Monday, August 18, 2008

Redeem Team musings...


Now that the reality TV-ratings portion of the Olympics (e.g., swimming and gymnastics selling out to NBC to create the Phelps mythos and the usual teen pixie soap opera) is over, I suppose the next marketing focus will have to fall upon the Redeem Team (how much money did a PR firm get to come up with that? I'll tell once my source uncovers the billables...no this wasn't something homey or a media convocation...PR firms regularly now feed reporters this stuff as a part of image-making)
Dodd White hipped me to this column from by LZ Granderson on ESPN.com's "Page 2." Now, I know the cosmetic annointance of D-Wade as team leader and metaphor for self-less courage in in full effect, but please, read between the lines of this piece, which I reprint in it's entirety:

A few years ago I was working on a profile of a high-salaried NBA player who happened to be black, and who hailed from a poor, inner-city neighborhood. The guy had been in the league during the time when $100 million contracts were common.
I remember thinking that with that much money, the entire planet literally was his playground.
So when he told me that Atlanta was his all-time favorite vacation spot, I was more than a little disappointed.
That's like calling Olive Garden fine Italian dining.
But at the same time, I understood where he was coming from. When I was in college, studying abroad wasn't even something I thought was available to me. It just sounded expensive, unnecessary and, to be quite honest, something only white people had the luxury of doing. I didn't know any better. Growing up poor and unexposed in Detroit, my ideal vacation spot was Sandusky, Ohio -- home of the Cedar Point amusement park.
Talking with that player reminded me that having money as an adult doesn't automatically free your mind of the limited world view you develop as a child.
I was reminded of that conversation this week when I watched a profile of the USA men's basketball team taking a tour of the Great Wall of China.
Tayshaun Prince called it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My first thought: Why? People visit the Great Wall all the time. Prince is rich. He could probably go every summer for the rest of his life if he wanted. But Tay is from Compton, Calif., and went to Dominguez High School, historically one of the worst academic schools in the nation. There's a good chance he didn't see any globetrotters growing up. If you don't see it, you don't know about it. If you don't know about it, how can you pursue it?
I'm not out to embarrass Prince -- and he might not have meant the statement the way I took it. Still, I couldn't help but wonder if he was a Sandusky, Ohio, brotha the way I used to be.
This is why I have two hopes for Team USA Basketball -- both men and women.
First, Gold.
Second, they take their considerable resources and expose the underprivileged to the wonderful world of, well, the wonderful world.
Stop building basketball courts in the 'hood -- little kids already know about basketball -- and do something that could open the eyes of a young person who is not even aware their eyes are closed.
Tennis great Andre Agassi used to make his shoe sponsor, Nike, donate to his foundation, and in 2001 he opened a college preparatory charter school in West Las Vegas, one of the poorest areas of his native city. Agassi wasn't a rich kid with a silver spoon in his mouth. He was the son of an Iranian immigrant and is a high-school dropout. But he took all that he was exposed to and brought it back to kids who needed someone to care.
I'm not saying the current efforts of a Chris Bosh or Carmelo Anthony are ineffective. Quite the contrary. I'm sure seeing successful athletes returning to lend a hand helps a great deal in cities such as Baltimore and Dallas. But while new basketball courts can give a kid something to do, education can give a kid something to build on. And let's face it, no matter how many points they might score their senior season, most of our children will end up as fans, not players. The real question is, what kind of fan will they be?
Could you imagine the impact of Kobe Bryant and Candace Parker spearheading a charter school or study abroad program in Los Angeles? Or something similar in Cleveland with LeBron James? Then Nike's brightest stars take the graduates abroad at the end of the year. That's not a ridiculous pipe dream. Affluent middle and high schools take their students overseas in the summer all the time. Why? Because travel can light a child's curiosity and implant a hunger for knowledge. Given that high school graduates make less than half of what college graduates make -- according to the U.S. Census Bureau -- it's no wonder the poor get poorer. Education is how you begin to break the cycle of poverty.
And as Agassi has shown, athletes can play a role -- if they really want to.
With all of the excitement over the Redeem Team, there's a chance for one or more of our bright, young stars to make a lasting change here at home. And refurbish a basketball court or two if they still want.

My take: Of course you know what I'm gonna say! When pigs fly is when these dudes will do the stuff we hope. There will always be exceptions, but come on, they have absolutely no incentive--spiritual, economic, cultural, moral--to do it. Indeed, forget the bamma and ghettofab fans--we have too many so-called public intellectuals, leaders, etc. who are also more than willing to cut them a break. But like I said, there are always surprises. Someone as scumbaggish as Ron Artest might be starting a charter school, funding free dialysis and foreclosure relief for folk and saving up $ to put one of his extra ho's kids into Princeton for all I know. But, ah...

8 comments:

carl said...

I bristled at first from your own comments but then I thought it through and truly there's a problem here. We can't expect too much, because these brothers aren't saints or supermen, but I find myself underwhelmed by them, and indeed we give them a pass too often.

Chicama Vineyard said...

I had read in the newspaper that the gymnastics and swimming had drastically altered scheduling to meet NBC demands from Beijing. That does not mean Michael Phelps' amazing achievement is tainted but it says a lot about our values. I was a bit peeved that in every interview NBC asks a question about Phelps and the basketball team. There are thousands of other athletes there, and many great champions. Does everything have to be about hype and endorsements? I suppose I'm old-fangled or not with the brave new world--

Ochyming said...

You ARE mean.
But you are right, poor millionaires indeed!

Sport is another kind of anesthesia, its like religion.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this...I'm listening to Mocha Moms on NPR now talk about sportmanship and how to reconcile this with the Olympics.

Davidsonsville said...

PHUCK PHELPS. America needs it's dimwitted Jethro heroes like him and Favre, as America will be black and brown by 2040, regardless of what happens to Obama.

Ochyming said...

@davidsonsville

Oh yeah?!
Latinos = Europeans!

Asians = NOT a color, but a culture [a melting-pot rather]!

Black Capitalist said...

I didn't read the whole thing, I was annoyed early on. But that won't stop me from commenting. Why can't Atlanta be ones favorite spot to visit? A place is only fulfilling as what you get out of it. I supposed he could have been some sort of pseudo sophisticate and said Santiago, Chile or some other insignificant place, he chose Atlanta a place of higher consequence historically and presently for Blacks. Right choice? Who cares. Personally, I'd choose Ghana or NYC.

Ochyming said...

@black capitalist

For a short pocket like me, but the guy is a DEEP pocket WHY can't the world be HIS?
And WORST IF he is from Atlanta and he said that because of the strip clubs.

It is like surviving instead of Living! - As the commander on Wall-E said!