Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Michigan, Notre Dame and the Racial Divide

Celtics vs Lakers...
Magic vs Bird...
Michigan vs ND...

It's all the same it seems. One day I was thinking about why I like Michigan and not Notre Dame. Why I was a Lakers fan and not the Celtics. Loved Magic, not Bird. Shaq fan, couldn't stand Christian Laetner. I think I'm coming to the realization that race played a major role in my youth and formatice years. I've always been a Michigan fan; for as long as I can remember. But I'm from Louisiana and hadn't been to Michigan until a few months ago. But for as long as I remember I've hated Notre Dame. Couldn't stand them, but didn't know why.

Now I know...

Seems that I think that ND was the epitamy of all that was white in the 80's. Yeah, I have no clue why I thought that but I did. And the fact that I still don't like them for that reason makes me think I've harbored that for years. Don't know where it came from. Maybe my inate sense of black and white learned from television, and years of schooling. I don't know but I just believed, and still believe, that ND is the last refuge of white America.

This isn't to say Michigan isn't a hstorically white school. But for some reason I lumped them into the "Black" teams. Could it be the cool uniforms, especially the helmet? Could it be Desmond Howard's flashy Heisman pose? Could it be the 5 brothers dominating basketball for 2 years without winning a title? Maybe even Charles Woodson (by the way, one of my best friends, white guy, and I still argue about Woodson vs Manning and the Heisman Trophey of 97. Of course I had Woodson).

And I know ND had Rocket Ismail and "the Bus" but I can't shake my picture of ND. Maybe it's because they are always on TV and get favorable treatment from pollsters in America. I tried to like them when Tyrone Willingham was their coach. I did actually, but more so for him and not them. But when they dumped him for the next great white hope, I cut all emotional ties to the school. Now I only hope they plummet next year and see what the reaction is.

But this brings to mind other issues in sports too. I've always liked Magic over Bird and the Lakers over the Celtics. Marino over Elway (hey Marino was tan and Elway just seemed to All-American white). Now it's Reggie Bush over Leinart, mostly because Bush made USC who they are.

Will this always be the case with me? Probably so. But I guess it's not about not liking white folks, because I do. It's mostly about me wanting my brothers and sisters to succeed. There's nothing wrong with that. At least not in my world.


Blogger headliner said...

Dealing with race can be very interesting. Dealing with race and sports can be outright wild. My thoughts on:

Bird vs. Magic
Loved them both, they just played ball, hard, competitive, team ball. I’m not old enough to remember the NCAA’s in 1979 when the legend started, but I still remember watching Bird and Nique go at it in the mid-80’s and Magic being pure beauty on the break. I had almost equal respect for both; now Shaq, I remember getting to go see skinny, young, Shaq (270 lbs) a few times tearing it for LSU. And I will always dislike Duke, and therefore dislike Laettner by default. But I’ll call this a push with a lean towards Magic.

Celtics vs. Lakers:
I’m backwards on this. I loved the Celtics. It wasn’t that I disliked the Lakers; in fact I rooted for them against almost everyone else but Boston. It was just something about, the Celtics that appealed to me. I remember as a kid hearing stories about Bill Russell, in fact my dad and uncles were all about the Celtics, they grew up watching Russell, Jo-Jo White, Sam Jones, Don Chaney, and other brothers go to Boston and win championships. I think it maybe more of a generational thing; it was unfortunate that in the 80’s the Celtics were known as the white man’s team (expressed mostly profound by Spike Lee in Do The Right Thing) while the Laker’s were the black man’s team. Now was Bird given extraordinary attention because he was white, probably, but the cat backed it up on the court. Also in the 80’s they had a black coach, sorry I had to put that in, gotta count for something right.

Michigan vs. ND
I used to love the Irish back in the day. “Rocket” Ismail is still one of my favorite college football players of all time. But as I got older, my faith started to turn. I began to realize how hokey the “God is on our side, we must win” belief is. Then they started to lose, then Willingham came and left and it was over for me. Despite Desmond Howard and the other Michigan greats, the Michigan love for me is all about basketball. I was with it before the Fab Five, I’m talking about Glen Rice and Rummel Robinson running the Big Blue. But the “Fab Five” just blew it up. I don’t recall anyone who wasn’t fascinated by these brothers. I think that’s when I got my Michigan Starter Jacket (sheesh, I need to pull it out sometime). There has been a lot written about the effect the Fab Five had on college basketball and an entire generation of youngster like me. My favorite was Jimmy King, the silky smooth off guard with the pretty shot...that was who I wanted to be. Unfortunately I was never able to develop a silky smoothness on the court or a pretty shot.

I talked too much about myself without really addressing the main issue you brought up. I don’t really think it is all black/white, because we all have sports hero’s of different races than our own. In fact I think that sports is one of the few compartments of our society where people will overlook race as a primary factor in deciding their friendship and allegiances. Of course this is not always true, but is seems to happen more often with sports than elsewhere in our society. Last, Elway over Marino, Elway played more like a brother :)

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