Monday, April 28, 2014

Open Mouth.....

Having posted the blog tour blog, I wasn’t going to write a regular edition, but changed my mind. There is something I want to get off this rather considerable chest.

Every so often, there are moments of transcendence. One can never plan to have one, be in the same room as one, or have so much of an inkling one is about to happen, but one happened yesterday and it came all the way from Asia. It was a simple statement made in response to the kind of news we seem to be having a whole lot of lately.

President Obama, when asked about the Donald Sterling/Clippers debacle, said simply:
When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don’t have to do anything, you just let them talk.

Mark Twain
That will go down as one of the most brilliant, astute commentaries on modern life. It will become a meme. People will truck it out the way they truck out other famous stupidity quotes like:
"Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience."        

Albert Einstein
"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."  
Forrest Gump

"Stupid is as stupid does."   

See, there’s this entire cottage industry centered around the collection of offensive statements by random Americans. Just google Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, Scott Walker, or Michele Bachmann. You'll find all sorts of hideously offensive stuff masquerading as cogent political thought. 

Seems we have a whole lot more people opening their mouths to allow all manner of dumb to fall out. Just last week  Cliven Bundy was auditioning for poster child. Alas, Donald Sterling has trumped even him.

Donald Sterling already had a dicey reputation as a racist, but the NAACP was about to give him a lifetime achievement award for his generosity on behalf of young people at risk. Kinda reminded me of that urban legend about the kiddie show host who said, “That oughta hold the little bastards.” While that was debunked long ago, these days, microphones are left on and we get to hear all sorts of unscripted things. Donald Sterling might now hold the record for the broadest range of offensive remarks in a single recording.

But here’s the thing: the President is so spot on here. If you suspect someone is a hater of any stripe and want to know how truly heinous their opinions are, engage them in an friendly conversation. Truly stupid people have no ability to self-edit. They will happily explain their homophobic/racist/anti-Semitic theories in sotto voce,  assured that you will be joining up with them right away. Or, as George Bernard Shaw's best dustman proclaimed, "I'm willing to tell you. I'm wanting to tell you. I'm waiting to tell you." In fact, just like Alfred P. Doolittle, you won't be able to shut them up either.

I digress. Let's go back to Donald Sterling and the LA Clippers. Pro sports has been compared to slavery but with the slaves getting lots and lots of money. The players may have a union, but they are fundamentally gladiators bought, sold, and traded at the owner's whim. Therefore, it should come as no surprise when an owner sounds like the master from down on the plantation. After all, he has, as Mr. Sterling pointed out, given his players "food, and clothes, and cars, and houses." Just like the master. I suppose he also thinks they should be grateful. .....

While most sentient human beings see this as a problem, the system does not look to be changing any time soon, but change it will....eventually...when the teams start being owned by more former players and coaches....people who understand how flawed the system is, and who might be able to change it. 

Yes, Donald Sterling is a grotesque caricature; he is a gargoyle...but he is not uncommon. When we talk about the 2%'ers and the wage equity gap, there is your living proof that it's not always about the amount of money. It's about the power that amount of money can wield. As rich as many of the players are, as much as some of them manage to fall into the top 5%, it's not enough to give them power. The money gives them flash and some transitory prestige, but it does not open the doors that need to be opened to participate in the upper crust. If it did, Magic Johnson would be a Republican.  

Next time you shell out for a big ticket sports event, remember that. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Pro sports fans are not born; they are created by mass media. 


  1. You don't know much about the economics of the NBA. The average NBA player earns $5.15M salary and has a career of 4.8 yrs for a lifetime income of $24.7M.

    According to the Tax Policy Center, if your annual household income is $107,628, you are in the top 20% of income earners. If your income exceeds $148,687, you are in the top 10%. You are in the top 5% if it is $208,810. And if your household income is $521,411, congratulations. You are in the top 1%

    NBA players are comfortably in the top 1% even with short careers.

    Magic Johnson is the public face of Guggenheim Partners who own the LA Dodgers (MLB), LA Sparks (WNBA) and soon the LA Clippers (NBA). They wanted to buy the LA Lakers (Magic's old NBA team) but the Buss family doesn't want to sell.

    Donald Streling has a net worth of $1.9B.

  2. Thanks for the lesson...much appreciated. I was thinking in terms of money spent as well as money in, leaving some players with little to show for any NBA career when its over. But you're absolutely right when you say that during the earning years it is in the top 1%...even if it's only for a while.

  3. The majority of sports stars are broke a few years after they leave the league. Sterling, however, remains a billionaire. Old(er) money, it works wonders. Sterling needs to recognize that he can say whatever he wants but it might irk people when he does. Just like Phil Robertson can say what he likes but he needs to understand there may be less people willing to tune into Duck Dynasty because of his archaic views.
    What's more unfortunate, is that conservative commentators have begun to chime in as well. Shockingly Rush Limbaugh blames Obama and says this is just getting blown up because Sterling is a democrat who didn't donate enough to the President. Odd comments given Sterling is a registered Republican and the President isn't currently running for office. But the blowhard has the right to say what he wants. I think he may be the perfect example of the type of individual President Obama was describing in his statement today. Einstein was definitely right about Limbaugh - his stupidity is endless.
    I'm glad the President said what needed to be said. Unfortunately, I don't have much faith that his statement will mean much in the current media environment. Here's to hoping someone actually deems it important to carry the story and that Rush and his progeny don't twist it into some ridiculous conspiracy theory. We can hope...

  4. Saw your post on Bittman - lox and bagels.."Newbridge Road" brought back great memories for me. I was a lifeguard at the Town of Hempstead N Road pool for years..every summer and then after school in the winter I would work skating as a rink gurad at the indoor skating rink. I grew up in Rockville Centre. PS they have awful bagels there.