"Mr. Parish, although a worthy consideration, would not be a 'close call' with Terry Bradshaw if the hypersensitive racial climate was not a reality, thanks to our beloved potus."
|Robert Parish, "The Chief," had a career|
that was hard to top (photo from Getty Images)
Read that Facebook comment above, and what does it say to you?
That Robert Parish was nowhere as good as athlete as Terry Bradshaw? That he only is so highly regarded because he is an African-American? And that it is President Obama's fault?
That's how I read it. And what else do I read? That it's an offensive remark. Yes, I do.
There's no place for it here. It's an ignorant comment. It's a comment that belongs in the past. Unfortunately, it's in the present. And that stinks.
The background: A week ago when the Louisiana Tech Football page on Facebook posted a congratulatory note about Terry Bradshaw being selected No. 1 in The Shreveport Times' poll of the greatest athletes with Shreveport-Bossier ties, I posted a comment saying it was a close call between Terry and Robert at No. 1.
I made the same statement in the first blog piece I wrote about The Times' poll and my vote in it. I didn't name Bradshaw and Parish then because it wasn't time to reveal my vote, but they were clearly Nos. 1 and 2 for me in that poll.
And, not necessarily in that order. I can make a very good case for Parish being a greater player than Bradshaw.
I would have had no quarrel if the rest of the panel had decided to put Robert at No. 1. I think that much of both guys, and I was proud to have played a small role in their careers (compiled their stats when they were in high school and college, wrote about them for various newspapers).
But, damn, let's not make this a racial issue.
Race had absolutely nothing to do with the way I voted in this poll, and I'd like to think it had little or nothing to do in the way I wrote about athletics or the way my papers covered them.
My theory: Best to try to be color blind when it comes to athletics.
Of course, there were times when I was accused -- one way or the other -- of leaning toward one race. I'm sure that's happened to a lot of writers at a lot of papers. Ask my friend Buddy Davis how often people in Ruston, La. -- home of Louisiana Tech -- chided him for his coverage of nearby Grambling State University athletics.
I've written about race and my coverage in athletics previously, about the days when high schools and college programs integrated. Earlier this year I wrote a four-part series on the first black athletes in football and basketball at Louisiana Tech. I enjoyed doing those, talking to some of those former athletes.
And so, it was a bit stunning -- and disappointing -- to see that comment on a Louisiana Tech page. I know the name of the person who posted it, but it's not worth posting for you.
But (1) I think it reflects badly on Louisiana Tech, where he apparently has ties to the school, and that's too bad because Tech, like a lot of universities, has done a good job mixing its black athletes with the whites; (2) it is not at all fair to Robert Parish and (3) why bring President Obama into this?
I think, I hope, Louisiana Tech has come a long way since the May night in 1968 when I heard cheering -- enough to tee me off -- when the death of Dr. Martin Luther King was announced on television in the dormitory.
On Parish, he -- like Bradshaw -- played on four championship teams in the pros. Robert's high school and college careers were sensational, and he played more games than anyone in NBA history. He played 21 years in the NBA and was chosen as one of the all-time top 50 players.
The only reason I gave my No. 1 vote to Bradshaw was he was the MVP in two Super Bowl victories, and Parish did not earn that type honor in the NBA Finals. But I can argue that on a game-to-game basis, Robert was more consistently a star than Terry and certainly for much longer.
In a blog piece last week on The Times' top-20 greatest Shreveport-Bossier athletes poll, I criticized the exclusion of Willard Brown, a baseball star of the 1930s, '40s and early '50s, mostly in the Negro Leagues. But I don't think he wasn't in the poll because he was a black player; I think he wasn't in it because voters weren't aware of how good he was, and his ability -- some felt -- was hard to measure.
Without a whole discussion on race -- I don't profess to have any expertise; I am a sports writer, not a social commentator -- it's obvious we still have a tremendous racial divide in this country.
Sure, we have come a long way since the 1950s and '60s when I was a kid, but you see the many situations in the news today -- Ferguson, Mo., New York City, Baltimore, white cops killing black people (as in nearby Arlington, Texas, recently), a black man killing a white cop in my hometown -- and we have plenty of problems still.
Blame President Obama? Too easy. When is the President, any President, not blamed for everything by one party or another, by one race or another?
The anti-Obama sentiment, sadly, crosses racial lines far too often. At least that's what I see on Facebook, and I don't like it. It's acceptable to be critical of one's politics; it's unacceptable to be personally hateful. I can't go there.
There are athletes I think are punks, it's because they act or talk like self-centered fools. But it's not a black-white-Hispanic thing, and some of them even play for teams I love. But hate? No, they're people, with families -- and fans -- who love them.
Back to the comment at the top: When, exactly, since the 1950s when black people seriously began standing up for themselves, have we not had a "hypersensitive racial climate?"
Abrasive, pointed, uncivil remarks don't do anyone any good.
I would suggest the world, and America, would be a better place if we were color blind. That's just too idealistic. Reality says we should keep working on solving the racial divide, not split it open.
To make a racial issue of a newspaper poll that was fun to think about and discuss, a poll that is innocuous but debate-worthy, that's just really out of place. It's not fair.
Don't diminish Robert Parish's career. Better to recognize -- and not be ignorant -- that "The Chief" was every bit the equal athlete, if not better, than "The Blond Bomber."