Thursday, March 29, 2007

Warning - high explosives

Pro athletes are usually not as nimble off the field as they are on it. Then there's Michael Ray Richardson.
Before Tuesdays game against the Yakima Sun Kings, Richardson made anti-Semitic comments to two reporters in his office when discussing the contract general manager Jim Coyne had offered him Monday to coach his team in the CBA and USBL.

Not that Richardson is the 'tread carefully' type, but to trip headlong on the third rail? And then to go back and stomp on it repeatedly?
"I've got big-time lawyers," Richardson said, according to the Times Union. "I've got big-time Jew lawyers."

Oh, my...

When told by the reporters that the comment could be offensive to people because it plays to the stereotype that Jews are crafty and shrewd, he responded with, "Are you kidding me? They are. They've got the best security system in the world. Have you ever been to an airport in Tel Aviv? They're real crafty. Listen, they are hated all over the world, so they've got to be crafty."

First rule of holes - stop digging. Second rule - even if you think you have a point, you can't usually go back and make it after a great honking blow-up like this. Just stop, retract, and come back around later. If you have this kind of a gift for putting things the worst possible way, it's better just to stop and retract, and let other people handle the media.
And he continued, "They got a lot of power in this world, you know what I mean?" he said. "Which I think is great. I don't think there's nothing wrong with it. If you look in most professional sports, they're run by Jewish people. If you look at a lot of most successful corporations and stuff, more businesses, they're run by Jewish. It's not a knock, but they are some crafty people."

At this point, saying "there's nothing wrong with it, I think it's great, they're very successful" is useless. The reporters were almost certainly slack-jawed, eyes widening in horror. This is like thinking it's OK to jump from the top of the Chrysler Building because you're aiming for the sofa cushion you dumped out on the sidewalk.

Richardson is going to be sacked, for certain, which is itself a shame. He'd turned himself around and gotten free of the cocaine habit that derailed his NBA playing career. (Note to all you kids out there: drugs mess up your brain.) Since I have no blogging "career" to speak of, I'm going to go ahead and try to get around this delicately.

Richardson was stereotypical, sure as shooting. "Insulting" is accurate, "clumsy" a definite. He was asked absolutely nothing about race, so his decision to bring it into the discussion is truly bizarre - the biggest indication that it's anti-Semitism in play. Whatever he may have meant to say, he missed the mark, unless the mark was his own keister, in which case, bullseye. His "they've got a lot of power" line was straight out of the Cliff's Notes to World Conspiracies.

Here's the question - if he had been asked about race, and sipmly replied, "I admire anyone who can do well for himself despite great hardship and opposition," and left it at that, would he be getting suspended and eventually fired? He could even make the case that he'd done the same thing by kicking his coke jones, and we'd have had an uplifting human interest story instead of a spectacular self-immolation. There's the barest scrap of a hint of that sort of statement deep under all the insane crap he did say.

Against this, there's the half-apologetic, "Not that there's anything wrong with that," which is often what people toss out after leaving the impression that they DO think something's wrong with it. The article also mentions that he'd spat out a Coulterism at a heckler, which should have already gotten him a pink slip - insulting the paying customers is bad for business.

Oh - and I love the statement his team made afterward:

"The Albany Patroons' organization sincerely apologizes to any individuals or ethnic groups that these alleged statements may have offended," the statement read. [in part]

Alleged? Two witnesses, likely an audio recording - nothing alleged here, guys. He straight-out said it. How about, "Coach is good at basketball, and bad at thinking. He realizes that he just insulted a good majority of the country. He's sorry about that. So are we. We're considering our options." And he is sorry. He says in his own statement, "[The suspension] is terrible and I don't think it's fair... But I want to make an apology if I offended anyone because that's not me."

In other words, it's possible that all he sees in himself is that scrap of compliment, and thus he can't see why he should be punished for what (in his mind) is mere clumsiness. The larger picture - that his words amounted to, "Jews are pretty good people even if they are Jewish" - is entirely lost on him. All speculation is moot. He's toast and he deserves it, but I can't help but have a little sadness for the guy, that he could be so completely blind to how he sounded and what he meant.

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