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February 17, 2006

Snow Foolin'

Some (loser) folks have gone off on mini-tirades against one of the last honest men in broadcasting, Bryant Gumbel over his remarks against the Winter Olympics. I'll give what I've seen of his entire quote, you can guess which part mealy-mouthed crybabies are whining and cracking wise about.

"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."

Now if you're like me and not particularly interested in finding stupid sniglets of 'racism' under every rug, you get to the heart of the matter. Byrant Gumbel's show is called 'Real Sports'. Righteous. When I grew up we used to have debates about whether or not something was a sport or an activity. Remember that? Well I'm sure Gumbel had that in mind when he named his show. Now consider some common sense observations:

bowling, darts, golf..anything that lacks defense is not a sport

I consider golf a sport, I guess I would consider sand and water the "defense". Poker and gymnastics are not sports. Definitely anything that has judges deciding the outcome is not a sport(gymnastics, ice skating, cheeerleading). Those are more competitions than sports.

Running is not a sport. Nor is NASCAR.

Wrestling, boxing, kickboxing and other types of indivdual fighting are the only true sports.

No aparatuses aiding the athlete.

All that makes sense and we could get a discussion going here. But I think the question has already been settled by ESPN when they did their Degree of Difficulty study. In that famous evaluation, 60 sports were ranked in ten categories: (Endurance, Strength, Power, Speed, Agility, Flexibility, Nerve, Durability, Hand/Eye and Analytic Ability). I happen to think it takes more nerve than 4.38 to play Lacrosse, but other than that I find the results very satisfying.

Take the word of our panel of experts, a group made up of sports scientists from the United States Olympic Committee, of academicians who study the science of muscles and movement, of a star two-sport athlete, and of journalists who spend their professional lives watching athletes succeed and fail.

They're the ones who told us that boxing is the most demanding sport -- and that fishing is the least demanding sport.

In that list, Ice Hockey and Alpine Skiing make the top 15. Also Figure skating and Speed skating make the top half as do Bobsledding and Luge, just ahead of Badminton. Ski Jumping is in the bottom half, but it is rescued by the second highest score when it comes to Nerve. (The highest goes to Rodeo). Snowboarding didn't make the list, nor did Skeleton. And Curling is right near the bottom where it belongs, below Cheerleading.

Now I don't follow Hockey close enough to know whether or not anyone takes Olympic Hockey seriously as compared to the NHL, but my guess is that other than the US vs Russians, nobody cares. So when it comes to keeping it real, Gumbel is dead on it. Now I suppose we could go ask the Nielsen people if more people watch March Madness than the Winter Games, but my guess again is no contest and the NCAA wins hands-down, not to mention the NIT. (According to my Google Toolbar 'NCAA Basketball' gets 7.5million entries and 'Winter Olympics' get 2.8million Case Closed).

I'm not going to dignify the squirrel chatter about Bryant Gumbel's remarks being racist, just like I'm not going to ask what kind of beer Dick Cheney drinks. Some people need to grow up. As for the Winter Olympics.. eh. I'd rather watch the new Tour of California.

Posted by mbowen at February 17, 2006 09:48 AM

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Hockey fans pretty much realize that Olympic hockey is basically an all-star exhibition at the top levels, with the lower levels nothing more than an interruption of the NHL season (the league shuts down now for 2 weeks so pros can play) and that's really annoying.

The ice is bigger in Olympic hockey and there isn't any fighting. Checking is cut down significantly and so, it's really a different game. But it's a lot like Olympic soccer.

No one really cares, but they do it anyway...'cuz at least it's a sport people recognize.

Posted by: Ron at February 17, 2006 11:12 AM

Uh, I actually criticized the reactions of Alan Colmes and Juan Williams for their reactions on H&C. I hadn't mentioned Gumbel's comments outside of that context because I could care less.

For the record, here's what I wrote:

[...] to Alan Colmes’ Spike Lee moment, where he argues, along with NPR’s Juan Williams, that Bryant Gumbel’s objectively racialist (though perhaps tongue in cheek) comments on HBO’s “Real Sports” about whites and the Winter Olympics cannot be racist because Gumbel is black, and blacks, holding disproportionately less power in this country, lack that requisite condition for racism.

[text of Gumbel's remarks]

Both Colmes and Williams rejected the argument of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise’s Robert Woodson that Gumbel’s remarks were analogous to, say, John Madden broadcasting to a Superbowl audience that “the game looked like a NAACP convention”—insisting that there was no double standard in the two statements (Colmes on the risible grounds that Madden hadn’t said any such thing, so the point is moot. Which, well, perhaps Rush Limbaugh would like to weigh in from the realm of the non-hypothetical...)

Predictably, Hannity was outraged at the political suggestion that the GOP is lily-white. To me, the real outrage is the suggestion that we can’t be witnessing the world’s greatest skiers, skaters, snowboarders, etc., simply because blacks haven’t taken up those sports.

Perhaps Dems can convince Barack Obama to introduce legislation that would make it mandatory for young black athletes to develop an interest in the luge.

Or maybe not. Hell, they’re sun people after all, the black folk are—so can we really expect them to get all, like, bundled up in Gortex and go sliding down an icy hill...?

What, did you do a Technorati search looking for whomever mentioned it so that you can show yourself to be above such "squirrel chatter"?

For what it's worth, I would bet (I didn't see the show) that Gumbel was making a joke. This doesn't offend me one bit. What is offensive is watching liberals strain to differentiate it from other kinds of racialist remarks on the grounds that Bryant Gumbel can't be racist.

As for being a mealy-mouthed crybaby, well, you can go fuck yourself. And do it with something sharp and oblong.

Mealy-mouthed enough for you?

Posted by: Jeff G at February 17, 2006 11:34 AM

When I have beef with you Jeff Goldstein, I'll call you out by name and quote the specific idiotic words. Until such time as you decide to own the words of your commenters, then you should stop being so defensive of 'folks'.

Considering that your points are all over the place on Colmes, Williams, Woodson, Hannity, Limbaugh and Obama I wonder what it is you are actually defending besides your privilege to be glib and raise an idiotic remark to the level of Technorati's attention, not that I bothered to check.

All that said, I for one, have given your thread a bit of perspective on the actual content of sport in defense of the thrust of Gumbel's actual remark. To make a big deal over the racial aspect of a comment that essentially dismisses the Winter Olympics is your prerrogative, but there's not much there there. But then again, you might not know that. I don't fault you for lacking perspective, just aim.

Speaking of which, if I decide to fuck myself, I'll mail you the video. Don't hold your breath. On second thought, do. The rest of us could use the oxygen.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 17, 2006 11:49 AM

To me, the real outrage is the suggestion that we can’t be witnessing the world’s greatest skiers, skaters, snowboarders, etc., simply because blacks haven’t taken up those sports.

Actually, Gumbel implied we couldn't be watching the world's greatest athletes, not the world's greates skiers, lugers, etc., because there are no blacks. The distinction between "world's greatest athletes" and "world's greatest skiers, etc." was kind of his point, and appears to have sailed right over your head.

Posted by: Big Worm at February 17, 2006 12:44 PM

To me, the real outrage is the suggestion that we can’t be witnessing the world’s greatest skiers, skaters, snowboarders, etc., simply because blacks haven’t taken up those sports.

Actually, Gumbel implied we couldn't be watching the world's greatest athletes, not the world's greates skiers, lugers, etc., because there are no blacks. The distinction between "world's greatest athletes" and "world's greatest skiers, etc." was kind of his point, and appears to have sailed right over your head.

Posted by: Big Worm at February 17, 2006 12:45 PM

i think you are off on calling jeff g. "mealy mouthed." he's a self-obsessed raging asshole, but not mealy-mouthed.

Posted by: rev. quitter at February 17, 2006 01:05 PM

This is much ado about nothing.

Why, if a white broadcaster said during an NBA All-Star game that we should "try not to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes, despite a paucity of whites that makes the NBA look like a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus" I'm sure there would not be a national outcry or "RACISM!!" and demands that he resign.

No, no, no. Because there's no double standard about these things. None at all.

Posted by: TallDave at February 17, 2006 02:21 PM

The existance of a double standard is meaningless in arguments that aren't worth having. Is Bryant Gumbel a racist or not. It's the same question that merited discussion in the Bill Bennett controversy. In both cases the answer is absolutely not. People are either right or wrong about it. So why talk about the double standars of people who are dead wrong?

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 17, 2006 02:38 PM

No, I think you misunderstand. The main question is why we have the double standard, not the minor point of whether Gumbel is racist or his comments are. And the reason we have the double standard is something Jeff writes about extensively: identity politics.

We as a race (and I mean the HUMAN race, the only race any of us really belong to) need to get past this whole silly self-identification by skin color. It divides us, unnecessarily, over something nearly as arbitrary as the first letter of your last name. The whole exercise is particularly pointless when you realize African-Americans are on average 20% European by ancestry anyway, as well as various percentages of other things besides African, and very very few of us belong exclusively to one ethnicity.

Because there's profit and power for the leadership to be had by division into arbitrary groups, we have these race-based groups for minorities. Because the reality is these groups are generally vehicles for hate and exclusion, we do not have them for the majority, where the abuses they incur would be obvious. Thus we have been trained to hear "white pride" as "racist" and "black pride" as "affirming." It's a false dichotomy that needs to end.

Affirmative action? Great idea. But let's have it based on economic circumstances, not the color of your skin. Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey's kids do not need a hand up; poor people of all races do.

Posted by: TallDave at February 17, 2006 03:27 PM

Thanks for linking to our blog. I'm happy to be your "loser." It's always nice to have fans.

Posted by: JR at February 17, 2006 03:35 PM

Part of the difficulty in being me is that your statement seems so patently obvious that it's almost insulting to hear it. Thus any discussion about the 'racism' of BG is silly.

Point taken, circa 1980

Posted by: Anonymous at February 17, 2006 03:41 PM

Cross country and down hill skiing, as well as speed skating, are sports the same way track and field and swimming are sports. Although there is no defense, the object is to use your athletic ability to get from the starting line to the finish line the fastest.

Posted by: brotherbrown [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 17, 2006 04:47 PM

Obligatorily, a person is whining about racism if they complain about an offensive racial comment that is not directed at them, has no significant economic impact and doesn't rise to the legal level of slandar or defamation of character.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 17, 2006 05:14 PM

I used to watch the Winter Olympics back in the day when the broadcasts into the US was run by ABC and the Wide World of Sports. It never bothered me in the least that there were virtually no blacks competing because I simply enjoyed watching people do things that were incredibly difficult to do.

I stopped watching after the U.S. Men's Hockey team defeated the Soviet and went on to win the gold medal the next night or two nights later. I knew things had gotten out of hand because I was working in City Hall at the time for an elected official and some of her colleagues who were just blowhards were going around pumping their fists and saying over and over again, "USA, USA, USA." It felt as if the entire country was going on some jingoistic binge because the US hockey team had defeated the Soviet Union's team.

I had played enough sports in my life to know that the best teams don't always win and while it was good to see a team that really was made up of amateurs rise to the occasion and play the best game of their lives, they weren't the best team. They deserved their victory and all the good things that came with it but all that nationalistic fist pumping in America turned me off. Their triumph against a team of professionals should have been savored and enjoyed for the rare jewel that it was.

Four years later the coverage of the games and particularly of those few events where Americans could do well went over the top where I was concerned. I'm one of those odd persons who actually enjoys watching events like the one where the competitors ski cross country carrying a rifle and have to periodically stop and shoot at a target. I am not interested in background stories about athletes and all that fluffy nonsense that NBC believes it has to emphasize in order to attract enough women, for example, in the right demographic group to justify demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sellers of deodorant and processed food.

I used to enjoy watching the ice skating competition because the things the skaters did was so athletically difficult to pull off. Hell, I didn't care that a lot of the men skaters were gay. I just loved watching them do something that took a lot of practice and talent to pull off but NBC sucked the pleasure out of this event for me as well. And what NBC didn't kill the judges and the scoring began killing long before that embarrassing rigmarole that occurred at the Salt Lake City Games.

I like Bryan Gumble a lot although I could never bear to watch the Today Show. I lost interest when they took away J. Fred Muggs. I have always thought that Gumble was a terribly smart person who didn't appreciate being expected to act like a pitchman for people who weren't very smart or probably nice. I know that some folks regard him as arrogant but I don't see that at all. I disagree with him about the Winter Olympics, that is, the athletic performances. I don't disagree with him at all about the hoopla and hype that NBC and others have draped over the games.

Oh boy! I don't even watch the Summer Olympics anymore because of what is emphasized and deemphasized. I want to see the best athletes in the world. Most times I don't give a damn what country they come from. They're all from Planet Earth.

Last year I watched Roger Federer defeat my favorite tennis player, Andre Aggasi, live at the U.S. Open. I knew that Andre didn't have a chance because Federer was playing too well and, in case, is the better player; he might be the best of all time. I still enjoyed the match and drove home happy that I saw something so special. If Americans need to have an American win to enjoy a ball game or tennis match then they are missing something.

Posted by: ptcruiser100 [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 17, 2006 06:52 PM

I long for the day when we can get access to global television. When I spent several weeks in Sydney back in 2000, it was as if sports had been born again. I can't tell you how extraordinarily different it is to have real sports journalists who are practitioners of the sport provide the commentary. I basically stopped listening in the States when they had Jim McKay do the soccer commentary and Brian Musberger do anything.

About the only good commentary you can get in American sports on a consistent basis is in golf, even though the crowds have gone a bit rowdy. The OLN gave great coverage of the Tour de France a couple years back.

The whole starmaking business of media involvement in Sport is disgusting, and I wish it would stop. We could definitely use some micro sportcasting competition in the US. There were a couple interesting startups back in the dot com heyday, but that revolution aborted. I'd bet Mark Cuban has some good ideas about it.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 17, 2006 07:14 PM

big worm-

The distinction between "world's greatest athletes" and "world's greatest skiers, etc." was kind of his point, and appears to have sailed right over your head.

The (Summer Olympic version) "world's greatest athlete" is generally considered to be the decathlon champion.

Check out the percentage of blacks finishing in the top ten in this event over the last twenty years.

I wonder if Bryant watches?

Posted by: fletch at February 17, 2006 09:24 PM

I've not had the opportunity to go to the winter games but down here in New Zealand, during your Northern Hemisphere summer we host a lot of the world's best skiers going through their off season training programmes. The US and Austrian teams have been regulars in recent years.. Among other top skiers I've seen Bode Miller and Herman Mier doing their thing. I challenge anyone to watch what these guys do up close and dismiss them as minor athletes. Maybe Bryant just needs to get on skis a bit more himself to appreciate just how high they set the bar.

Posted by: mike at February 18, 2006 01:59 AM

There are blacks in the Winter Olympics, but they're easy to miss because their performances are so undistinguished. Shani Davis is a member of the US Speedskating Team, and he was in the news only for refusing to take part in the Team Pursuit event. Several blacks compete in ice skating, for the US and for other countries, and there are blacks among the snowboarders and among Nordic and Alpine skiers.

Blacks compete in the Winter Games, but they don't dominate, and that's Gumble's real complaint. So any sport in which blacks are minor players isn't a real sport, in his estimation.

That's racism, of course, and Gumble is a fool for believing he could talk this crap and nobody would notice.

Posted by: Richard Bennett [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 18, 2006 03:41 AM

I suppose you think his comment wasn't racist because it wasn't just that a black man agreed, but that it was a black man that said it.

Posted by: Barney15e [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 18, 2006 05:57 AM

Bennett, If that was Bryant's point, then you'd be absolutely right.

Barney, you're absolutely wrong.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 18, 2006 07:12 AM

All Gumbel really said is that Jimmy the Greek was right.

Jimmy the Greek is a racist for saying what he said because he's white. Gumbel can't be a racist for saying exactly the same thing because he's black. Simple, isn't it?

Then again, Gumbel is the whitest black guy on the planet, so...

Posted by: Pablo at February 18, 2006 07:17 AM

so youre saying that just because bryan gumbel is rich and speaks proper english and is intelligent and is a famous journalist, he's white. only white people can be those things, pablo?

Posted by: X at February 18, 2006 07:23 AM

What interested me most about Gumbel's comment is his belief that the 2004 Republican convention was all white or nearly so. In fact, as I noted in my own post on his comments, 10 percent of the GOP delegates were black. (The 2000 census found that 12.3 percent of all Americans are black.)

I have seen so little of Gumbel on television that I have no idea whether this error is typical of his work.

Here's the post, for those who want to follow my links back to their source, the New York Times: Here

Posted by: Jim Miller at February 18, 2006 07:48 AM

RE: Jimmy the Greek: What he said should not have gotten him fired, IMHO. He said that if the NFL allowed blacks to play quarterback, there would be no position left for white guys to play. It wasn't necessarily the truth or a lie, it was Jimmy's opinion. Then he went off on a tangent about why Black athletes were so big, and again, it wasn't necessarily the truth or a lie, but it was a conversation that NFL and CBS executives did not want to have, afterall, what did the NFL or CBS have to do with slavery, right?

In this case, Bryant Gumbel may be a genius. In that business, it's all about BUZZ, and he has it now, just by mentioning that to him, the Winter Olympics suck. For me, the Winter Olympics don't hold any special attraction--for that matter, I'm really only interested in Track and Field in the Summer Olympics. The basketball competition is okay, but I prefer NBA and NCAA to the Olympics.

Posted by: brotherbrown [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 18, 2006 12:26 PM

Limbaugh is being defended not because he's right, but because Michael Irvin, a black person, agreed with him.

You said it, not me. Bryant Gumbel is being defended not because he was right, but because Bryant Gumbel, a black person, said it.

Posted by: Barney15e [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 18, 2006 01:49 PM

You suggested that I defended Bryant out of two fallacies. 1. On racial solidarity because Bryant and I are black. 2. On the premise that blacks cannot be racist. You are wrong on both counts and so is anybody who defends Bryant on those terms.

Whitefolks have been known to engage a 'special pleading' for blacks based on their race when they contradict other blacks. This is exemplified in Bells Rules. That's what they did with Michael Irvin whose opinion they would not otherwise heed.

So there are three wrong reasons to defend Bryant. I defended Bryant because: #1.(80%) I didn't take race to be the thrust of his argument. 2. (20%) I think those who did were blowing it out of proportion given the ultimate weakness of his suggestion - don't watch TV.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 18, 2006 01:59 PM

You're right. I apologize. Saying that you cannot assemble the world's greatest athletes without an blacks is not racist at all. And no, you don't have a double-standard with respect to Rush Limbaugh's statements and Bryant Gumbel's.

Of course, Rush Limbaugh only stated that the Philly sports media attributed too much talent to McNabb because they so wanted a black quarterback to do well. I haven't seen that expressed at all, repeatedly, without failing, towards every black quarterback that has come about in my lifetime. It's never existed. You're right again.

You're on a roll, you're right again. Michael Irvin's own opinion is really of no value since he was supporting a rich white guy. I guess that leaves me with a couple of questions:
1) Are black people's opinions always of no value if used to support a white guy?
2) Or, do we have to wait for them to be approved by some black caucus somewhere?

Posted by: Barney15e at February 19, 2006 06:15 AM

I'm not saying those arguments didn't exist, simply that I personally didn't make them. Your observations are correct. But let me take you down an interesting rabbit hole...

Let's take the first idea: 'You can't assemble the world's greatest athletes without any blacks.'

You actually can't. For the same reason that you can't have the world's greatest if the world is not invited. The reason that the US wins so many gold medals is because we send so many athletes. We have a bigger talent pool. Anything that restricts the size of the talent pool decreases the total talent. You will surely have as many *winners* as ever, but you cannot conclusively say that they are the *best*. This is an argument you may have heard in support of diversity.

To answer your last two questions. No and no. But that doesn't mean there aren't people who believe the opposite.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 19, 2006 08:15 AM

I just think you brush aside Mr. Gumbel's comments. He should be held accountable the same way everyone else who has made similar stupid statements. Or, better yet, everyone can just agree that any opinions are fair game and let the marketplace decide. If enough people decide he was so stupid that they stop watching his programs, then the network can get rid of him. If they don't, then it really doesn't matter.

So, what is restricting the size of the talent pool? I've often wondered where you grow up learning to ski jump. I've never seen a ski jump at any of the places I've been, but then there is probably some huge lawsuit risk in having one.

Since your answers to both questions are no, why can't Michael Irvin's opinion stand on its own?

Posted by: Barney15e at February 19, 2006 08:20 PM

I do brush them aside. Let me put it plainly. My mother marched for Civil Rights when she was pregnant and people threw bricks at her. I've been stopped by cops about 30 times when I was a young man. There will never be a time when somebody's insults on TV are going to get my blood up. That may be horrid racism to people who've never been in a barfight but it's just talk to me.

Now as for Irvin, you're just going to have to ask a Dallas football fan for all the ugly details, but even as one who doesn't follow football, I knew that Michael Irvin was, in his day, considered one of the most scandalous players in the game. Actually, here's Wikipedia for you.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 19, 2006 08:48 PM

For Mr. Gumble,

It is a really unfortunate comment which you described recently about winter Olympic in Torino. I am not a fan of winter sport but rather a good fan of basket ball, football and boxing. What you have said is actually promoted racism and I believe it against the value of Dr. King’s philosophy. As a minority I found your comment very disturbing. I think in any kind of sports athletes come together to have one goal in mind is to compete regardless of race.
If you find the following mimic racist please forgive me. I have no intention whatsoever. I am trying to make the analogy here. What if someone says lack of Hispanic, Asian, and Middle East men at basket ball or foot ball game makes it look like watching bunch of tribesmen jump up and down in Africa?

Posted by: Heinz Phan at February 20, 2006 07:55 AM

Hard to resist the wit of something that sounds racist but actually isn't intended to be, isn't it? Maybe an analogy is just an analogy.

Posted by: Cobb [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 20, 2006 08:03 AM

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