Monday, 14 October 2013

Judging bad taste, Bob Costas style

Dan Snyder Mike Shanahan, the new Executive Vice President and head coach of the Washington Redskins and owner Dan Snyder (L) shake hands before a press conference welcoming Shanahan to the Redskins on January 6, 2010 at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Virginia.
Snyder & Shanahan, when they  thought the situation was under control.

The following is a copy of an email I sent to Shane French, host of Rover's Morning Glory. I've written Rover numerous times, and one of my criticisms of him is his attitude towards American Indian mascots in pro sports.

Yo Rover:

I was wondering why you didn't comment on the remarks of NBC Sports' Bob Costas yesterday night during the Dallas-Washington game. I've always been a huge Cowboys fan and part of being one is our rivalry with Washington. As you may have noticed I've written you before about how our baseball team should change its name and end its legacy of denial. I would say that by ridding the football team of the Redskins nickname we as followers of this rivalry, regardless of which side, would lose a symbolic element of it. 

And so be it. As Costas concluded, "no offense has been intended, but if you take a step back, isn’t it clear to see how offense might legitimately be taken?” After a long meandering monologue, Costas finally made sense. In the past couple years I've been the target of slurs about my own religion and ethnicity on a daily basis, and I've admittedly responded sometimes with the same type of trash talk. Some would say it's racism; I say it's the price of living in a society where the hatred we once hid inside is now a form of self-expression. 

You're usually the type of radio host who says that politics should be left out of sports, but don't hold your breath. The Miracle on Ice, Tebow, John Rocker, and other events or people in sports have always had a significance that transcends X's and O's. Just last year Washington area writer Dave Sheinin wrote a book about Robert Griffin III and his being called Black Jesus by some people. How's that working out.

Every year since I was in elementary school the  important two dates of the year were when we would trade blows with a team that uses imagery of warrior savages blind with rage. They're not using Indian imagery because the Indians helped the Pilgrims or traded furs with colonists. If I turned around and rooted for Chief Wahoo or another Indian themed team, then what objection would I have to the team being called the Cleveland Christkillers? I think that a tradition that is intrinsically painful and degrading towards someone else doesn't really deserve the benefit of the doubt. That might be strange logic to someone who runs cactus soccer contests like you, but try to understand  this side of the argument.

Ramon Epstein

So there you have it, I'm backing up the Arch-Geek of sports commentators, Bob Costas, against that of one of the radio programmes I'm most addicted to. But when you're right you're right, and good for Costas. Unfortunately for Daniel Snyder, Mike Shanahan, RG3, and their cohorts, it's now clear that the great saviour from Baylor isn't enough to compensate for their team's crappy composition. Also, the mascot and name controversy are no longer fringe issues that Snyder can suppress. It's starting to snowball, and in truly ironic fashion the Redskins are being upstaged by the Oneida nation, and Indian tribe that numbers in the tens of thousands. Snyder, who like myself and many of his critics, is Jewish, pledged that he would NEVER change the team name. I'd say that Snyder is fighting for a fake cause with a disgraceful legacy. And I'll keep my eyes open for the next crack in his wall. . .

Monday, 2 September 2013

A nutrasweet year

The city streets are full of people going nowhere making time. . .
           The change from night to day is  really only hours. . .c
           it's just along the line can't you see the sign.  <Tightrope, by Jeff Lynne>

This evening finds me three days before the new year in my religion, Judaism. . . Yesterday we read the portion relating to the passing of the man considered the paragon of humility and wisdom, Moses. This is something we read annually as the new year approaches, and it brings closure to the saga of one of the most exceptional people who ever walked the earth. The above quote talks about people making time for nothing, but in Moses' case even the greatest human specimen had a limited window on earth to what he could and succumbed to mortality.

I sometimes try to imagine Moses as a person, and end up drawing a blank. This week a black studies professor at my school declared that Moses, along with virtually every other figure in scripture, was black. Does that really explain who he was? The legacy of this man was in his words and his acts, not in some superficial aspect of his appearance. 

The reason that I think of Moses today, is because of another unique aspect of his life,  one that I've found lacking in my own. It's become clear of late that I've failed to earn the trust of my peers. I go into my job, or my class, or some other activity, and I throw my best effort into it. Success eludes me, and my sleep is restless, because satisfaction is foreign to me.

I don't think that this internal problem translates into the image projected outward. In fact, it seems that I chronically need to prove to the rest of the world that I mean business. It seems that with most people I can't earn the status of being a trusted colleague, but only a service provider; someone to do the more mundane work, like editing a term paper or a programme code. I'll give a brief example. This summer I pitched an important project to two  students in my department, both of which have seen my work. I'll call them Jeff and Sharon.  The project is an idea from somebody much older than me that I respect and view as a mentor.

Jeff responded that he really was interested and would be up for it. Sharon also thought it had potential  but expressed reservations. She didn't think she was ready to commit to a group. When she told me this I took it at face value, knowing it was still over a month until the class was due to start. But as the weeks dragged on and there was no word back, I realized that I'd better start looking someplace else. I viewed it as a worse rejection to receive no reply than a negative one.

Contemplating this now, I can come to only one conclusion: My offer wasn't ignored because it was a bad project. Not because I have a reputation for poor work, either. I really think that the only strike against it was the fact that I am involved, and nothing else. Maybe Sharon thinks I tried to put the moves on her. I know, however, that my main need for her in the group would have been her design and solid mechanics skills. I pitched the project using ample topic information for her to investigate.

I think this issue is rather far from that of Moses facing imminent death, but it's moments like this that I wish I could have some of the trust that the Israelites placed in him. For forty years they relied on his judgment, and with few exceptions gave Moses the benefit of the doubt that he wasn't just craving power and prestige.I think that even in my modest station in life my credibility is low, and people second guess me.

The only recourse I have is my patience and the desire to defy those expectations. I hope that I've caused some people to regret their mistrust of me in the past, but it doesn't matter. It would stand to reason that I reciprocate this treatment to others around me, and I hope to correct that in the coming year.