Silva Linings Playbook – The Black Athlete

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Hello, Superfriends Universe, this is my first installment of what should be many columns to come. I will take a look at sports, theater, music and movies from many sides of the coin. My views can be, and will be, controversial from time to time. All I can ask is that you read and try to understand where I’m coming from. My first column deals with THE BLACK ATHLETE.

On October 2, 1980, three weeks before our apartment burned to the ground, my father took me to the Puerto Rico Theatre in the South Bronx to see the closed circuit telecast of the Larry Holmes-Muhammad Ali fight. Ali was the first athlete I idolized. He, along with baseball great Roberto Clemente, were Pop’s(my father) two favorite athletes of all time. To this day, Clemente is still the greatest Puerto Rican athlete that ever played any sport. He tragically died at the age of 37 on December 31, 1972. He was attempting to bring food and clothing for the survivors of a massive earthquake in Nicaragua. Pop told me that was the first time he ever cried for someone who perished not related to him. Clemente and Ali were unique because they were Black athletes that spoke out against racial injustice in the 1960’s. Today, Black athletes are more worried about their endorsement deals than whether or not their fellow people are being treated unjustly. In 1990, African-American Democrat candidate Harvey Gantt ran against the racist Republican incumbent Jesse Helms for the U.S. Senate in North Carolina. Gantt reached out to Michael Jordan, the most famous and high-profiled North Carolina resident. Jordan’s rejected supporting Gantt, stating, “Republicans buy Nike’s also.”

The night I went with my father to see Ali fight Homes. I was so hoping he could pull out another miracle. Ali time and time again had fooled the so-called experts. On February 25, 1964, Ali was an 8-1 underdog against Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston. Liston was Mike Tyson before Mike Tyson, an animal who had destroyed former champ Floyd Patterson twice in the first round. Ali, who was Cassius Clay at the time, had befriended Malcolm X and was considered too small and fragile to defeat Liston, even though he was taller, faster and the same weight. Ali gave Liston a boxing lesson, making him miss and subsequently forcing Liston to quit after the sixth round. On October 30, 1974, Ali was again a prohibitive underdog against the 6’5′, 220 pound seemingly indestructible George Foreman. In front of almost 100,000 Africans in the heat of Kinshasha, Zaire, Ali knocked out Foreman in the eighth to regain his Heavyweight Title. This was a title that the U.S. government stripped from him for his refusal to fight in the unjust Vietnam War in April, 1967. Ali’s license was stripped as well and he didn’t fight for almost four years. Finally, he got his chance at reclaiming the title on March 8, 1971. It was the most anticipated fight in the history of boxing. It was held in Madison Square Garden, but Pop was forced to hear it on the radio as he was currently incarcerated at the time. Pop told me that a riot almost occurred in Clinton that day as Ali lost a very close decision in one of the greatest fights of all-time, his number one nemesis, Joe Frazier.

October 2, 1980 was the night Ali fought Holmes. The number one song in the country was “Another One Bites The Dust,” by Queen. Holmes was the undefeated Heavyweight Champion who made each one of his opponents for his title “bite the dust.” Ali would be no different. Holmes gave Ali a hellacious beating for 10 rounds. Pop and I sat there holding back tears as our idol was being treated like the washed up old shell of a fighter he’d become. Ali’s corner threw in the towel before the 11th round. Pop took the chair he sat on and stole it, bringing it with us on the 6th train. That chair got lost in the fire. I wished I still had that chair. That chair was a metaphor for seeing something that was great age before my very eyes.

Nowadays, athletes rarely stand for anything. You see Tiger Woods playing golf with President Bush I and II, which is a slap in the face to Black people all over this country. The twin George Bush’s have conspired to kill Black people all over the world: Bush I as CIA director and President of the U.S. and Bush II as Governor of Texas and President of The U.S. Meanwhile, you have athletes like Woods shucking and jiving with these racist murderers. America is and always be looking to bring down Black people with money. If you don’t believe me, ask Michael Jackson.

When Ali was in exile, he spoke at several universities throughout the country, spreading his anti-war stance. Today I only know of one athlete that protested the unjust invasion and occupation of Iraq; Carlos Delgado, a Black Puerto Rican All-Star first baseman who wears number 21 on his baseball jersey in tribute to Clemente. While a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, Delgado refused the stand for the National Anthem. His reasoning; it was his quiet way of protesting the Invasion of Iraq and the continuing bombing exercises in the city of Vieques in his Puerto Rican homeland. The media heavily criticized Delgado. More than one reporter questioned the audacity of a man to question the politics of a country that he makes millions of dollars in. Blacks in this country are taught by the American society that once you make huge amounts of money, you don’t have a right to question any wrongdoing by the U.S. They feel you are lucky to be making this money, so shut the hell up or before you know it; your privileges will be taken away. Athletes in United States professional leagues are high priced slaves, and there are always plenty to take the place if any of them get uppity.

No athlete gets criticized more in the world than Black athletes in America. Of course, if you shuck and jive and pretend that everything is gravy, you will get a pass. Tiger and Jordan are perfect examples of Black athletes who never rock the boat, so corporate America and the powers to be keep these star athletes in line. Whenever a favored Black athlete crosses the line (i.e., O.J. Simpson), they are ostracized and emasculated beyond repair. Orenthal James Simpson was America’s favorite Black athlete for many years. He did movies, commercials, and played golf with Bob Hope. He was married to a White woman and was accepted by his white neighbors and White America. Once his wife was murdered, not only was O.J. tried and hung in the media, he lost his favorite Black status and every endorsement and sports job he had. O.J. learned a painful lesson; no matter how hard you try and separate yourself from Black America and fit into White America, you will always be a “nigger” in their eyes. Today O.J. stands convicted of a crime in which he tried to steal memorabilia that belonged to him. He is a 60 plus year old man rotting in jail for the rest of his for a bullshit crime. You cross White America, and they will make you pay for the rest of your life.

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