News/Commentary

Joe Jackson Arrested, David Fizdale Speaks Out, Politics & Sports

JOE JACKSON ARRESTED

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The news broke Wednesday evening that former Tiger great Joe Jackson was arrested in Memphis on gun and drug charges.

Even with the presumption of innocence, it’s a depressing turn for a guy who once held the entire hopes of the Memphis Iprogram on his slight but legendarily sturdy shoulders.

Here’s hoping that Jackson, a 2014 U of M graduate, moves past this incident and onto better things.

For fans of the program, the narrative arc of Jackson’s basketball career is just more evidence that the overwhelming majority of D1 caliber Memphis High School players are better off at non-local colleges and that the U of M Basketball program is better off with a roster made up primarily of non-local prospects.

That fact has now been proven, in my estimation, beyond a reasonable doubt.

FIZDALE SPEAKS OUT

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Grizzlies coach David Fizdale spoke out Wednesday on President Trump’s recent comments regarding the racial violence last weekend in Charlottesville, VA.

My first reaction after reading Fizdale’s comments was to think that the “stick to sports” takes would pile up pretty fast and ignite something of a firestorm in Memphis.

As of this evening, it appears my first reaction was wrong.

That’s a good thing for all of us.

It’s 2017.

Sports and politics are irreversibly intertwined.

People seem to be getting used to that fact.

Sports as a powerful political platform are nothing new.  Whether it’s Muhammad Ali taking a stand against the Vietnam War, Black Power salutes in 1968 Olympics or Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the National Anthem – athletes have been using their platform to draw attention to political causes for decades.

Furthermore, in the Twitter age, everyone has a platform.  Why should athletes and coaches be criticized for doing what the rest of us do all day long?

They shouldn’t.

Thankfully, it appears increasingly that they aren’t.

SPORTS DIMINISHED & DEBASED

Political viewpoints aside, one sad development to me is how much the current social media and political environment seems to have taken away from our collective enjoyment of sports.

Politics and sports overlap quite a bit. The same types of people are drawn to both and follow both.

In a normal political and social environment, the month of August (for sports fans in Memphis, anyway) would be dominated by anticipation of the upcoming football and basketball seasons. Twitter and casual conversation would be geared toward SEC football practice, the Tigers, etc…

2017 isn’t normal. 

In our current environment, politics is sucking all the oxygen out of the room.  Watching national politics in 2017 is akin to binge watching 5 seasons of a Netflix series in the course of one weekend.  It’s riveting, but the laundry and grocery shopping won’t be getting done.

Even the local sports dialogue that does break through the noise has necessarily assumed the same toxic divisive tone of our political discourse. The local media’s coverage of Memphis Tiger Basketball Head Coach Tubby Smith, for example, has been dark, cynical and I wonder if it isn’t tinged with a vague subconscious racial animus.

Would a white coach with Tubby Smith’s credentials be taking the same kind of heat?

I don’t know, but it’s an interesting question to ask isn’t it?


Follow Jay Brenner on Twitter @_bballjones

 

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