An Open Letter to my Fellow Americans

In the past 48 hours, there has been much chatter about the NBA requiring its teams to play the national anthem response to the Dallas Mavericks opting not to so initially for home games, especially as limited numbers of fans gradually begin to enter arenas once again. It is quite interesting that the matter was mostly unnoticed this season until a reporter was keenly aware of it and inquired about the situation.

            Unfortunately, the latest developments in this story have reverted to the selfsame narrative that we have been discussing since 2016 as to the merits of the national anthem and what is generally expected from each American during the observance of the red, white, and blue iconography. It seems to be a myriad of interpretations as to what is deemed respectful depending upon whom you ask.

            Although there have been many facts relating to how The Star-Spangled Banner evolved from a British tavern tune to what eventually became attributed to Francis Scott Key even with his atrocious, infamous third stanza, the contention of many citizens centers on the malfeasances of the nation from the past until present.

            Nevertheless, all of these factors surrounding The Star-Spangled Banner and the visceral reactions to it may not necessarily be mitigated if it was removed in favor of God Bless America or Ray Charles’ stirring rendition of America the Beautiful. Some are not open to the concept of even playing a national anthem before sporting events until the United States is perfected into a utopian society.

            Regardless of how realistic this is or not, based upon whose standards are we to accept that the prerequisites of egalitarianism have been achieved and for how long of a duration? While we do not want our liberties to be curtailed in the manner in which Communist China would purportedly send people to “reeducation camps” for violating their dictates, it still should be our goal to find opportunities to unite as fellow Americans whether we choose to stand, sit, or kneel.

            The fact remains that any general, national observance of our national symbols does not mean that it is automatically a representation of jingoism, xenophobia, or even ignorance of the injustices of the past. We should acknowledge our foibles while endeavoring to strive for perfection in our union even though we understand that our imperfect condition may prevent us from completely achieving this goal.

            The beauty of the United States over totalitarian regimes is that the freedom of expression is optional already. We do not need to circumvent the national anthem to avoid some sort of consternation. It may not feasible to please everyone at every moment, but we certainly can be cognizant of diverse opinions while observing the common bond within our republic simultaneously.

The Janus-faced Nature of American Sports

While many in our society are in the process of preparing Bûche de Noël among other delicacies, contestations occurred moments following the announcement of this season’s College Football Playoff participants. The nature of these debates ranged from the legitimacy of Ohio State making it into the semifinals after only playing six games to the University of Cincinnati Bearcats not being granted ingress after finishing their undefeated season.

            Of course, the old familiar refrain of expanding the playoff field once the current contract ends began to dominate the discussion as being the panacea of all that ails the FBS. Naïve college football fans believe the ben trovato of additional teams added to the field will open the path for Coastal Carolina, Cincinnati, and others instead of the blue bloods that comprise programs from the Power Five conferences.

            The economic realities of the American system make ratings the essential component of the CFP. That being said, a matchup between Alabama and Cincinnati may lose its charm if the Crimson Tide scores 50 plus points against the Bearcats in a semifinal contest. In reality, Alabama just might score half of a hundred on any opponent regardless.

            When you have to depend upon sufficient advertisers to meet their financial obligations, it decreases the probability of non-traditional powers being selected for the playoffs if Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, or USC are in the mix. Teams nicknamed the Chanticleers, Bearcats, or Golden Hurricane do not have a certain je sais quoi like the typical heavyweights.

            In fairness, we cannot blame the CFP Committee solely for these inequities because of our duplicitous nature of talking inclusion until competition does not yield the kind of result that we desire. The Power Five conference teams will continue to vie for championship payouts that are necessary to help fund other sports that are struggling because of reduced budgets caused by the pandemic.

            Non-traditional football programs also have the deck stacked against them due to weaker schedules from the competition that they face in their conferences. Therefore, these types of programs will have to virtually be undefeated multiple seasons with the hope of defeating a Power Five team in their non-conference matchups during the regular season. Since rosters change annually and non-conference schedules are made years in advance, the odds are against the MAC, AAC, et cetera to sustain a level of excellence of this magnitude for this duration.

            Nonetheless, having a system that is equitable for most programs regardless of conference affiliation (or independent) is a plummy aspiration in American college football. It is just unfortunate that the financial structure is such that it makes inclusion a bit more challenging than some may want to admit.

A Certain Level of Obdurateness is Necessary for Public Stances

According to the Associated Press, there was a smattering of boos in Toyota Stadium (Frisco, Texas) last night during the national anthem for the match between FC Dallas and Nashville SC as players from both teams knelt in peaceful protest. Consequently, Reggie Cannon, Dallas FC defender, took exception to the hearing of the Bronx cheer by some fans.

            Cannon expounded further on his displeasure of the unexpected sounds of raspberries by stating, “The players had asked that [the anthem] not be played before the game because they didn’t feel it was right for [it] to be played in this moment.” Cannon’s overweening response failed to take into account the fact that a certain level of obdurateness is necessary for public stances, especially in the presence of those who may be classified by others as the rearguard. Did he believe that the national anthem would just fade into oblivion?

            A degree of democracy operated successfully because the patrons who may have still wanted to hear the national anthem were allowed to do so, and the athletes had their moment to kneel in commemoration of the atrocities in the deaths of George Floyd and others simultaneously. The most underrated aspect of this narrative is the fact that there were no acts of violence as a result.

            In general, any athlete who expects a majority to recognize his/her point of view and have them respond with an esemplastic reaction by suddenly singing Kumbaya is quite unrealistic. There is still going to be a delay in the period of understanding for the reasons outlined by athletes in peaceful demonstrations whether the anthem is played or not. Also, some athletes have to be prepared for the realization that some individuals are just unwilling to ever be enlightened by the causes of others.

Nevertheless, total agreement is not an essential ingredient for civility amongst citizens of a nation. It is not too much to ask for fans in any stadium or arena to be urbane despite what may occur in the field of play. Of course, governance of these organizations and athletes have to realize that fans do have the option not to patronize sporting events no matter how limited attendance may be during a pandemic to voice their displeasure.

In conclusion, history should serve as a reminder of how perspectives can change over time. Muhammad Ali probably did not imagine going from exile for his stance during the Sixties to having the honor to light the flame of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Sacrifice was a better-understood concept in that era compared to the few moments of feeling uncomfortable by a few individuals who may endure today.

MY TRIBUTE TO JULIUS ERVING (REVISED)

FROM THE HOSS MARTIN ARCHIVES:

On Monday, June 10, 2013, the highly anticipated and long overdue retrospective on the career of Julius Erving will air on NBA TV called The Doctor, which has been adequately advertised on sports broadcasting outlets throughout the land. Personally, I believe this will be an excellent opportunity for many in my generation and those following to understand how this athlete impacted society.

The significance of Erving in my life is based on the fact that he was the very first sports figure that I had ever seen on television and in person. From my initial experiences of elementary school, I was so absorbed by Erving that I took the opportunity to draw and pay homage to him during art period while teachers had time to prepare the next lesson. I immediately thought of how this interpretation of my hero would appear.

Unfortunately, my artwork did not become the masterpiece that I had intended. I maladroitly portrayed the American legend in exaggerated ebony hues with the largest natural (afro) in recorded history donning the number six in the front. My teacher inevitably asked, “Who is this supposed to be?” “He’s Dr. J,” I responded.

Now, I certainly had no delusions of becoming the next Monet, but I did not believe that I would devolve into the Lord, help him (class clown) label for at least that morning in a private school. This was one of many comedy classics I provided my parents over the years that would not be surpassed until I feebly attempted to impersonate veteran broadcaster George Blaha (Detroit Pistons) via cassette tape recorder a few years later. Both of these unspectacular efforts are hidden deeply in the Martin Family archives never to be opened until my daughters place me in a retirement home or something of the sort.

Regardless of these puerile episodes, The Doctor was a fixture in my backyard as Dwayne, Richard, Michael, a host of neighborhood characters, and myself would attempt to play basketball just like Mr. Erving did, especially while using an autographed Artis Gilmore red, white, and blue ball. Richard would ultimately have the ability to pattern his game after Erving due to his size and agility as he often yelled, “Doc!” while hitting the game-winning basket; those would be the only moments that I dreaded hearing a Dr. J reference in my life.

I was not quite as fortunate as Richard in possessing Erving’s skillset. No, my game resembled Dennis Johnson of 1989-1990 (his last season and not that of the 1979 World Champion Seattle Supersonics, etc.) than anything else. When I attended a summer basketball camp at the University of Toledo one year, Stan Joplin, one of the camp’s coaches (a man I still have a tremendous amount of respect for to very this day) once told me, “Son, you are running this drill like you have arthritis in your knees.” At the time all I could envision was seeing Redd Foxx playing a character curling his fingers in an attempt to deceive his son in one of the best television series of all time, and I knew then that I would never be like The Doctor.

As for Julius Erving, I tend to view his career in three phases as follows: the ABA era, transition into NBA, and championship to retirement. Since the American Basketball Association did not appear to have the proper fortune of being as well-organized as its American Football League counterparts, Dr. J’s exploits in his early days as a professional relied heavily on the lore of personal accounts due to the lack of broadcasting opportunities at the time. There was enough footage depicting the gifted Erving seemingly soaring through the air in suspended animation with the famed tri-colored ball in one hand with the only movement coming from his finely coiffed hair en route to a slam dunk.

Unfortunately, The Doctor had little choice but to languish in the old ABA perhaps for a longer duration than what he may have anticipated with the entwinement of jurisprudence between the Virginia Squires, Milwaukee Bucks, and Atlanta Hawks that ultimately prevented fans from seeing Erving team-up with Oscar Robertson & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Bucks) or with Pete Maravich and the Atlanta Hawks. Either option that would have allowed Dr. J to leave the ABA would have drastically altered professional basketball history. Instead, Erving proceeded to win two ABA titles before the eventual merger between the National Basketball Association and American Basketball Association.

After another circumstance of the imbroglio, Erving’s career was part of another soap opera as the former New York Nets (Brooklyn Nets today) and New York Knicks somehow failed to secure Dr. J, which sent both franchises into a tailspin as he went on to make the improving Philadelphia 76ers championship contenders. Most NBA fans assumed that Erving, Caldwell Jones, and then Lloyd Free were virtual locks to win a world championship during the 1976 season until Bill Walton and friends defeated Philadelphia.

A few years later, my dad would drive the family to the Pontiac Silverdome to see the Detroit Pistons compete against various teams. The Pistons were in transition from Dick Vitale’s short tenure as head coach to the arrival of Isiah Thomas and Kelly Tripucka that would finally release the snake-bitten franchise out its doldrums. Of course, Detroit would use any promotion possible from wristbands to gym bags to lure fans to the gates, but nothing needed to be done or said when the 76ers arrived. Amazingly, the Pistons usually gave their best effort against Doc in comparison to the uninspired games against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Dr. J’s celebrity status grew exponentially playing against NBA competition along with endorsements and even a theatrical endeavor in the film, The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. Yes, the movie was not any better than Semi-Pro or Space Jam; it just had an appeal seeing Doc with Meadowlark Lemon in a fictional account, though.

By 1980, my allegiance was vacillating between Erving’s 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals because Magic Johnson had just led my favorite college basketball team to an NCAA title the season prior. Even as I wavered, I was captivated by Doc’s levitation along the baseline as one of the most memorable shots in league history for a man who was approximately 30 years old at the time. LA would prevail countervailing Dr. J’s NBA title hopes for another season.

The infusion of new talent in the NBA like Earvin Johnson, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, and Dominique Wilkins made Erving’s odds of winning an outright world championship even more unlikely as his abilities were changing due to several seasons of professional basketball. In 1982, Erving finally received the kind of assistance that he needed so many years before when Philadelphia acquired Moses Malone to be the lynchpin and catalyst for a world championship in a rematch against the Los Angeles Lakers. 76ers’ confidence was so high that even Malone stepped into presumption as he made his grand promulgation, “Fo’, fo’, fo’” in relation to Philadelphia having the ability to sweep teams in four consecutive games during the playoffs; the bold presage was only off by one game as Doc earned a coveted world championship.

Although Erving would compete for three more seasons following, it was evident that he would probably never win another ring as a competitor since Charles Barkley was in the nascent stage of his very own Hall of Fame career beginning with an aging 76ers. In addition, the aspiring Michael Jordan would take the NBA and the world by storm with a convergence of determination and clever marketing that is yet to be matched regardless of sport. By 1987, The Doctor would retire from the hardwood with the kind of class and dignity that did not allow him to attempt to settle age-old enmities in his Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction speech.

After his induction, the evolution of yellow journalism and changing attitudes about capturing celebrities in moments of indiscretion has even been deleterious to a man, such as Erving, who was as careful about his public image as humanly possible. While I did not expect Dr. J to be perfect regardless, I naively assumed he had built such good rapport with media that it would have shielded him from the tabloids. This could provide a partial explanation for Allen Iverson’s aversion or at least distrust of the press when his career began.

Sadly, I have learned over the years that it is ill-conceived for us to expect superstars to be sanctified every second of a day while we are full of imperfections ourselves. This is a proper metaphor for sanctimonious behavior. Nonetheless, Julius Winfield Erving II will always be my favorite athlete of all time whether or not I ever have the fortune to make acquaintance with “the” number six.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Hoss Martin’s Autobiography

 

My parents discovered my obsession with sports and broadcasting when I “borrowed” their cassette tape recorder in a feeble endeavor to imitate Detroit Pistons’ venerated sports commentator George Blaha back in the late seventies. Of course, they opted to keep that amateur “podcast” for years instead of erasing it in a bribery attempt to be used against me when I got out-of-line. Henceforth, I spent most of my time in barbershops promulgating the merits of why my favorite teams should perform better, but I usually attempted to take notes of signature moments in sports for later usage consequently. Although I attended and received my Bachelor of Science in Mass Media Communications from Oral Roberts University in 1996, I never really had an appropriate outlet for these reflections of previous and current sporting events. I was finally able to unleash over 35 years of hidden frustration when I met DJ Mike (http://djmikeshow.com/), who was the impetus behind the establishment of Sports Round-Up With Hoss Martin on November 23, 2010, under the aegis of Chris Mar Studios. So, please enjoy these postings of blog entries, statistics, and links contained on the website; just do not inquire about my parents about that tape mentioned above. Contact: hossmartin@hossmartin.com

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