Friday, October 10, 2008


It’s amazing to see how invincible some people think they are.

While this incident surely will keep many Americans charged through the weekend, a seemingly smaller one took place this afternoon shows how much sports has defined society, for better or worse.

On a conservative-leaning talk show in Minneapolis, talk hosts Chris Baker and Langdon Perry apparently accused NBA legend and well-known businessman Magic Johnson of faking the AIDS virus.

If this is the first time you ran into this story, I’d bet the house that you are shocked, ticked off and shaking your head at the mere thought that someone would feign having such a devastating disease. At least, I hope you are.

We’re talking about the deadliest acronym in the world; one in which doctors, researchers and others have spent over twenty years trying to break apart. For those of us who have never met anyone afflicted by AIDS, it is quite difficult to understand how its victims are surviving day by day, but as time has progressed, we have more knowledge of what this disease can and has done to millions of people around the world.

For someone to throw the term around (casually or with vengeful intent) as a way to condemn or mock someone is beyond irresponsible. It’s reprehensible, vile and just plain sickening.

With that said, we’re also talking about how easy it is to take shots (and worse) at athletes.

When radio became the vox populi for sports fans, its listeners no longer had to hope that their letters to newspaper editors would be published. They didn’t even have to be at a game to rail on a slumping player in person to express their displeasure. Some hosts played to this crowd by acting on similar impulses, even if they were ‘legit’ writers and broadcasters with direct access to players, coaches and executives. While this is not so different from the history of news and talk radio as a whole, there is an underlying factor that separates the subjects of sports from ‘real’ news such as politics and crime.

Apparently, sports figures aren’t real people.

You hear it all of the time: "these guys are paid millions just to play a game" or "that's not a real job" or "for all of that money I'm paying for tickets, I have a right to heckle and boo and say whatever I want" and on and on and on. The thought that an athlete should take all sort of defamation (as benign as being booed for a bad play or as malicious as this instance) because of their status and jobs is as old as sports itself. It is somewhat accepted behavior of the fan. Yet, when it’s a member of the media – especially those who believe they represent the listeners, viewers or readers – it’s pretty appalling.

There is a lengthy history of tasteless and vicious commentary about athletes in the media (sports or otherwise) and recent incidents regarding the Rutgers’ women’s basketball team and Tiger Woods add to this dark side of media. Yet, it appears that in this case, the calls for accountabity for these hosts or their employer, KTLK, as somewhat deafened because of the global news of the moment. So while we are looking at an unconventional economic and political period in the world’s history, the timeless tradition of bashing the ‘inhuman’ athlete has once again reared its ugly head.

Some things just don’t change, do they?

Say What?!?!: As a personal sidebar, I personally believe that this is one of those stories that prove that we don't take sports, or at least its participants, seriously enough. An inflammatory and embarrassing (because it's irrelevant and wrong) comment about a politician's ethnicity should illict strong emotions. Yet, AIDS does not discriminate, people do. Magic's response was about as well as you could expect considering the firestorm that came from the Don Imus disaster, yet the story as a whole should have received far more attention than it did from the media.


Aaron said...

When asked if he thought the KTLK-FM hosts, Chris Baker and Langdon Perry, should be fired, Johnson said, 'I would rather they educate their audience.'"

Now that is a classy answer.

Jason Clinkscales said...

Have you ever dropped your jaw for hearing or reading something so offensive that you almost have an heart attack? That was my reaction when reading that the other day. I figured Magic didn't want this to escalate in the manner that the Don Imus situation did. Instead, as source close to me said (that source being... Mommy) said, he may want these guys to be out in the public with nowhere to hide from anyone who wants to skewer them.

Aaron said...

If I hadn't had that experience before, I certainly would have after seeing this here. I think it's best to just leave the statement/people out there for people to judge on its own.

The Imus thing got people to be defensive about it. It wasn't a question of good or bad anymore but if it was a "firing offense". This just needs to stand on its own, and I really do like how Magic came out about it.