Not Another T**** Column: Waking Up from the National Nightmare

There was a time when the actual athletics was the story…

I am resisting the temptation to write a column about you know who.  As with Charles Barkley, I am sick of hearing about him; I am sick of the celebration and the double standards; I am tired of “the national nightmare” and am ready to wake up to talk about something else within the sports world.

As both men are playing this weekend, I thought I would wish the best of luck to Joe Flacco and Alex Smith.  Yes, Flacco was recently described as “mediocre” on Around the Horn and described as one of the “worst quarterbacks on a good team” by The Bleacher Report. Sure Alex Smith is routinely ridiculed, called a bust, and otherwise doubted.  What’s not to like about Flacco and Smith

In 2011, Flacco saw a slight dip in his numbers, with a quarterback rating of 80.9 and a completion percentage of almost 58%.  Statistically, Smith finished with a higher quarterback rating of 90.7, having completed 61% of his passes.  Most importantly, Flacco led his team to a 12-4 record, with Smith taking the 49ers into the playoffs with an impressive 13-3.  Of course, you can focus on their struggles and their uneven performances, but “they just win”; all they do is win.”  Isn’t that the only thing that matters?   I think I heard that sometime before.

As we are in the midst of the NFL playoffs, it is important to remember those great performances.  Remember Timmy Smith who ran for 204 yards, leading the Redskins to victory in Super Bowl XXII.  So what if he last one more year in the league, and that some call him the one-hit wonder of the NFL, does a great playoff game make a career?  I mean Larry Brown and David Tyree also had amazing performances during Super Bowl victories and didn’t they get elevated to national heroes, on the cover of every sports magazine, and the key endorsement for those running for president?

I also want to pay homage to those quarterbacks, who despite having OK or not so good careers were given little opportunity to even be a backup in the NFL.  Remember Akili Smith, Dennis Dixon (third string in Pittsburgh), and JaMarcus Russell.  Where are they now?  You would think a team like the Colts or the Broncos could have used one of them as a backup.

With the King holiday on Monday, I have found myself thinking about politics off-the-field and the history of resistance in sports.

Toni Smith, a graduate of Manhatanville College, used her platform as a collegiate basketball player, to protest the injustices and inequalities of society.  Prior to each game, as the National Anthem played, she turned away from the flag, bowing her head toward the floor.  She described her motivation as follows: “For some time now, the inequalities that are embedded into the American system have bothered me.  As they are becoming progressively worse and it is clear that the government’s priorities are not on bettering the quality of life for all of its people, but rather on expanding its own power, I cannot, in good conscience, salute the flag.”  Not surprisingly, her courage and her desire to express her political views were met with condemnation.  Told “to leave our country, called “disgraceful,” and other demonized, Smith remains a powerful example of a person who challenged the status quo, who refused to cow-tow to the dominant expectations of her as an athlete, as a women of color, and student.  She stood tall and said with her actions that progressive politics have a place in sports.

Of course, I cannot forget Craig Hodges.  You know Craig Hodges, the former Chicago Bulls 3-point specialist, whose political views and his outspokenness led him quickly out of the league.  Jamilah King recently highlighted his story:

In 1996, NBA basketball player Craig Hodges sued the league, claiming that it blackballed him for his political activism. After Hodges helped the Chicago Bulls win the 1992 NBA Championship, he showed up to the team’s visit to the White House in a dashiki and delivered a hand written letter to then-president George H.W. Bush expressing his critical views of the administration’s policies toward poor and African Americans. That same year, he criticized mega star Michael Jordan for not being more politically active. The team waived him after the ‘92 season and he didn’t receive a single offer try out for another team.

While a great player, a valuable member of a championship team, he was sent packing because of his politics and his refusal to “shut up and play.”

Then there was Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who at the age of 41 was still playing basketball in Japan.  Muslin, Abdul-Rauf faced widespread condemnation for refusing to stand for “the star-spangled banner.”  Abdul-Rauf sought to express his political and religious beliefs; yet, he was exiled:  “It was close to impossible to play in the U.S. after that.  The doors were shut, but I said the N.B.A. wasn’t the only show in town and I was going to make use of my God-given talent even if it meant playing in Timbuktu.”    For his actions, he was booed, jeered and even suspended by the league.  I guess all politics and religion are not welcome in American sports.

I should take this opportunity to congratulate Kobe Bryant and Aaron Rodgers who were voted as the second and third most popular athletes in America.  Yeah, they only received 2 percent and 1.9 percent of the vote ahead of Peyton Manning (1.8 percent) and Tom Brady (1.5 percent).   Although they didn’t receive the top number of votes (3 percent) and even though ESPN didn’t celebrate their accomplishment by noting, “This is an exciting finding and one that reflects the sentiment of all sports fans, not just the online or social media world,” it shows how much love there is for these athletes.

I assume by now, you realize that this is my commentary on the Tebow spectacle – the media fanaticism especially in comparison to so much else.   In each case, whether looking at who is celebrated as a winner, whose numbers are worthy of additional opportunities (Tebow’s 2nd year numbers are worse than the 2nd year numbers of JaMarcus Russell), or whose politics are valued and tolerated, we can see how race, religion and politics operate in this context.  I know Tebow is a national treasure and the most popular athlete in America, having been pick by 3% of those polled; the love isn’t coming from me.  I am too busy cheering for Hodges and Abdul-Rauf, Smith and Carlos Delgado, not to mention Kobe Bryant and Etan Thomas.  In politics, and game, they are worthy celebrating.

27 Responses to “Not Another T**** Column: Waking Up from the National Nightmare”

  1. Origin says:

    Great write up Mr. Leonard!!!

  2. Thanks so much. I was just thinking about all the examples we can see in the past and present that should give us pause about the media’s sensationalism here

  3. HarveyDent says:

    My compliments on the incisive commentary because it points out why these Tebow fans and apologists should just come clean and say they love him because his complexion, religion, and/or politics are what they agree with. Nothing wrong with that and I’ll defend his rights to practice his religion and his freedom of speech but I’ll do the same for Toni Smith, Craig Hodges, and Abdul-Rauf as well. Just be honest and move on from there but don’t automatically reflexively tell me I’m blinded by Tebow hate because I see clearly his flaws as a QB and know if he deviated from the narrative that he would not be having this opportunity.

  4. Harvey: Yes. It seems like there is an effort to basically dismiss any criticisms or question about the media sensationalism or his skills with an argument about “Tebow hate.” I keep hearing about Tebow hate yet he has been on the cover of magazines and celebrated. So what I wanted to point out is how these athletes, who have similar numbers, who have expressed their religious and political beliefs, who have led their teams to victories, yet the love isn’t there. Appreciate your reading and kind words

  5. Julius says:

    Awesome idea! Let’s instead talk about Cam Newton’s chances against the Patriots this week. Oops…speaking of overhyped…

  6. HarveyDent says:

    Yeah, Julius, let’s talk about Cam who has been a starter from Game 1 of his record-setting rookie season. Let’s talk about how Cam is learning the game and was miles better at the end of the season than he was at the beginning. Let’s talk about how he picked up a supposedly too-sophisticated pro offense without having it simplified for him. No, you don’t want to talk about that so keep on jock riding troll and stay in your corner while intelligent folks are talking.

  7. Harvey: Amen. Cam Newton is not overhyped. We may have just witnessed the greatest rookie season in NFL. Check out this piece: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/12/is-cam-newton-the-greatest-rookie-qb-ever/250639/

  8. ks says:

    I see you’re clowning as usual Julius. Why you insist on continuing to troll around here where you are clearly out of your league is puzzling. I mean the ESPN/Deadspin/TBL boards or something like that seems more your speed. I guess being a minor irritant here gives you some pleasure. As David pointed out, Cam just completed the greatest rookie season in NFL history and there is not a GM in the league, including in Denver, who wouldn’t take him over Tebow in a nanosecond.

  9. Miranda says:

    If Tebow were of the Islamic faith, we all know he would probably have been drafted no higher than the 5th round or not at all.

  10. David we called Cam the greatest rookie ever a long time ago. Something we saw coming before he was drafted. His combined yardage and touchdowns not only makes his year stellar on the rookie level but prominent otherwise as well.

  11. Julius says:

    Yardage. Touchdowns. A 37.5 winning percentage. Why, Cam’s got it all. Who cares about winning games, right? Meanwhile, the TSF maligned whiteboy Alex Smith has led his team to the NFC championship. He sucks though.

  12. ks says:

    Shutup troll. Alex Smith has had 7 years to prove himself and he’s finally done something noteworthy.

    In terms of your comments about Cam, you know damn well that he has exceeded all expectations and nobody expected the Panthers to even have 6 wins this year and be competitive in most of their games.

  13. Miranda says:

    When was Alex Smith maligned? It was on TSF that I learned he’d had God knows how many OCs since he got drafted.

    Julius……………YOU LIE.

  14. MODI says:

    Definitely ks, while I have to give it up to Alex Smith today who really surprised me, Alex’s credit cannot be separated from his privileged opportunity. Last year Troy Smith was splitting snaps with Alex, and Troy can’t even remain in the league.

    Julius, If Troy has such redemptive greatness, we will never know. If Donovan McNabb had this years greatest feel-good comeback story in him this year, we will never know because the Bears chose to go with Caleb Hanie.
    ————–

    BTW, the Tebow double-standard has so many layers as mentioned here, and when it comes to off-court views the Hodges example really stands out.

  15. MODI says:

    damn, great Gronkowski grab!

  16. Ron Glover says:

    I hope Vernon Davis was thanking God for Mike Singletary for lighting a fire under his ass while he was crying in Jim Harbaugh’s arms.

  17. ks says:

    Ron,

    Mike who? LOL Yeah, you know how that’s going to go.

    Anyway, the troll needs to go pray for Tebow because he’s getting exposed yet again and Brady has clearly taken all the Tebow bs personally.

  18. HarveyDent says:

    As long as other teams play like they should this guy is easily beat.

  19. The Troy Smith is perfect example as to how black quarterbacks are often given few opportunities. Alex Smith was given ample opportunities. Yes, Michael Tillery — Cam Newton’s season may be the best rookie season in any sport. Pure domination. It is interesting how winning percentage and sometimes championship becomes the benchmark of greatness when that is convenient

  20. A DM I got on twitter tonight: “This Tim Tebow stuff is like the realization of that “If Michael Vick Were…(White)” business. To me. Minus dogs and prison. Nobody? Alright :)”

    Spot on.

  21. Origin says:

    Julius you are the trollinest troll who has ever trolled.

    Cam Newton has had the greatest rookie season in the history and yet the media has basically ignored it.

    @Modi – You are so right about Alex Smith. My issue with Alex was that he has gotten chance after chance after chance to perform. Taking 7 years for the first overall pick to take his team to the playoffs and win a game is nothing to go crazy about (especially when your defense gave you 5 turnovers).

    We all know that Mcnabb, Mcnair or any other star black QB would not have gotten that many chances to prove himself.

    On top of this Shaun King and Troy Smith will probably never get another chance again.

  22. Origin says:

    That was a great tweet Mizzo.

    If anyone has a Tom Brady’s and Belichick’s address please let me know. I want to send those guys a thank you letter for ending this Tebow nonsense. I can finally enjoy the NBA without hearing about Tebow (During the Heat vs. Nuggets game they couldn’t stop talking about Tebow).

    @Harvey – You are right thats all the teams had to do when playing Tebow.

  23. eric daniels says:

    I will give Alex Smith credit for finally living up to his potential and justifying the Niners faith that he would live up to that 1st selection 6 years ago. Now he has two more games in which to prove himself. But now to Tesus, Hey Julius 9-26 130 yards 38 percent completion pct. He can to his White Conservative Evangelical Republican GOD all he want to but he needs to tell him to give him a Pro QB arm and intellect.

    The white media has been making him into a Super White Amerikkan Boy instead of what Tesus is a limited QB who can’t even reach 40 percent in a playoff game. If that was Cam Newton or Mike Vick Julius you would gloating about their moral deficits with glee bordering on an orgasm .

  24. ks says:

    Eli is a straight baller! Note to teams: No matter how fancy your offense is, a suspect defense will ALWAYS come back to bite you in the ass at the worst time.

  25. eric daniels says:

    Ks,

    And the Patriots will get their beatdown next week because their defense is just as suspect as the Packers were. I said both teams reminded me of the 1980-1982 Chargers they could score points by the bucketload until the championship games and their defenses abandoned them to the wind when it counted both times. It also works in reverse a great defense can be undone by a mediocre offense (i.e. Tampa Bay Bucs 1999).

  26. mapoui says:

    I will put my handicapping to use again to remind that we cannot forget the Ravens season in handicapping the AFC divisional final.

    the Ravens were up and down especially away from home… a sign that with the ravens, age may be a serious factor in the mix.

    then there is the Flacco factor..an engimatic factor. Flacco may or may not do an effective job…more likey negative oe ineffective away from Baltimore. again, Flacco must be more effecitive manager than go to guy.

    the Ravens must establish dominance over the Pats early so that they do not have to go to Flacco late to win the game.

    anything is possible but Flacco is unlikely to win the game for thr Ravens late if the Pats put up a lead.

    I dont think this game will be like Fewells defense against the Packers. while the Giants were in ripping form, cohesive and confident as defense..overall team…. I dont see the Ravens as having achieved that kind of flow.

    there are a lot of iffs about the Ravens…ifs that were non-existent relative to the Giants.

    A Ravens defensive domination of the Pats is no certainty in my estimation.

    the Ravens are not a young team, a coming team, with great upside. what we know of them is what they are…no less and hardly more.. that is a very a very significant factor of assessment in this game

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