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For a brief moment in 1998, however, I considered the love affair all over again, thanks to

Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.  As both men chased down one of the most coveted

records in professional sports (Maris’ 61 home runs in a season) I grew interested again

 

 

Blame A-Rod, Spoil the Child 

By William Broussard, Ph.D.

 

As a pre-teen, I loved the Toronto Blue Jays.  This was an irrational love affair, given that I’d never been to Canada (I’d later discover that Toronto was one of the most beautiful cities on Earth) or even met a Canadian at this point in my life (I’d later discover that a Canadian was one of the most beautiful people on Earth, and convince her to marry me).   I didn’t love ‘The Jays’ because of their location.  I certainly didn’t beg my parents to take us to Arlington, Texas every summer to watch the Rangers play (but they did play the Jays every summer!), and I didn’t love The Jays because of their jerseys (two-tone blue, ultramarine over powder). 

No, I loved them because of George Bell.  In fact, one summer, less than a week before Nolan Ryan would strike out his 5,000th batter, I would meet him and ask him if he knew George Bell (as if to say I bet you won’t strike him out tonight!).  You might not remember George Bell … just imagine Ice Cube six inches taller with wider shoulders and a better build … more his 100 Miles and Runnin’ days than his Are We There Yet? days.  I loved everything about his style of play – his ability to hit the ball, his athleticism in the field, and his leadership in the clubhouse. It was because of him that I followed the Jays so closely, celebrated their wins and dreaded their losses, and recoiled when the Canadian flag was flown upside down at the World Series (even though Bell is Dominican). 

My brother and I would play baseball in the backyard, he with his St. Louis Cardinals cap on, and me with my Jays hat, swingin’ for the fences every time like Bell, but hustlin’ toward second if I happened to punch one through the infield, which for our purposes, was a fig tree in the middle of the yard. 

That was some time ago.  Today, I come by the story of Alex Rodriguez admitting his use of anabolic steroids from 2001-2003 as someone who has not considered himself more than a casual Major League Baseball fan for more than a decade.  I haven’t watched a game from opening pitch to final at bat in many, many years.  I know the difference between Dwight Howard and Ryan Howard, for example, but couldn’t pick either one out of a lineup without considerable assistance (or unless one of them was wearing a Phillies cap). 

I am neither a casualty of the short lived Yankees dynasty of the late 1990’s (I hate the Yanks), or more recently, of Barry Bonds* eclipsing of Hank Aaron’s home run record (there’s no footnote, btw, I’m just assuming that the asterisk will heretofore be part of his name).  In fact, generally speaking, whether I follow a sport closely or not, I have a tendency, like most folks, to become a fan when any athlete is about to break a long-held record (in fact, if I hear that someone is on 7:45 pace in the 3000m steeplechase, I’ll tear away from this computer so fast …). 

No, I stopped following baseball the summer of 1994.  For 232 days, players and owners walked away from the fans over what essentially was a dispute over the worsening financial situation of MLB, and fans across the country were outraged.  In a nightmare envisioned by Durkheim nearly a century earlier, the socialization of religion had come to roost, and for many, the altars at which they worshipped six months out of every year had been destroyed, and hope for nirvana (you know, their team reaching the post-season, or favorite player being named an All-Star) had been stripped away from them.  For many fans, this was tantamount to theft—they were being robbed of the opportunity to see their favorite teams and players teeter and totter, get hot and go cold, and of the catharsis of reaching the ultimate goal—winning a pennant. 

Fans packed away their team-themed knick-knacks, cancelled their cross-country commutes, folded and tucked away their jerseys, and simultaneously swore they’d never again—never again—root for a bunch of overpaid crybabies and their ne’er do well bosses.  Though I never wore the jerseys or followed my favorite team to the point of obsession, I shared this sentiment.  I thought it was just about greedy players, and blamed them for taking baseball away from me.  If only I’d understood every labor dispute has at least two sides.

For a brief moment in 1998, however, I considered the love affair all over again, thanks to Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.  As both men chased down one of the most coveted records in professional sports (Maris’ 61 home runs in a season) I grew interested again and found myself not only watching Cubs games with interest, but Cardinals games too (remember me and my brother used to play Jays vs. Cards all the time? I hated the Cards).  In what was a wire-to-wire contest between the two men, the whole world tuned in as the aloof McGwire and the ever-affable Sosa banged out dinger after dinger all summer long. 

Being the baseball card collector that I was, I hunted down their rookie cards to make sure that they were in mint condition and safely stored away.  Of course each of them was noticeably more muscular now.  And of course two men in their 30’s shouldn’t be hitting the ball like men ten years their junior, but no one cared.  No one cared!  The doldrums of ’94 were gone, and America’s pastime was back to stay. 

Until we discovered they were all using performance enhancing drugs.  It was ’94 all over again.

I imagine that, across the country, many 14-year olds are watching baseball with the same critical and judgmental eye that I once did.  They’re giving up on baseball.  When A-Rod, one of the most consistent, well-liked, and powerful hitters in the game (he is on pace to absolutely demolish Bonds*’s record) is discovered to be under the influence of performance enhancers, and many more likely to come as long as the players union keeps leaking names, the cynicism is understandable. 

And while I do not claim that A-Rod should be spared public scrutiny (he certainly will have many opportunities to face the music), I do hope that a responsible sports media, rather than sensationalizing the latest story, chooses instead to investigate the system that has produced one A-Rod after another after another.  They should investigate the owners who either knowingly sanction the use of performance enhancers to ensure the marketability of MLB’s product or unwittingly fail to acknowledge the use when it occurs (unless, the owners think it’s natural to put on 30 lbs of lean muscle in a single off-season and play 10 consecutive 162 game seasons without injury). 

It also includes owners and league officials who have shrunk the strike zone to the size of a wasabi-flavored pea and “juiced” the ball, creating the environment in which more runs were scored and more home runs hit.  It also includes scrutiny of the fans themselves, whose tastes have become altered to expect their favorite players to hit more and more souvenirs out of the park, and the media who glorify the big hitters.  Though A-Rod will shoulder the bulk of the most recent wave of blame from fans and media alike, there are many more to blame, or at the very least, who are complicit in baseball’s demise in American popular culture. 

It’s probably too late for me.  But for the sake of that 14 year-old who excitedly dons that A-Rod jersey every opening day, I hope this instance finally opens up a more insightful and critical discussion (more than, say, a few late night sports programs giving drug-addled provocateur Jose Canseco 5 minutes on the mic). 

Unfortunately, for our dominant sports media, all too prone to sensationalize stories rather than investigate closely, I’d sooner expect to see George Bell in the Jays’ starting line-up again before that happened.

William Broussard is an Associate Director of Athletics and Assistant Professor of Journalism and Public Relations at Northwestern State University, Louisiana who has published on the intersections of sport and culture, college athletics administration, and community literacy.

posted 4 March 2009

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 27 December 2011

 

 

 

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