Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Bet you haven't heard about this...

So Michael Richards goes on a racist tirade and now is all over the place apologizing. Alright already, I accept your apology. Now go away.

But I bet you haven't heard about this, I wonder why?

Race has no place in Irvin's analysis

By Peter Kerasotis, FloridaToday.com

Why is Michael Irvin still employed?

And why am I typing that sentence?

If you haven't heard, you're not alone. Many in my business, people who pride themselves on knowing all and being, you know, know-it-alls, still haven't heard.

So let me bring you up to speed.

Eight days ago -- yes, eight days -- Michael Irvin joined fellow ESPN employee Dan Patrick on Patrick's national radio show.

Irvin is supposed to be ESPN's version of a football analyst, but he is really a lit match they hold in their hand, waiting to see how low he can go before singeing their fingers.

On Patrick's radio show, the topic turned to Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, and Irvin, a former Cowboy star, offered the type of racially incendiary remarks you'd think would start a firestorm of outrage.

It didn't.

Opining on Romo's athleticism and how, the day before, Romo outplayed Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, Irvin said this:

"He doesn't look like he's that type of an athlete, but he is. He is, man."

And here's why.

"Somewhere there are some brothers in that line," Irvin added. "I don't know who saw what, where. His great, great, great, great grandma ran over in the 'hood, or something went down."

Through all this, while saying that the reason behind Romo's athleticism is because there must be African blood in his lineage, Irvin is laughing. He thinks this is funny.

Patrick cut in, "That's the only way to be a great athlete?"

"No," Irvin replied, "that's not the only way. But it's certainly one way. Great, great, great, great grandma pulled one of them studs up outta the barn. 'Come here for a second.' You know, they go out and work in the yard. You know, back in the day. Something like that."

Eight days ago.

On a national radio show.

Raise your hand if this is the first you've heard of it.

Raise your hand even higher if you think there's a double-standard here.

If a white analyst would have uttered this kind of racial rubbish, it goes without saying that he'd be fired by now. Still, we'll say it anyway. If a white analyst uttered this kind of racial rubbish, he'd be fired by now.

So why is Michael Irvin still employed?

The social landscape is littered with white commentators who have been handed pink slips for what they've said regarding race. But how many blacks?

You might be thinking about one white analyst in particular: Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder. It was almost 19 years ago that CBS fired "The Greek" for offering the opinion that black athleticism is a byproduct of selective slave breeding.

Sound familiar? Sound a little like Michael Irvin? So where's the outrage now?

And while we're at it, where is ESPN when it's time to report on itself? Isn't this the type of junk food its TV shows like "Around The Horn" and "PTI" feed off?

Wilbon, is there a double-standard here?

Good luck trying to find the story about Irvin's remarks on any of ESPN's various and sundry networks, or on its Web site. Its national online columnists have yet to weigh in, and it's doubtful they ever will. After all, didn't ESPN sack columnist Jason Whitlock earlier this year after he was critical in an interview of another ESPN employee, Mike Lupica?

Little by little, ESPN has cherry-picked our newspapers and cornered the market on some of sports journalism's best and brightest voices.

Eight days later, those voices remain mute.

And what of the rest of the country, and the mainstream media? Well, they've obviously been infatuated with another Michael, Michael Richards, and the comic's recent raging racial rant at a comedy club. Richards, Seinfeld's wacky neighbor Kramer, is white. Thus, he's been busy making the mea culpa rounds with all sorts of news outlets, including Sunday on Jesse Jackson's syndicated radio show.

Jackson called Richards' rant a "hate speech," while Al Sharpton clamored on various news shows, demanding an apology.

Eight days later, and neither Jackson nor Sharpton has said a peep about what Irvin insinuated.

As for Richards, he is beginning psychiatric counseling.

Meanwhile, the other Michael, Irvin, is still performing his normal analyst duties for ESPN, pausing just long enough Sunday to offer a half-baked apology via USA Today.

"It's clear I was joking around," Irvin said, adding, "I need to learn how to better draw the line between bringing people into the locker room and the boundaries I should not go past as a broadcaster."

In other words, he needs to learn better how to edit and mute how he really feels about race. And he is also saying, by implying that this is locker-room talk, that he isn't the only African-American who harbors these views.

ESPN had to know this is what it was getting when it ignored Irvin's cocaine-dusted résumé and hired him anyway. The self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports hired the Worldwide Leader in Snorts.

And we're surprised at the outcome?

ESPN likes the edge Michael Irvin brings, even when he goes over the edge. He is the class clown, court jester, village idiot, moron with a microphone.

And, like it or not, he is still employed.

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