Ostensibly, ESPN’s “Fab Five” documentary was a story about five guys playing college basketball with their own distinct style. In reality, it has become the latest grain of salt in the always open wound of how race and culture influence perception of every aspect of American life – especially sports.
While the week following the initial airing of the documentary was consumed with discussions over whether or not Grant Hill was an “Uncle Tom”, now we have white people throwing the racist flag on Jalen Rose and company. Not surprising that it happened. Very surprising that it’s from Michigan’s radio play-by-play man.
On his Facebook page, Frank Beckmann commented on being asked to handle radio duties for the Wolverines’ second round tournament game against Duke. He immediately saw fit to compare them to the ’91 vintage.
I got called off vacation to broadcast the Michigan hoops games in Charlotte…M/Duke should be great….This M team is the antithesis of the Fab 5, unselfish, always plays hard, no sense of entitlement, respects opponents, and no racists…We should thank Jalen Rose for reminding everyone why we never want another group like the Fab 5 at Michigan, or any other school!!
Really? You don’t want another group that makes your program and your school relevant on and off the floor? You don’t want another group that wins and brings all the spoils (read: money) that winning entails? I suggest you check with John Beilein on that one.
Ignoring the fact that the FOOTBALL play-by-play announcer feels like he can speak expertly on the constitution of this and previous U of M basketball teams – everyone’s entitled to an opinion – I’m not sure anyone imagined that this part of the conversation would be as diverse and long-lasting as it’s been. Except this part of the story is tired and I’d think a guy like Beckmann would be able to advance the narrative by now.
As a Conservative talk show host and columnist, his perspective isn’t particularly revolutionary. Nor is his criticism of the Fab Five particularly original. In fact, you could substitute that team with the UNLV teams that played around the same time or the Georgetown teams that came before them and his statement would have no more or less sting.
Part of what made the Uncle Tom discussion compelling is that while it’s been discussed amongst black people for a long time (I’ve been on Grant Hill side of those barbs more than I care to remember), it’s rare when the discussion is brought into the greater population. As for an older white man calling young black athletes lazy, entitled, disrespectful and racist? We’ve seen that movie ad infinitum.
It’s an ideology that’s just as lazy as the athletes you claim ruined Michigan’s good name. It’s just as lazy as Buzz Bissinger’s column in the Daily Beast claiming that the NBA is failing because white guys don’t want to watch black guys – or his follow-up that Jimmer Fredette’s whiteness is what’s driving his popularity.
So when I read Beckmann’s comments on the Fab Five, I get angry. Not because they sound ignorant and fearful (even though they do). But because that opinion no longer is a lightning rod. It’s no longer a divisive talking point. Instead, he’s just the old man on the porch of the rundown house screaming at the sky about those no-good youngsters with their long hair and that gol’durn rappity-rap music. He’s Clint Eastwood in the first half of Gran Torino without the redemptive ending.
You want me to be outraged at your content? Come up with something new. In the meantime, I’m just outraged that you can draw a paycheck for being a parrot.