Thursday, February 16, 2006

Gold, silver, bronze and black

HBO's Real Sports host Bryant Gumbel recently told his audience he doesn't like or watch the Winter Olympics, partly because there aren't enough African-Americans competing. He said:

"Finally, tonight, the Winter Games. Count me among those who don’t like them and won’t watch them ... Because they’re so trying, maybe over the next three weeks we should all try too. Like, try not to be incredulous when someone attempts to link these games to those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of skating or skiing. So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention. Try not to point out that something’s not really a sport if a pseudo-athlete waits in what’s called a 'kiss-and-cry' area, while some panel of subjective judges decides who won ... So if only to hasten the arrival of the day they’re done, when we can move on to March Madness — for God’s sake, let the games begin."

Hmmm. Let the questions begin. The actual transcript has been removed from HBO's site, but the curiosity remains.

-- What do Republicans have to do with this? Are they all white? Are Democrats all black? Is activist-journalist Gumbel showing his own political and racial prejudices?
-- What would happen if any white commentator had said he doesn't watch the NCAA's March Madness because it "looks like a Nation of Islam convention"? (I find that abhorrent.)
-- Despite Gumbel's viewing preferences, is it really fair to hold the Winter Olympics responsible for geography? After all, the great bulk of blacks outside the USA live in countries where winter sports are alien ... or is there some belief out there that an affirmative action-like program is necessary to fix this particular sporting event?
-- Why must so many people inject race as a divider when it's simply not?


Chancelucky said...

I agree that race should't matter, but some small points.
1) In the 80's pre Magic and Bird, many people were saying aloud that the NBA was too black to attract a white audience.

2) It's often said that Tiger Woods and Yao Ming have had a huge influence in bringing Asian fans to their sports.

3) I was convinced that the movie Cool Runnings had permanently changed views of the Winter Olympics.

as a practical matter, the Winter Olympics have always been different from the Summer games precisely because so much of the world doesn't have enough ice or snow to let people play the events in their native countries. Many years ago, Debbie Thomas, the American figure skater, was seen by marketers as someone who might broaden the appeal of the winter games in the US.

I've thought one simple way to deal with the imbalance between the 2 Olympics would be to move some sports that are generally played in winter or indoors like basketball and gymnastics to the Winter version.

In the meantime, I've heard that Dick Cheney is a late entry in the biathlon and that the ratings are going to be huge across race, party, gender, etc.

Ron Franscell said...

Nobody in Turin is safe.

Michael Gillespie said...

Bryant Gumble's comments can be seen as evidence that racism (like other forms of discrimination such as sexism and discrimination based on class) is not limited to the members of any one particular race.

Don said...

I read the article regarding the comment on Newsvine and I was suprised with the remark. If it's not race, it's the sexual orientation. They just don't get it. Is it ignorance or just plain stupidity? Either way, it is wrong!