not to mention one can be broke as a joke and as long as one guy has a basketball 10 guys can all play with it at once.

Baseball requires every kid to have his own glove.  There has to be at least enough bats to go around so a player can use one he believes he can succeed with.  It’s tough.  But it’s also very sad to me.

Baseball is a beautiful game.  An exciting game when played with skill and passion.  And for all the reasons that apply, I am sorry that our kids are not playing and enjoying this national pastime.

I always said when I stopped being a sports official the next step was to coach.  Initially I thought I would coach basketball because I have been around that game so much. 

I want to do something to bring the game back to the black community.

I have a lot of work to do however.  I attended an umpire’s meeting last night and learned that two local colleges with predominately black students are shutting down their baseball programs after this year.

Sigh..