Wistful for a time when athletes didn’t crusade for social justice
I go to Newark a lot for work and often pass by the Prudential Center where there is a big statue of Martin Brodeur, legendary star of the Jersey Devils hockey team. Being a lifelong Flyers fan, I would never miss the opportunity to stick my tongue out, or do any of those juvenile things that make life enjoyable at 57.
Recently, though, I made a point of taking my picture in front of Brodeur’s statue and then put it on Facebook with the caption: “My new team #BringBackKate.” Other than delighting my dear friend Arlette who has sung the national anthem at their home game for years, I know this had little impact in the ongoing conversation around the Flyers removal of singer Kate Smith’s statue after concerns about some of her lyrics. But it made me feel good, and was an indication of how I’ve evolved from a girl who loved her sports teams with unquestioning devotion. Because of the Kate Smith debacle, I no longer support the Flyers.
I’ve also stopped supporting the Sixers, whose co-owner Michael Rubin has befriended rapper Meek Mill. Rubin and Mill have set out to reform the criminal justice system in Philadelphia. I don’t deny that it needs reforming.
But Mill isn’t some random kid who was crushed by a cruel system. He was convicted of drug and weapons charges, and then proceeded to violate probation regularly, over a period of 10 years.
As recently as a few weeks ago, Rubin used social media to attack Judge Genece Brinkley – the judge who sentenced Mill to prison – because she wouldn’t allow Mill to attend a Sixers playoff game in Toronto. He called her “obsessed” with Mill. The only obsession I saw was on the part of a Rubin and Mill, who think that rules should be bent for artists with felony convictions.
And given the way that the Flyers played this year, it’s no surprise I don’t have to avoid their playoff run. Which means I’m essentially down to two teams, and if Malcolm Jenkins keeps loving on Meek Mill the way he has in the past and if Jeffrey Lurie doesn’t get them to stop playing his “Dreams and Nightmares” in which every other words is bleepable, I might have to reconsider my love affair with the Eagles. (Even though it might kill me.)
But boy do I miss the days when I didn’t know what political party my favorite players belonged to, or whether they liked the current occupant of the White House, or their sexual orientation, or their immigration status, or any of the other things that have nothing whatsoever to do with the beauty of the respective games.
Jackie Robinson was heroic. So was Jesse Owens. And Althea Gibson. And Arthur Ashe. And Martina Navratilova. But the difference between those athletes and the current crop of social justice warriors/players is that the heroes from the past broke social barriers and worked toward a more perfect justice by being the best they could be in their fields. They did it with courage and dignity - not with outrage, accusation, and obscene lyrics.
A week or so ago, Gino Marchetti died. When I was born in Baltimore in 1961, he was a football god, leading the Colts to championships. He later became known as the guy who gave us the Gino Giant burger, a fond memory from my Logan childhood. It may seem trite, but I miss the days when the most controversial thing about a player was that he peddled cholesterol-filled meat products.
So hard as it is, I’m learning to love the Devils. I haven’t settled on a basketball team yet, and my fingers are still crossed about the Birds.
And God bless the Phillies. Now can we get Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame?