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Mind Changed

Trying to write about sports right now is definitely fiddling while Rome burns.

Especially since there are no sports. Sports talk is still sputtering along discussing dates when leagues are gonna start,  various playoff scenarios, memories of past years, past games, favorite players. 

Now though, one video has changed all that. Sports and about everything else is insignificant right now. And yet every day around the world are massive signs of man’s inhumanity to man, man’s intolerance of others, his propensity for violence, his sheer stupidity. We shouldn’t be surprised at any of the daily horrors that men of all colors perpetuate around the globe.

Many are saying this is America’sproblem, but it’s not. It’s a mankind problem, a spiritual problem, a battle between good and evil. Love and hate. That video was so heartbreaking in so many ways. The first way is watching an innocent man die needlessly, the heartbreak for his family and friends. Thoughts of my black friends, pulled over for DWB, suddenly and unmercifully being killed. How angry would I feel?

OK, so it IS America’s problem. Racism. It always has been. By the late 1960’s blacks as a group hated my white ass. Two of my best buddies beat me up because I was white. Right after the ’65 riots North Avondale suddenly wasn’t quite so idyllic. I knew why on one hand but pleaded innocent on the other. I mean, I didn’t do any of that slaveryshit. Obviously embarrassed by it, shamed by it, but frustrated by what I perceived to be my lack of culpability. What could I do anyway? Couldn’t we all just get along? Now at age 63 I’m just as confused as age 12, when I was pelted by rocks and bottles (which bloodied my catcher ) after a baseball game in Lincoln Heights.  Obviously I DON’T understand, which hurts even more as I watch the video. The video peels away various emotions, stresses, guilts, heartbreaks. How many people are glad that cop killed the guy, just like they wished soldiers had killed many more at Kent State? What’s wrong with us?

The video kicks off all this baggage hidden in our subconscious. What our conscious minds are dealing with are riots. Thinking individuals are dealing with their anger by protesting during the day, and the mob rules by night. They blew past any thoughts about George Floyd, and national sentiment has shifted rapidly from support of the black community and hopes of dialogue to disgust. The pictures of the destruction of businesses that were barely hanging on anyway are a perfect image of our country right now, as we’re seemingly beating ourselves up on the playground. Without police how far would the rioters go? How many city blocks would be burning? As riots moved into residential neighborhoods, homeowners would be shooting looters and arsonists, gunfire would be returned, and we would have the anarchy that extremists on both sides are rooting for. Fuck them. I’m tired of national politics hinging on what extremists want and I’m equally tired of national mainstream media choosing sides in lieu of objective reporting. Fortunately we do have police in place, once again risking their lives to protect citizens and property. They stand there taking constant verbal abuse,  bottles thrown at them, and worse.  Last night after the curfew started I saw two young women, one black and one white, who were hysterically screeching and cursing at the police like they were possessed.  What if George Floyd was my friend I thought. I would be that angry.

What about sports? Normally I have been against athletes protesting a cause on the field. It alienates a large percentage of fans,  who are paying their salaries and breaking the rules of their employers, who are also paying their salaries. There have been certain protests that have been remembered and moved the needle in our national conversation. Carlos and Smith. Mexico Olympics. Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) refusing to be drafted. How badly would the Army have gone out of their way to screw Ali, put the hammer down on him? Most recently Colin Kaeperneck and his and others kneeling during the national anthem. I was critical of Kaepernick but he does seem to walk the walk as an activist and also donating money to causes. I felt at the time his protest could have come on his own time, but as time goes on I do see a place for Kaepernick’s actions. 

That’s a change for me.

At this point I think athletes of all sports are going to be protesting both the Floyd killing and the recent murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

I don’t blame them and the mix of sports and politics isn’t going away. Fans who are desperate, hurting, sick, broke, and scared may or may not be sympathetic to the plight or message of millionaire athletes regardless of the circumstances. But athletes have a right to express themselves.  It might harm their relationships with teammates, fans and the front office.  As a fan I’ll try to understand and respect the athlete,  and that is far different from my usual stance.It will be interesting to see if change can be affected. It’s tough. We can be on the right track,  and then suddenly one bad moment from one bad cop takes us all the way back to where we are today. It hardly seems fair. 

 It’s been a bad year.  I don’t know when the riots will end, or when the pandemic will be conquered. Mankind has more inside than just predjudice, hate, and misery. We have hope, and love. We can turn to our faith,  which we are free to do here in the USA. I’m seeing pictures of everybody cleaning up, all races. I saw a video of a policeperson fully dressed out in gasmask and riot gear hugging an emotional protester. Those unfortunate protesters, hurting out in the streets, had their protest co-opted and looted right out from under them by extremists and yes, criminals.  Many of them spoke up against the violence and some were injured trying to stop their neighborhood from being destroyed. 

Athletes have such a huge impact on society, kids especially,  that their message and actions are critical. Today many are calling for grass roots change, local politics, voting. But what about the cops? They represent the system, the Man, and in some cases white people. They repress, arrest, harass. They don’t serve or protect. It’s one of the first things young blacks learn from their fathers. And it creates a lifetime of hate and distrust.  It’s why police are getting cussed out on the streets right now. But just like me, most cops aren’t the problem.  They are frustrated when a death like Floyd’s occurs, that is the last thing anybody needs. These frustrated police would stop needless harassment of blacks by bad cops if they could.So maybe athletes can somehow carry a dialogue that can work for society, nothing else has worked.I’m OK with them giving it a try. I suspect their message might get co-opted too.A message of faith,  hope and love can’t be co-opted, though.  That’s the message we need to hear everyday from athletes and social figures.  Especially if that message is backed up by actions,  not tweets.

Police and communities have to work together along with city leaders, athletes, teachers and coaches to fix this broken system.

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