Joe DiMaggio, where have you gone? One could add Babe Ruth, Bobby Hull, and Dick Butkus. On good days American sports stars were treated more as gods than as mortal heroes, but on bad days they were booed mercilessly by fans. Booing is a grand old American tradition, but like nearly everything that’s traditional, it’s now under attack. Last fall the San Diego Padres proposed banning at Jack Murphy Stadium all signs, banners, and expressions “critical of the team’s management.” The A.C.L.U. intervened and convinced the team’s owners to drop the proposal. “By affirming that fans may [be] critical of the team’s ownership and management,” said an A.C.L.U. spokeswoman, “the Padres have upheld this tradition.” The woman obviously thought all’s well that ends well, but this was a Pyrrhic victory at best. If booing has to be defended as a “human right,” then it’s hardly worth the effort.
The long arm of human rights and the A.C.L.U. has even reached down to the small ranching community of Hempstead, Texas, where the school board barred pregnant tarts from the high school cheerleading squad last October. The A.C.L.U. threatened law suits, the National Organization for Women claimed the ruling violated Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments, and the federal government threatened to cut off funds to the community. Unsurprisingly, the town caved in the following month and reversed its ruling. “We are not rich enough to fight the deep pockets from the outside,” said the school board president.
There’s no doubt about it. Sports, which used to be a wild-game preserve for brutish, insensitive males, have been conquered by feminists, multiculturalists, and antiwhite racists. Ice skating is now taken seriously as one of our hallowed national pastimes, and sportswriters regularly pose as Freuds and Skinners and pontificate on such “news” as the victimization of Tonya Harding by patriarchy and poverty. A sporting event actually worthy of cultural commentary was the Wisconsin-Michigan State football game played last December. This was the most important game for Wisconsin in 31 years, for a victory meant that the Badgers would earn a trip to the coveted Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. And yet where was the game played? Not in the Midwest, but thousands of miles away in the Tokyo Dome—just another regional sacrifice on the altar of transnationalism.
A few years ago, Garry Trudeau made fun of Michael Milken for lecturing to university students, but where were the satirists when the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania invited boxing shyster Don King to give a lecture on entrepreneurship? Addressing a packed audience last November, King offered our future business leaders the following sage advice: “Image is the most important thing”; “You must write it on before you write it off” (this from a guy once charged with 24 counts of income-tax evasion); and “Never underestimate yourself. I have had setbacks every now and then. Failures? Never.” Apparently beating a man to death over a gambling debt, for which he did four years in prison, doesn’t count as a “failure” in King’s moral ledger.
When football commissioner Paul Tigliabue chastised Arizonans in 1991 by denying them the Super Bowl because they didn’t have a paid holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., this was only a preview of coming attractions. After Michael Jordan’s father was murdered last summer, national sportswriters and the news media predictably implied that white racism had had a hand in the tragedy. The rural, white. Southern coroner who cremated the decomposed body of what was then considered a John Doe, you see, did so because the corpse was black, and, after all, we all know that that’s the way the Redneck South has always and will always treat African-Americans. No one in the national press dare point out the obvious: that the father of one of the country’s greatest athletes, of one of the black community’s foremost heroes, had been killed not by a white but apparently by another black. It is exactly this type of racial politics that prevents any sustained national rebuke of such hustlers as Jesse Jackson, who cried at the annual Buffalo Bills Boondoggle last January that the NFL is racist because it allowed the Super Bowl to be played in a state that still flies the Stars and Bars. And it is this same apoplexy concerning issues of race that prevents colleges and universities from combating the specious charges of organizations like the Black Coaches Association, which regularly whines that because the Third World-level admission standards of our state universities are still too high for many black athletes, racism reigns—ipso facto—in the halls of academe.
Big-time sports are clearly now as racist and politicized as the other institutions of American culture, and the target is increasingly that vanishing American, the straight white male. The rednecks and beerguts who subsidize the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB had better find something else to do with their weekends. Tennis, anyone?