Some dude made $4 off me on a street corner in Buffalo. I wonder if it was the same guy who sold me unrolled tobacco as pot when I tried to impress Kate Licata by buying some. I hope not. The guy sold me a flimsy, possibly pre-used t-shirt in 1973 that I demanded my mother buy. It’s off-white facade bore the freshly ironed-on legend, “O J 2003” which was meant to celebrate the fact that our hero, OJ Simpson, had just eclipsed a surreal, implausible milestone by rushing for 2000+ years in a 14-game NFL season. Then he killed a bitch. But seriously, his greatness was off the charts, as was his fame and his endorsement-friendly countenance. Jim Brown (a better runner but not by much) simply refused to be anything but a Strong Black Man, what with the goofy kufi, all African colored and shit, but OJ? Why, a father might entertain thoughts of letting OJ date his daughter (before, ya know, politely declining…I mean, come on. )
Let me tell you that at the White Person Institute meetings, we have all discussed White Guilt. Tiger Woods, George Foreman, Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, Will Smith, Alicia Keys, all kings of endorsement money. All famous. And we at the WPI (White Person Institute) have made it so. Our motto is “Help The African American Become Simply American”. As long as they’re not too black, we’re ok. Ice T wasn’t going to make dollar one past his dwindling royalties until he quit his shucking and jiving and started memorizing the Jew scripts that were written for him. We gave him a chance because one of the board members’ daughter liked something he did called “Cop Caller”. I never heard it. Same with Ice Cube. Same with Snoop Dog. Yeah, you can still make records. Sure, we’ll fill the first few rows of the televised concerts with hot porcelain college chicks. But do this kids show. Make some safe jokes about marijuana, make it a kind of parody. Read the script. Pat Gilbert Gottfried on the back. Do it.
We like people like Tiger Woods and Donovan McNabb because they’re articulate. Thinkers. Relatively speaking. Eddie Murphy took over SNL, practically owning the franchise during his time there, just on raw talent. We can’t let that happen again. This will not be allowed with Jay Pharoah. As articulate and well-spoken as he is, we must keep him under wraps. Better to let Kenan Thompson continue with his innovative, ground-breaking “What Up With That” series of comedic earthquakes. “What Up With That”….damn, that’s funny. Will he ever let Lindsay Buckingham speak? Comedy gold!!
OJ was the perfect amalgam of ferocious raw talent and…well, there’s no other way to say it…”well-spoken-ness”. He read his scripts with a diction that frankly surprised us all. Nary a remark during rehearsal about “y’all” or an aside about the director “be buggin'” or “Malcolm” (I know lots of guys named Malcolm. Which was he referring to? The guy who parks the cars at the country club? My kid’s math tutor? Which??) and he never touched any of the pretty staff. Nor they his.
It must not have escaped your mind’s eye that we at the WPI enjoy putting the modern black athlete in some of our most pervasive advertising campaigns. Print and video. As long as they don’t…you know…speak. I mean they can’t ALL be well-spoken and literate. Sometimes we just oil up their taut bodies, put a neutral jersey on ’em, tell them to (or show them flash cards instructing them to) “stuff ball in hoop” or “you run football on beach to beer can”, etc. And the checks always clear, thank you. We give Blake Griffin a pass because he’s more or less one of us. Sure, he sounds like a slowed-up recording of Tony Soprano with a Novocaine fetish, but look at that complexion! Inoffensive. Even his pigment is well-spoken and articulate. And he dunked over a car. George Foreman? Started out very surly. But then, after a 5-year stint at the WPI, he was rehabilitated. And he came up with the idea for the George Foreman Grill while speaking in tongues at a local baptist church, or at least that’s what it sounded like, and that’s where we told him he was. Heh.
Thankfully for George, he didn’t commit the one sin that the WPI does not allow, and that’s converting to Islam in the 60’s. Goerge Foreman: on TV every few minutes. The guy who beat him up? Well, we had to step in. He’s beloved everywhere he goes, sure, but that’s because we at the WPI got tired of his smart fucking mouth. Now he twitches like Ren Hoek. If he had only shut his mouth.
There are no well-spoken white athletes. Or Hispanic. But Hispanic athletes love their families, and hope sincerely to earn enough money punching white guys’ faces in to be able to afford moving them all here some day. So we don’t apply the same standard to them. However, it is true that Hispanic boxers are the same as black football players or basketball players. William Rhoden called them “40 Million Dollar Slaves” and that’s apt, I suppose. We at the WPI think of ourselves as benefactors to athletes in the prime of their lives, strong, sinewy, strapping bucks…wild animals throwing balls and smashing into quarterbacks’ knees. Grunting and snorting in the stadium, listening to hip-hop in their headphones on the long walk from the parking lot to the Colosseum grounds, if only to keep their primitive blood from angering up. They are the well-paid gladiators, stars in this life, strutting, cock-sure flag bearers paying tribute to their ageless craft. How DID you think they were going to react when some white chick shoved a mic in their face in the locker room? Why the very thought of it makes me think of that Ken Norton film. Ken Norton was a sad case. We had to do a “Cooney” on him. The fact that his name was really “Cooney” was just kismet.
And that’s why Kareem Abdul Jabbar will never get that statue in front of the Staple Center. We…um…could have fit “Lew Alcindor” on the plaque, but ya blew it, pal. Ya blew it. Magic Johnson? Shiny smile, and despite what you might have seen lately from him during the playoffs, there was a time where he was considered articulate and well-spoken. HE has a statue. Doesn’t he, Kareem? When you die, all bets are off, because we can reinvent you without all your chiming in, but until then, you’re Plastera Non-Grata. Why couldn’t you be more like Magic? Migraines, Schmigraines! Jeesh, we gave you a part in “Airplane!” Now get to selling popcorn!!
We at the WPI have no say in what happens to athletes once their careers in the Colosseum end. Please stop asking.
Lionel Richie! What was he? Michael Jackson! What was he? Mariah Carey! What is she? Elvis co-opted black artists and made their music palatable for white kids (that’s our story and we’re sticking to it). The Beatles covered black artists. Their only credited session player was Billy Preston! He did the dance. Madonna kissed a black guy dressed as Jesus, for Christ sake. Get it? Led Zeppelin kept Willie Dixon’s corpse in the studio while they recorded their first two albums. Mixing black music with white music. But never leaning one way or another too far. The Bee Gees! It goes on and on. And so it is with sports. And so it is with art. Think of it as a giant grey bell curve.
We at the WPI remind you to stay inside the lines this summer. Won’t you?