End of An Era

February 29, 2012

Coach John Thompson, John Thompson Show, ESPN 980 AM, Washington, DC, February 29, 2012. (http://espn980.com).

It’s Leap Year Day, so in light of having the first February 29 in four years, I want to take a different tack today. For it just so happens that today is John Thompson’s last day on the air on ESPN 980 AM in Washington, DC. The legendary former Georgetown University men’s basketball coach will air his final radio show this afternoon.

Thompson has had this show for about thirteen years, and I’ve listened off and on now for seven of them. What has made him interesting to listen to over the years has been his ability to be ornery, light-hearted, downright goofy and insightful, and all at the same time — whether I agreed with him or not. That the seventy-year-old Thompson has managed to maintain a solid audience across all demographics has been a sign of his ability to be a man with an old-school philosophy without become an old man. It’s a fine balance that Thompson maintained show after show, regardless of the outrageous calls he responded to time and again.

I’ve been a fan of Coach Thompson’s since I was in high school. Back then, he had Patrick Ewing and later Alonzo Mourning as part of his vaunted Hoya Paranoia defense. They won it all in ’84, only to be done in by Villanova’s raining of shots from all angles in the NCAA Championship Game in ’85. Despite his normally gruff demeanor, Thompson handled the loss with the graciousness and sportsmanship that was rare even then, and almost impossible to find now.

I came to like Thompson even more when he watch an analyst on TNT’s NBA games in the early ’00s. I used to call him “Sugar Bear” because of the way in which he delivered his take on players and coaches. It was through that context that I learned of The John Thompson Show, and began listening nearly seven years ago.

More than anything else, I appreciated the fact that many segments of his show had little or nothing to do with sports. Even as uncomfortable as he may have been about the topic, he discussed race, poverty, crime, relationship, the Black church, public education and higher education. I think that this diversity of ideas and topics is what I’ll miss the most. That Thompson used his show to educate his listeners — as well as educate himself — about much more than sports speaks to him as the educator he has been for most of his adult life.

I don’t know if I could’ve ever played for Thompson — between my relative lack of talent and my ears being burned from his yelling at me on every possession. But I have enjoyed listening to him and his show.

My Father and Conservatives

April 13, 2010

This particular post may be a bit much for some of you. So this is a warning. There are some verbal bombs in this posting. It’s a “What-If?” post about a hypothetical interview between me and my father. My father, though, at the height of his alcoholism, when even on his best days, Miller Beer wasn’t far from his mind. This pseudo-interview would be me as if I was Ernie Johnson as anchor for the NBA on TNT with Charles Barkley, being played by my drunken father from the second half of the ’80s. The topic? The last couple of years of the Conservative Movement, specifically its response to the presidency of Barack Obama and its obsession with spreading fear and fomenting violence, as if Armageddon were on our very doorstep. Remember: you’ve been forewarned.

So I asked, “Do you think the changing conservative movement has been a positive influence on Americans in the past two years?”

My father: “That Reagan a good man dere, but most of those dum muddafuckin’ conservatives don’t know shit. Reagan think you dumb asses too, and he dead! I’m tired of yo’ muddafuckin’ asses sayin’ a bunch of stupid shit all the time! You tea baggers need to go bag some the fuck else where! You dum muddafuckas, and I’m tired of yo’ shit! I beat yo’ ass and keep beatin’ yo’ ass, you dum muddafuckas!” Father Files 1.April 2010

Me: “Wow! I mean, are you in the camp of those progressives and other folks who’ve been using the text messaging acronym STFU in their comments about the Tea Party and other reactionary conservatives? Do you really think that they deserve this kind of language and response?”

My father: “I’m a big shot muddafucka. I make fitty million dollas a week. Look at dis dum lookin’ muddafucka conservative — dat dum muddafucka cain’t do shit fo’ me! Muddafucka! Got thoughts nobody want! I buy an’ sell muddafuckas ’round here! I kick yo’ muddafuckin’ stupid ass! And I’m da boss of the bosses. No conservative tell me what ta do. You conservatives don’t know shit!” Father Files 2.April 2010

Me: “Well, okay. Do you have any final words for the folks who have become part of the post-Obama conservative movement, or do you really care about this at all?”

My father: “You dum muddafuckin’ conservatives — su my dict! You dum muddafuckas. I don’ giv’ no money to no dum muddafuckin’ conservative. If you a conservative, I don’ want you ’round me. You betta get the fuck outta here!” Father Files 3.April 2010

Hopefully most of you laughed and weren’t too offended. Still, I have a few points to make regarding this. Our language toward each other has become so coarse and rough that we sound like my father when he was in his mid-forties, drinking many more days than not, and angry at the world. We’ve reached the point where most of us — me included — refuse to take the high road. In our language or actions. The Tea Party or other conservatives who’ve become like rabid dogs really don’t have anything to say. Which is why President Obama is a Nazi/Communist/Socialist tyrant (by the way, all educated Blacks who are too uppity are Communists, going all the way back to World War I ). Or why health care reform is a form of terrorism, alternative energy the downfall of American civilization, and talking with the world the road to Hell itself.  Many of these folks are — dare I say it — closeted bigots who were crushed by Obama’s election in ’08. But we live in an era in which racism should never be mentioned, especially by people who look like me. So I’m saying it anyway.

But for progressives to respond with STFU across Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere? Conservatives, even bigoted ones who are tea-baggers and part of the birther movement, have the right to spout their idiotic ideology. I have a bit of experience with the bizarre form of Afrocentric Judaism that I grew up with or listening to folks spew their venom toward Whites in the form of Melanin Theory in the ’90s. We gain little to nothing with verbal bombs the equivalent of being in a bar with your blitzed father on East 241st Street in the Bronx in ’84 or ’85.

I must admit, though, that this hypothetical conversation (based on far too many real ones between ’82 and ’97) made me laugh a few sheepish laughs. Not of approval, but of understanding. Understanding that not everyone can maintain civility at all times. Certainly not me, and certainly not the likes of Tiger Woods. But try we must, even if the other side’s foaming at the mouth. Others, hopefully, will see that those who are foaming are in need of a rabies shot.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 776 other followers